The very good news is that, by instructing agencies to cut their current biennium spending by 5 percent, and their 2012-13 spending requests by 10 percent, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus have set the state on a path of spending cuts to meet the projected shortfall. However, further cuts will be necessary to ensure that the budget can be balanced without raising taxes.What is getting lost in all of this is that Rick will look like even more of a genius and a nationally known budget hawk if he cares about running again for governor in 2014 or running for something else in 2012... Texas requires a balanced budget... Rick will balance the budget 7 or 8 months from now and his reputation as a fiscal conservative budget cutter will be bolstered... he will be able to say he was the first governor since World War 2 to cut the Texas budget at all... and that he did it three times... that might just be what peeps are yearning for on more of a national stage... even if he has no national ambitions for higher office Rick will definitely be able to build a strong legacy and become a well paid news analyst or speaker circuit champ...
We know it can be done.
Prior to the commencement of the 78th Legislature in 2003, as early revenue projections looked dire, conservative legislators reviewed state spending priorities, laid out structural changes in state appropriations and management, and identified areas for cost savings. As a result, the 78th Legislature, with the support of the governor, met the challenge posed by a $7.4 billion revenue shortfall through fiscal restraint and without raising taxes.
A central legacy of the 2003 budget cuts is the fiscal strength that Texas has had since. In fact, they positioned the state to be the nation's fiscal powerhouse for almost a decade and have helped Texas weather the current economic downturn better than all other states.
Nonetheless, we're already hearing the carping about the calamity to come if the Legislature doesn't raise taxes rather than cutting spending. In his opinion column in the Texas Observer, Dave Mann complained that "I honestly don't know where lawmakers will find the cuts, and how bad the consequences will be. ... I do know that cutting that much from the state budget -- $10 billion, $15 billion, $18 billion, whatever the final figure -- will negatively affect nearly everyone in this state for years to come."
This is nothing but a shop-worn tactic to scare the general public into believing that budget cuts have near-apocalyptic implications. In 2003, state agencies added to the rhetoric by inappropriately responding to questions about possible cuts in budgets and programs.
Among the calamitous predictions were 104 more drunk-driving deaths, longer hold times on phone calls reporting child abuse, the elimination of some state treatments for epilepsy and declines in the percentage of baccalaureate recipients who are first-generation college students. Threatening the most extreme consequences is unnecessary and irresponsible. These types of claims are speculative at best and assume that there are not performance enhancements that could take up the slack. One agency even wrote that "our small budget has never had any fat in it, and now we're into the bone and being chopped off at the knees." Taxpayers deserve better.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Common sense on budget cuts...
When Texas cut its budget in 2003 the end of the world did not happen as predicted (link). Excerpt follows...