Here in the Great State of Texas we have a balanced budget amendment that limits spending to revenue. In other words, our state legislature reconciles spending to revenue. Because our legislature meets every other year for only 140 days, a “rainy day” fund serves as a type of savings account for unexpected expenses like hurricanes, epidemics and wildfires. Texans believe government exists to protect the rights of citizens.
The Federal Fiscal Model
The Beltway practice is to balance the budget through borrowing. In other words, the U.S. Congress reconciles revenue to debt service. It seems there are never unwelcome spending bills coming before the House and Senate. If – when – the feds want to expand government, they have to borrow more money. To service debt, either the Treasury just prints more greenbacks or Congress raises income taxes. Federal government believes citizens exist to serve government.
California follows the federal model. Consequently, the few sane Californians with money leave the left coast for greener pastures in Texas. People from all over this country are flocking to Texas for a variety of reasons including tort reform, no state income tax and business-friendly cities.
I stop to inject this very important factoid: Under the administration of Barack Hussein Obama, the Senate has blocked ALL budgets. Our federal government has been spending like a mad man because it has not the restraints of a budget.
But, Texas Spending Has Increased
Yes indeed it has, but without raising taxes. We SPEND more only because we HAVE more revenue due to about a 21% population increase. I say again, we reconcile spending to revenue.
Massive Fiscal Cliff Ahead
Ben Bernanke warned Congress, by extension us, that due to massive tax increases due to hit the first of 2013, next year, we risk going over a “massive fiscal cliff”.
What Can I Do?
First and foremost: read and study the Constitution
Second: communicate FREQUENTLY with your U.S. Representative and your U.S. Senators. Tell them to follow the Texas fiscal model: cut spending, reduce the size of federal government and follow the Constitution.
What’s the Constitution got to do with this matter? Thanks for asking.
Federal government, controlled by liberal progressives, has steadily eroded states’ rights by setting up federal bureaucracies for which authority there is no constitutional basis.
The Constitution enumerates the powers of federal government, meaning it limits what the feds may do. Examples abound, but let’s consider only a few: Department of Education, Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development – from what section, what article of the Constitution does the Congress have authorization to set up these ever-growing monsters? Let me help you: it’s not there!
Congress falls back on the “general welfare” and “spending” clauses to justify practically everything it does. But, what did the authors of the Constitution say about these matters?
If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the “general welfare,” and are the sole and supreme judges of the “general welfare,” then they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county, and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the United States; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, everything from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police would be thrown under the power of Congress, for every object I have mentioned would admit of the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the “general welfare.
Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at such a distance and from under the eye of their constituents . . . will invite the public agents to corruption, plunder, and waste. . . . What an augmentation of the field for jobbing, speculating, plundering, office-building, and office-hunting would be produced by an assumption of all the state powers into the hands of the federal government!
The states can best govern our home concerns, and the [federal] government our foreign ones.
I encourage you to connect with American history, to read and study the Constitution. As outlined in Jefferson’s comments above, the states can best govern our home concerns.
Rockwall County spends a lot of taxpayer money. Most of the spending can be directly traced to the providing of services for our citizens. Some of it, however, would not willingly be spent by the Commissioners Court without a specific mandate from the State government that requires such expenditure. These expenses are normally legislated as a County requirement, but no reimbursement of funds is provided by the State. These are called “unfunded mandates.”
It is more than interesting to see what some of these mandates are.
Indigent Health Care
The County must fund up to 8% of our General Fund budget for health care services provided to indigent patients. For Rockwall County this 8% amounts to $2.1 million yearly.
The County is required by the Texas Government Code (418.102) to maintain an emergency management program that has jurisdiction and serves the entire county. The County currently funds approximately half of the Emergency Management Department, of which the Emergency Services Corporation partners fund the other half. County expense in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 was $207,000.
Publishing of County Notices in Newspapers
The County is required to publish a series of notices in the newspaper; invitation to bid on contracts, proposed tax rate, elected official salaries, notice of public hearings, budget hearings, etc. These must also be posted on County public bulletin boards. These notices could be posted on the County web site which allows immediate access by all citizens in the County. The internet is a proven ecommerce media that could also be used for these type postings completely eliminating the need and expense of newspaper postings. Rockwall County spent about $5000 in this area in FY 2012.
Criminal Indigent Defense
The Fair Defense Act, SB 7 of the 77th Legislature, requires the County to appoint counsel for indigent defendants. The Act provides for mandatory time periods for appointments, representation in appellate and post-conviction proceedings, establishing of minimum periods for counsel preparation, and procedures for waiver, withdrawal, and reappointment. Rockwall County will spend $420,000 on this requirement in FY 2102. If the County were to ever have the defense of an indigent person in a Capital murder case, the anticipated cost to the County would be between $250,000 and $1,000,000.
Juvenile Probation Personnel
State Law requires the Commissioners Court to pay out of the General fund the salaries of the juvenile probation personnel and other expenses certified as necessary by the juvenile board chairman (Human Resource Code, Chapter 152). Rockwall County spent $478,000 on this requirement in FY 2102.
County Jails must comply with staffing and operating regulations promulgated by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The State requirements of providing safe and suitable jails are administrated and managed by the Commission, and to the extent that counties are required to comply with its rules that involve expenditures, the Commission regulations constitute unfunded mandates (Government Code, Chapter 511, Section 351.001). In FY 2012, Rockwall County spent $5,388,996 on the operation of the Jail. This was 21% of the total General Fund budget and was an increase of $370,000 from the previous year as a result of meeting Texas Jail Standards.
