Uh, oh, there I go being all liberal again. That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? It’s okay, I’m used to it and I promise it doesn’t bother me a bit. Because if you think that, chances are you do not understand the Texas budget and/or the Economic Stabilization Fund. So before you start jabbering, hear me out, and then jabber away.
First off, using the ECF is not unheard of. In fact, that has been the operating norm of the fund since its inception in 1990. You don’t believe me, do you? Sigh. Well, how about we just look at the ins and outs of the fund and then maybe you will, okay?
That chart comes from the latest Fiscal Note published by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs (* the 2011 number is for four months, Sep-Dec 2010). Surprise you? I have to admit that it surprised me. Wanna know the biggest spender of ECF funds? That’d be the dean of the House, former Speaker Tom Craddick, who “raided” the fund for a total of $2.834 BILLION in his three budgets. Surprised again, aren’t you? C’mon, you know you are, just admit it. And who was the Governor at the time? Yup, the same Gov. Perry that we have today. They did it then, we can do it now.
Now that we’ve established that the fund has been used, and used heavily in the past, let’s talk about the current problem. That same Comptroller, Susan Combs, says that we are going to be $4.3 BILLION short of meeting our commitments from the 2010/2011 budget that passed a divided House, sailed through the Republican dominated Senate, and was signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry. They passed the budget in good faith that Comptroller Comb’s revenue estimate was correct.
Turns out that it wasn’t correct and missed the mark. So the question is, do we use money that is already in the bank to cover that shortfall or do we cut enough in the remaining five months of the two year budget to cover that shortfall? Here’s where it gets tricky. Gov. Perry had his staff look into it and they can’t seem to find much in the way of cuts for the next five months. Peggy Fikac of the Houston Chronicle blogged last week that the governor’s staff had found an additional $200 million in cuts, and then wrote in her long-form article that they had only found $50 million. Most likely, the smaller number is more accurate.
If Gov. Perry, the most fiscally conservative politician in the state, can’t find $4.3 BILLION to cut, we might as well face up to the fact that there isn’t $4.3 BILLION to cut in the next five months.
Grown-ups face facts and deal with them. Republicans need to act like grown-ups and deal with it. The House needs to pass HB 275 and be done with it. The Senate needs to do the same and the governor should sign it post-haste.
Why? Because there are much bigger fish to fry and we need the current legislature to focus on that.
Comptroller Combs revised her revenue forecast upwards by $300 million today, giving lawmakers $72.5 BILLION to spend for the 2012/2013 budget. Estimates predict that number to be between $15 and $27 BILLION short of what is “necessary” to maintain current levels of government services. Regardless of which number you choose, low or high, if we can help our legislators keep to Comptroller Combs’ revenue figure it will be a HUGE achievement for our state. We must reduce government if we are going to remain competitive in the future and the only way to do it is to support Republican legislators in their efforts. And the good news is that we would still have, with added funds from high oil and gas prices, approximately $5 BILLION in the ECF. In case a Rainy Day comes.
So please, Tea Party people, please help Republican legislators weather this storm because they cannot do it if you keep attacking them. They have enough to deal with from the left and the left controlled media. Yes, I mocked them for exaggerating their numbers at their big rally this past Saturday but whether or not my number of 2,000 is right or one of the other estimates is correct, they are a force that must be reckoned with. No politician likes to be told that he or she is “hurting the children”.
If you don’t help them weather the storm, I’m afraid we might be back to politics as usual because they would think they have nothing to lose. So think before you attack someone for daring to pull from the ECF and keep the larger goal in mind.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
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