June 15, 2006
Lawsuit filed over state spending limit

It's been a busy week for suing the state of Texas.

Edd Hendee, executive director of Citizens Lowering Our Unfair Taxes, sued Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Speaker Tom Craddick, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and the Legislative Budget Board.

"The limitations in the constitution need to be defended against Republican leadership that has fallen intoxicatingly into this habit of spending more money than the constitution allows," said Hendee, a restaurant owner and a KSEV radio talk-show host.

He is asking the court to enforce a provision approved by Texas voters in 1978. The section states that the growth in appropriations shall not exceed the growth in the state's economy.

The lawsuit, filed in Travis County state district court, alleges the Legislative Budget Board has used artificially robust estimates of economic growth to justify high spending limits. The board, made up of Dewhurst, Craddick and other legislative leaders, develops recommendations for state agency appropriations.

Hendee wants a judge to declare the recently passed school finance appropriations unconstitutional. The Legislature spent nearly half of the state's $8.2 billion surplus to cover initial property tax cuts, a teacher pay raise and new high school spending.

You never know. Maybe they'll find one of those legislating-from-the-bench activist judges I keep hearing so much about and get a favorable ruling. In the meantime, anything that sows a little division among Republicans is all right in my book.

Speaking of which, where there's division among Republicans, there's opportunity for Carole Keeton "Call me Grandma, please!" Strayhorn.

Strayhorn, the Republican comptroller who opted to run as an independent against Perry, said she welcomed the lawsuit, agreeing that state spending is out of control.

"During the last six years, the state budget has increased $44 billion. That is 44.75 percent during the last six years," said Strayhorn.

Now, I know that Strayhorn has been for and against all kinds of things this campaign season, some of which were things she was against and for in years past. I don't have the time to do a thorough search, but I do know that Strayhorn has been more than willing to push for various kinds of spending increases when it suits her purposes - teacher pay raises, for instance. But today's story calls for her to put on her Fiscal Conservative/Belt Tightening cap, so she's there with a quote to fit the occasion. It's what she does, and she's good at it.

(By the way, I might have had a better idea about what actual issues Strayhorn cares about if her pathetically uninformative website had an Issues page on it. I know people from that campaign have read this blog in the past - if any of you are out there reading this now, please do something about that. It's embarrassing.)

Anyway. You can read the lawsuit here. Thanks to Dallas Blog for the link.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 15, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

You never know. Maybe they'll find one of those legislating-from-the-bench activist judges I keep hearing so much about and get a favorable ruling.

Look, I don't know enough about the details of the lawsuit or the provision in question to speak authoritatively about either.

But if judges do conclude that the legislature has not followed a constitutional provision, why would that necessarily be a case of "legislating-from-the-bench" judicial activism?

It might well be a clear case of interpreting statutory language or legislative intent.

If a decision comes down that's a departure from clear statutory language or precedent, then yeah, maybe there will be cause to claim "legislating-from-the-bench" judicial activism. There is no such cause at this point.

Posted by: Kevin Whited on June 15, 2006 10:40 AM


I think it was intended as a bit tongue-in-cheek. "Judicial Activism" tends to be a catch phrase used poorly by both sides to describe judges who rule in a manner inconsistent with our own political views.

Similarly, I'm not very familiar with applicable law, so I'm not going to draw any conclusions as to whether the lawsuit has any merit or not.

Posted by: Bobby L. Warren on June 15, 2006 10:51 AM

KW: I thought the antecedent of "they" was the defendants, who need "one of those legislating-from-the-bench activist judges" to grant them a favorable ruling of "not guilty".

Posted by: Michael on June 15, 2006 10:54 AM

Yes, I was being sarcastic with the "activist judges" line. I don't know what the merits of their case are - I did not address that - I just thought it was appropriate to tweak Edd Hendee. That's all.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on June 15, 2006 12:56 PM

It's hard to imagine someone honestly trying to argue that a Republican led government here in TX spends too much money. Fact is, we are damned near last in every category of public spending - and it shows. How would a party with God as its chairman get it so wrong?

Posted by: Dennis on June 15, 2006 5:05 PM