As defined by numerous statutes in the Election Code, the burden of elections falls onto counties as mandated by the State. Counties do not receive funding from the State to conduct these elections and each county must pay the expenses incurred in conducting elections. In FY 2102, Rockwall County spent $361,000 administrating elections.
Incarceration of State Inmates and Health Care in County Jails
State convicts can be held in the County Jail up to 45 days without the County being reimbursed for their expense by the State. The County is also required to hold parole violators awaiting hearings. The County is also obligated to provide medical services to these State inmates. In addition, counties are mandated to provide both physical and mental health care; however due to State wide budget reductions, especially in the mental health area, there is no place to send inmates with mental health issues so they must continue to be held in the County Jail. While a District Judge in West Texas recently ordered the State to accept all mental health care inmates after they have been in a county jail for no more than 21 days, the State has appealed that ruling and has refused to accept these patients. In Rockwall County, the average length of time an inmate is incarcerated is 17 days. However this fiscal year three individuals sentenced to be placed in a State Mental Health Hospital have been held in the Rockwall County jail for over a year each due to no availability of State beds.
The State has mandated that once a county reaches 50,000 in population, a collection program (fees and fines) must be established that meets the requirements of the State Office of Court Administration. In Rockwall County, this requirement will cost the County $120,000.
Burial of Indigent Personnel
The Commissioners Court is required by the State to provide for the disposition of a deceased pauper. Rockwall County will have the body cremated on proof of indigent status. In FY 2012 this cost was $10,000.
The Texas Constitution requires a county to have a Justice of the Peace and a Constable for each of the four precincts in the county once the size of the county reaches 50,000 in population. Rockwall County passed that population number in the 2010 census. As a result, two additional JP’s and Constables must be added to the County staff even though the total workload has not increased for either office. Cost to the County will be $460,000 yearly.
Some of these unfunded mandates are needed. But like Washington DC does in “kicking the can down the road,” balancing the State budget and requiring the counties to make up the slack is really not good sound fiscal public policy. In the case of Rockwall County, unfunded mandates for next year will cost Rockwall County taxpayers $4,531,000. That’s 7 ½ cents of your 38.64 cent County tax rate!
If this concerns you, contact your State Senator, Dr. Bob Deuell, or your new House Representative, Mr. Scott Turner, and let them know your views.
Jerry Hogan is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel who is currently County Judge of Rockwall County Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-394-4033.
Are we as a nation at risk of total collapse? – Bad News, Good News
The bad news: yes we are
Our national debt surpassed sixteen trillion dollars ($16,050,86,000,000 at time I write this). National debt and federal spending are out of control, in part, because the government has been, and presently is, operating without a budget, no accountability.
More people are on food stamps than people seeking work.
47% of all American households receive some form of payment from the federal government. This is not a statement for or against, just a statement of fact.
Finance and investment authorities warn of “Taxmageddon” coming the first day of 2013.
Yes, we are in trouble. Adding to the above domestic issues, Middle East nations appear on the cusp of all out war on Israel and us, the U.S. Furthermore, in the Far East, China threatens to take down Japan and the Philippines could follow.
The good news: there is hope
My friend Jaypee, native of South Africa, suggested a movie: Faith Like Potatoes. Angus Buchan discovers miraculous faith in the midst of political turmoil and racial unrest.
Unlike Hollywood fare, Faith Like Potatoes is based on a true story about a man who discovered where there is love, there is hope; where there is trust, there is peace; where there is faith, there is growth.
Watch the trailer below – (1:44)
Which of the Two Political Parties Should I Trust
Yes, I’ll be voting straight Republican November 6, but my faith will not be in Mitt Romney or the Republican Party.
I place my faith in the Author of Life, the Living God, Creator of the Universe. A Bible passage simply outlines or source of rescue, our salvation:
If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
GOP Amendments Aim to Strengthen Transparency and Independent Review of Costly Regulations
September 21, 2012
Washington, D.C. – Republican Members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee last evening spoke on the House Floor and offered amendments in support of H.R. 3409, referred to as the “Stop the War on Coal Act.” The bill passed the House today by a vote of 233 to 175.
Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) made the following statement:
“I rise in strong support of the rule and H.R. 3409, the Stop the War on Coal Act.
This bill takes a number of simple, common sense, and long overdue steps to rein in the Obama Administration’s out of control EPA, which is waging an all-out war on American energy, and coal is at the heart of that war.
Anyone who fails to believe such a war exists should speak to the people of Mount Pleasant, Texas in my Congressional District. EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule threatened 500 jobs at two coal-fired power plants in Mount Pleasant. Fortunately, the courts threw out this rule in August after finding that EPA went well beyond the law in its efforts to regulate coal out of existence.
We know EPA will go back to the drawing board. H.R. 3409 adds needed protections for any future proposal, and in doing so protects jobs not only in Texas but in coal-producing and coal-using states all around the country.
The bill also blocks future efforts to attack coal through other regulations, most notably the EPA’s effort to enact economy-wide restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. These rules are based on shaky science and would raise the cost of energy for all Americans. They should never see the light of day.
I want to mention my support for two amendments made in order under this rule that will be offered by Members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, of which I chair. These amendments address serious problems with EPA science that the Committee highlighted during the 112th Congress.
Specifically, Congressman Dan Benishek’s amendment will require that an analysis of the cost of regulations explicitly evaluate the potential negative health effects of regulations.