Texas Budget Boondoggle
Fairy Tales, the Medicaid Credit Card, Formula One Racing & Pork
By JoAnn Fleming
During the 82nd Legislative Session and the subsequent special session, Texas lawmakers dealt with the budget shortfall and balanced the budget with no new taxes and no tax increases, but $12 billion in cuts were the one-time federal stimulus funds used to balance the 2010-2011 biennium budget. The 2012-2013 budget is balanced with some cuts, tax payment speed ups, accounting gimmicks, and deferrals.
“Budget writers had to rely heavily on gimmicks and one-time fixes, like a $2.3 billion payment deferral to the Foundation School Program and underfunding Medicaid caseload growth to the tune of $4.8 billion. Perhaps even worse than these budget shenanigans is the fact that, despite having a golden opportunity, lawmakers failed to make any substantive changes to how and why state government spends money.” Source: Texas Public Policy Foundation
In other words, the leaders of our state government and key legislators once more engaged in “fairy tale budgeting” by declaring a balanced budget. The budget may be balanced, but the Rainy Day Fund (or the People’s Savings Account) is spent! Delaying the $2.3 billion payment for public school funding and charging $4.8 billion to a “Medicaid credit card” means the budget is short by $7.1 billion. That’s right! Texas has a planned budget deficit for 2013! If kicking the can down the road and delaying tough decisions is wrong in Washington, DC, what makes it right for Texas?
The legislature left many commonsense spending cuts on the table. Texas Republican leadership refused to champion and push for sensible cost-cutting measures offered by conservative legislators in both the House and the Senate, for example – pay cuts for statewide officials and state employees (not teachers) who make $60,000 and above and a hiring freeze for all state agencies (excluding law enforcement, corrections, and the court system). Texas still has many overlapping, duplicated departments, agencies, and programs. Twenty-three plus agencies alone manage natural resources. If waste is wrong in Washington, DC, why isn’t it equally wrong for Texas?
The budget approved by Governor Perry also includes $25 million for Formula One Race track funding for a billionaire promoter and special interests in Austin. No matter how many times we got this pork stripped out of the budget by the few conservatives in the House and Senate, it always rose from the dead in conference committee and made it back into the budget. Several state officials deeply desired this project and arm-twisted to bring it back to life. Also included in the state budget is $500 million in pork for special interests, including film and music makers, video game companies, and commercials for Fortune 500 companies. If crony capitalism and pork are wrong in Washington, DC, what makes it right for Texas?
The State of Texas has no business serving as an investment banker or venture capitalist for entertainment venues. Leveraging tax dollars for private special interests is not a core constitutional responsibility of state government. It’s just plain wrong.
JoAnn Fleming is Chair, Citizen Advisory Committee to the Texas Legislature’s TEA Party Caucus and Executive Director (volunteer), Grassroots America – We the People.
Watch the video below and ask yourself are we being fed more propaganda by the career politicians so we will help get them elected to higher office? Should it be about them or should it be about what is best for Texas?
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