Lawmaker promises less raiding of state’s dedicated funds - like those for utility bills of poor


Imagine if you were to hold a fundraiser for terminally ill children from abusive homes, raised a potful of money and used it to pay your rent.

In the Texas Legislature, this is known as “dedicating,” passing laws that require setting aside an amount of taxation or fee to carry out their goals and sitting on it, instead, to plug holes in the state budget.

This practice, clearly lacking in dedication, has produced what the Legislature has come to think of as a slush fund of nearly $5 billion, all perfectly legal if you talk to the right kind of lawyer.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Williams tells the Dallas Morning News he’s willing to take a crack at ending the process of dedicated funding. But he isn’t exactly sure how and thinks it might take two or three legislative sessions.

Williams, R-The Woodlands, says lawmakers began leaning on locking in funding in the last decade when state sales tax collections were volatile. A volatile state sales tax, however, is the funding source for all that dedication, making budgeting itself an unstable business.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Williams said.

In the meantime, low-income utility customers, the dedicated fund the Legislature isn’t using to help you has grown to $850 million. Air quality awaits improvement while its fund is $798 million. Paramedic and hospital emergency services is short $388 million the Legislature promised.

May we suggest, while you are waiting, a fundraiser?

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of state Capitol dome by flickr user dziner, used via a Creative Commons license.