The House passed a bill Wednesday that would limit how much the Legislature could spend each year.
It would cap any spending increase at either six percent or population growth plus the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. Rep. Garry Smith sponsored the bill, saying 30 other states have similar laws.
However, Democrats argued the cap would hurt future attempts to rebuild the state’s infrastructure and education system. This is the eighth year that House Republicans have passed spending cap legislation. Previous versions all died in the Senate.
The bill would only apply to the general fund and would not include any federal money or Other Funds revenue. Minority Leader Harry Ott (D-Calhoun) said those exceptions proved Republicans weren’t serious about putting real spending caps into place.
The whole six percent notion is just smoke and mirrors to make you think that you (voted) for a spending limit bill that grows government, maybe, at six percent. Doesn’t happen.
The vote was mostly along party lines, 76-35, with one Republican– B.R. Skelton (R-Pickens)– joining Democrats. Skelton said he liked the idea of limiting government, but said the cap should not be put into place during a recession.
We have forced every agency to look for inconsistencies, to look for inefficiencies, and to correct those. Virtually every agency has downsized as a result of that. They have become efficient, but guess what? We are not spending the level… we need on some agencies.
However, Smith said there was good reason to start the cap now.
What that does is set it at a low point. Is it the lowest point? No, it’s not. Is it a reasonable point? Yes, it is. Is it the high point? No, it’s not. But if you’re setting increases for your business, do you set your increases upon the high point that you’ve ever had? No, you don’t.
Ott said legislators are able to cap spending on their own, without needing a law to be put into place.
Under the bill, any extra revenue in excess of the cap would go into a new reserve fund that would be used for infrastructure and education in a year with lower-than-expected revenue.