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Does Texas Know How Much a Bill Will Cost the State Before It Passes?

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

The Texas Legislature is in full swing. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.

Today's question:

When a bill is introduced, is there an initial estimate made of how much it will cost the state government to implement it?



Jimmy Maas: This is KUT. I'm Jimmy Maas. Throughout the legislative session we are taking listener questions on how things are going at the State Capitol. We have a question about when a bill is introduced. Is there an initial estimate made of how much it will cost the state government to implement it?

Ben Philpott: Yes there is. That's a fiscal note that is attached to the bill. It is sometimes attached very quickly sometimes not – just kind of depending on where the bill is in the process. One of the things that's always interesting, and I would assume a little hairy-scary for those that are putting together these fiscal notes is that you know on the House side, when they're having the budget debate – whether or not to pass the state budget and what to have in it. On the House side, people will bring up amendments. They will write them on the floor, they will have to have everyone look at it and come up with a fiscal note right then and there and then they can bring it onto the floor and talk about you know whether where they're going to cut from the other parts of the budget to pay for whatever they've just put up as an amendment. And that can be very interesting. You know, the bills, the amendments rather, flying back and forth and people very quickly working up a fiscal note. But on all the others, if it's going to cost the state something, they do an analysis of it they figure out how much it's going to cost over usually sometimes five years, break it all out and they'll attach that fiscal note to the bill.

JM: Is there any accountability to the number crunchers at the time when they put the fiscal note to it? Is it backed up by someone within the state?

BP: It is. It is backed up over time. You know, we know five years from now whether or not they got it right. But there's not a there's not an immediate way to fact-check other than, you know, this is what the author says the bill will do, based on our analysis we believe these different parts of government will be affected, and therefore this is the revenue that it will either generate or cost the state.

JM: All right. Thanks Ben. That's KUT Senior Editor Ben Philpott. If you have a question you'd like Ben to answer go to our website, and submit your query about the state legislature. 

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