Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jason Embry unwittingly makes Rick's case that he is a fiscal disciplinarian...

Jason Embry is on my daily reading list, but people from Rick's camp and Kay's camp alike sent messages to me about today's First Reading (link). The pro-Kay correspondence was all about how this undermines Rick's argument on rejecting an expansion of unemployment insurance. The pro-Rick correspondence was all about how Embry's blog makes Rick's case for him that Rick has been a budget hawk, cutting wherever and whenever he can.

You decide for yourself...

The lead

Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday re-stated his opposition to legislation that would allow the state to accept federal stimulus dollars for expanded unemployment programs. A key part of Perry’s argument is that once Texas expands the pool of people who are eligible for unemployment benefits, there will be no changing the program back to its current guidelines. (While the federal stimulus law says that states cannot insert a sunset provision that would automatically end the expanded benefits at a certain point, state legislatures can choose to revert back to the previous parameters of their programs).

“I’ve never seen anything generally done away with once it becomes law so I wouldn’t think this one would be any different,” Perry told a gaggle of reporters after a speech Wednesday.

I asked Perry about 2003, when lawmakers famously cut a number of programs in order to cope with a $10 billion budget shortfall.

“Ronald Reagan said that there’s nothing more permanent than a temporary government program,” Perry responded. “I think that is a very wise statement and I will stand by that. Cutting government programs that are put in place that are entitlements are almost impossible to change.”

Is it almost impossible to cut a government program?

In 2001, the Legislature created a $1,000 stipend for teachers to pay for health insurance. In 2003, the Legislature cut it back to $500. And in 2006, it was rolled into teachers’ salaries to help lawmakers and Perry inflate the size of a teacher pay raise.

Between 2003 and 2007, the Legislature cut the utility assistance program for low-income Texans from $150 million to $15 million.

The Legislature created the Children’s Health Insurance Program in Texas in 1997. In 2003, the Legislature cut vision, dental and mental health benefits, while increasing the frequency with which families had to enroll.

Lawmakers cut payments to doctors seeing Medicaid and CHIP patients in 2003.

You get the idea. And Perry said when announcing that he would not accept the stimulus dollars, “Texas overcame a $10 billion deficit in 2003 because we decided to reduce government spending,” Perry said in March.

Said House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam, “The governor didn’t have any difficulty repealing CHIP eligibility and throwing 250,000 children off of health insurance. Maybe he has amnesia.”

In a lot of ways, the pro-Kay message was a general election message, and the pro-Rick message was a primary message. I am more concerned about the primary right now, considering the latest polls showing both Rick and Kay obliterating a Democrat in the race.

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Hey now, campaign characters. Be nice. I know a lot of you on both sides, so I don't want any overly foul language, personal attacks on anyone other than the candidates themselves, or other party fouls. I will moderate the heck out of you if you start breaking the bounds of civility.