Today, the Texas Freedom Caucus (TFC) announced the launch of its Texas Accountability Project, a catalog to which reports of wasteful spending can be submitted. From there, the reports will be investigated by the TFC utilizing legislative information requests that are not subject to as much censoring as typical public information requests.
A sort of accountability crowdsourcing, the project’s goal is to “eliminat[e] waste, fraud, and abuse from the state budget.”
The site will highlight examples of what the caucus considers to be wasteful spending as they’re submitted. Then, with a release goal of a month or two before the November election, everything they find will be published in the “Texas Wastebook.”
State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville), chairman of the TFC, told The Texan, “This is a tool that Texans can use to help us identify and eliminate wasteful spending.”
Given the economic downturn, the TFC sees the path to solvency in first cutting wasteful spending.
House Speaker Dennis Bonnen stated his hope to see a five percent cut in agency funding, but the TFC believes much more than that is necessary.
On Monday, the Texas House Freedom Caucus (TFC) called for, at minimum, a 10 percent across the board budget cut for state agency “non-essential” spending.
“But you have to cut intelligently, for example, we shouldn’t cut the Texas Workforce Commission right now as they’re dealing with massive amounts of unemployment claims,” Middleton continued.
“Luckily, unlike the federal government, we’re in a position where we can’t just print money — so that’s a fight we don’t have to have. And so this is our option,” he said of cutting spending.
He added, “If personal income is down, then that’s the proportion we need to cut. It is not right to ask people to pay the same amount of taxes as they did last year.”
The reports can be filed anonymously that way, Middleton said, those who work for agencies and are wary of waste can assist without fear of reprisal.
“It’s hard to find, these are huge agencies and the state passed a quarter-trillion-dollar budget, and so there’s a lot to sift through,” he added.
By allowing more individuals to participate, the TFC believes more wasteful spending can be highlighted.
Middleton continued, “This will empower taxpayers and grassroots to help us make our state budget fiscally responsible and rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse.”
On what kinds of waste can be expected to uncover, Middleton pointed to one example of the Texas Racing Commission (TRC) which regulates horse and greyhound racing, and gambling thereon.
The TRC requested an appropriation of over $7 million per year from the legislature for the 2018-2019 biennium.
Middleton also mentioned the $50 million per year allotment to the horseracing and gambling industry.
One suggested reform he pointed to was requiring the same service contract for different agencies to be priced similarly. And shining a light on examples of such discrepancies is how the TFC plans to accomplish that.
He continued, “At the end of the day, this is a self-reporting project in that we want people to tell us what they see wrong with how their tax dollars are being spent.”
“This is not the government’s money, it’s the taxpayer’s money and so they deserve strict accountability for every penny spent,” Middleton emphasized.
“We have to put all the tools on the table to make sure that next year’s budget is the most fiscally responsible one we can pass, and this is one of those important tools.”
Middleton expects support for their goal to materialize as more and more cases of wasteful spending are identified and stressed that they are not doing this simply for show, they want real budgetary reform in the next session.
“We are on a spending trajectory that is unsustainable, and it cannot continue.”
The website will go live in the coming days.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.