A Texan's Guide to the Past, Present, and Future of the Economic Stabilization Fund Report
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In November 1988, Texans approved the creation of the state's Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF). Designed to help the state weather the storms of economic strife, budget shortfalls, and unexpected catastrophes, the Fund is currently accruing billions of dollars annually thanks to booming oil and gas severance tax revenues. Despite the Fund's expanding reserves, access to its wealth is anything but a walk in the park; a fact no Texas lawmaker would dispute, having labored the summer away for a piece of the ESF pie even as robust economic figures swell the General Revenue and forecast prosperity into the near future. Many Texans are scratching their heads now, wondering whether the state's rainy-day dollars might be used for anything from water projects to transportation infrastructure, or education and tax rebates, or whether they should remain untouched, jealously guarded against future unknowns and expanding government. On first glance there seems to be no method to the madness, no way to predict whether or on what the Fund will be utilized. This report examines key social, economic, and political variables to determine what factors significantly influence the likelihood that any bill drawing from the Fund would succeed. Future legislators wondering whether their shot at ESF dollars hinges on the amount, the issue, the bill author, or even the state's general economic outlook, should take note of the following report. Our analyses show: no lawmaker from the minority party has been able to carry an ESF bill to victory the better the state is doing economically, the less likely the Fund will be tapped big spending by special interests may be required to get ESF legislation through beware of testimony - the more people who come to testify for your bill, the less likely it is to survive the process. The ESF has proven its muster on a number of occasions, helping the state to overhaul its education system, expand its criminal justice capacity, enhance health for Texans and their children, and span treacherous gaps in the state's budget that would have deprived residents of valuable services and stunted growth. The large and growing numbers we are seeing accrue in the Fund today make its fate a preponderant issue for all Texans seeking economic stability, sustainability, and the most efficient and effective use of the state's wealth for its residents and issue areas. More research is needed to determine whether other, unknown factors play a significant role in the Fund's use, and to distinguish in greater detail among those revealed in our analyses.
Burton, Andrew; Bernhard, Corey; Graham, Andrew; Hickman, Nathaniel; James, Brendin; Titford, Megan; Trevino, Fernando (2013). A Texan's Guide to the Past, Present, and Future of the Economic Stabilization Fund Report. Available electronically from