King Keeping a Close Eye on Stimulus Spending

March 6, 2009

State Representative Phil King

Over the last two weeks, the House Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding has held numerous hearings on the federal stimulus package recently passed by Congress. I have made it a priority to attend these hearings despite not being a member of the committee, because I feel strongly that fiscal conservatives must closely monitor the billions in tax dollars being funneled into our state.

I can tell you that the stimulus bill is 1,100 pages of ambiguity. The devil is in the details, and many of the details are still being drafted with federal agencies charged with distributing the funds. I will do my best to keep you posted, and I should have more to report in the coming weeks.

From the beginning, I have held a strong conviction that the bailout represents exceptionally poor economic policy, and endangers the free-enterprise system that has made our country the most prosperous in the world. However, once Congress passed this legislation, it became evident that Texas should accept the funding that does not come with unnecessary strings attached. If not, our tax dollars will end up in other state’s like New Jersey or California, which is totally unacceptable.

After sitting through hours of testimony, my primary concern is that the $16.8 billion Texas will receive in stimulus funding will force the legislature to change policy and abandon some very sound policies in order to accept funding. Add to this, the fact, that when the stimulus money dries up, Texas would be left with some very expensive budget obligations.

As testimony continues before the committee, I will focus on transparency and accountability for the money being spent. Regardless if money is going toward education or transportation, the legislature must ensure that state and local government spends the money for purposes most beneficial to our state.

At this early juncture, it appears that most money will flow through existing programs within state agencies. For example, education dollars will be dispersed throughout the state in accordance with the current funding formulas. Transportation dollars will fund shovel-ready projects, which were already in the pipeline for future funding. Much of the money is directed to various entitlement programs and the state has little, if any, authority to adjust these expenditures.

The policy debate will surround accepting funds that will create programs that must continue after the federal dollars are expended. This is dangerous ground for any taxpayer, and we must be wary.

It is an honor to serve you in the Texas Legislature.