Article III, Section 49 of the Texas Constitution ("State Debts")

As amended November 5, 1991:

(a) No debt shall be created by or on behalf of the State, except: (1) to supply casual deficiencies of revenue, not to exceed in the aggregate at any one time two hundred thousand dollars; (2) to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, or defend the State in war; (3) as otherwise authorized by this Constitution; or (4) as authorized by Subsections (b) through (f) of this section.

(b) The Legislature, by joint resolution approved by at least two-thirds of the members of each House, may from time to time call an election and submit to the eligible voters of this State one or more propositions that, if approved by a majority of those voting on the question, authorize the Legislature to create state debt for the purposes and subject to the limitations stated in the applicable proposition. Each election and proposition must conform to the requirements of Subsections (c) and (d) of this section.

(c) The Legislature may call an election during any regular session of the Legislature or during any special session of the Legislature in which the subject of the election is designated in the Governor's proclamation for that special session. The election may be held on any date, and notice of the election shall be given for the period and in the manner required for amending this Constitution. The election shall be held in each county in the manner provided by law for other statewide elections.

(d) A proposition must clearly describe the amount and purpose for which debt is to be created and must describe the source of payment for the debt. Except as provided by law under Subsection (f) of this section, the amount of debt stated in the proposition may not be exceeded and may not be renewed after the debt has been created unless the right to exceed or renew is stated in the proposition.

(e) The Legislature may enact all laws necessary or appropriate to implement the authority granted by a proposition that is approved as provided by Subsection (b) of this section. A law enacted in anticipation of the election is valid if, by its terms, it is subject to the approval of the related proposition.

(f) State debt that is created or issued as provided by Subsection (b) of this section may be refunded in the manner and amount and subject to the conditions provided by law.

(g) State debt that is created or issued as provided by Subsections (b) through (f) of this section and that is approved by the Attorney General in accordance with applicable law is incontestable for any reason.

Editor Comments

As adopted in 1876, this section read: "No debt shall be created by or on behalf of the State, except to supply casual deficiencies of revenue, repel invasion, suppress insurrection, defend the State in war, or pay existing debt; and the debt created to supply deficiencies in the revenue, shall never exceed in the aggregate at any one time two hundred thousand dollars." It has been amended once. The 1991 amendment, approved by 72% of voters, modified the original language and added Subsections (b)-(g).

Due to that amendment, numerous other amendments to the state constitution and a limited construction of it by the Supreme Court, this once important section currently has relatively little effect. Cf. Elizabeth Levatino & Steve Bickerstaff, The Proposed Constitution for Texas, 29 Sw L.J. 477, 505 (1975) ("Despite this apparently clear and absolute prohibition of significant state borrowing, the State of Texas and its agencies, by August 1973, had accumulated over two billion dollars in outstanding debt.").

Attorney Steve Smith

Recent Decisions


Historic Decisions

  • Texas Public Bldg. Auth. v. Mattox, 686 S.W.2d 924, 928 (Tex. 1985) ("No debt of the state is created by the Act's provisions. Section 13 thereof expressly provides that the bonds are not debts of the state or any agency, political corporation, or political subdivision of the state and are not a pledge of the faith and credit of any of them. Both the Trust Indenture and the Bonds themselves contain virtually identical disclaimers. . . . Given the clear intent of the Legislature in passing the Act and this court's previous approval of a virtually identical arrangement in Armory Board, we conclude that the Authority's proposed bond issuance is not in violation of article III, section 49.")

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