Chapter Summary

This chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the policymaking process and focuses on fiscal policy. The different types of taxes, state revenue resources, tax expenditures, and subsidies are discussed in detail.

The policy process can be understood as a five-stage process resulting in one of three types of policies: distributive, redistributive, or regulatory. Texas is a state that enjoys relatively low taxation. It has a substantial and complex mixture of regressive taxes due to the reliance on sales and excise taxes and the lack of a state income tax. As the population of the state has grown, so have demands from the citizenry for a wide array of policies. The legislature has had to grapple with taxation and spending within a federal and political framework of what is both fiscally and politically permissible.

During the legislative session every 2 years, the Texas Legislature must deal with these demands while adhering to the constitutionally required frugality of a balanced budget that places limits on the government’s choices. Texas has a “pay-as-you-go” system that discourages borrowing money and places power in the comptroller to enforce this. The legislature is further hindered by the 140-day limited regular session and federal rules on budgetary priorities.