Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Raining, It's Pouring!

Bill McKenzie, editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News, makes an astute and very important observation in his Opinion Blog post this past week...

"Rick Perry was up here in Dallas yesterday [Tuesday] telling a group that legislators shouldn't touch the Rainy Day Fund. It sounded like he thought lawmakers instead should use this opportunity to rearrange government."

"I don't know if the governor has been paying attention or not, but the headlines are daily reporting how legislators are trying to reshape things without hurting the state. So, no one is talking about expanding government.
They are, though, talking about using the Rainy Day Fund to spare people at the margins, keep schools from shortchanging kids and allow the state to keep growing. And those are Republicans saying that, including the heads of the top budget-writing committees."

"If Gov. Perry has a way to do all that without using the Rainy Day Fund, I'm sure those Republicans would like to hear his solutions..."

Evidence of what Bill was talking about is seen the testimony of the Texas State Comptroller's Susan Combs testimony earlier this month, the Republican State Comptroller as she appears before the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Republican Representative from Waxahachie...
"The Texas comptroller told the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday that she can't imagine solving the current budget crisis through cuts alone."
"Susan Combs spoke at a hearing designed to be a reality check for conservatives who think the budget can be balanced by slashing state services. The current two-year budget cycle is $4.3 billion short and, under the Texas Constitution, that deficit must be made up by Aug. 31."
"The state is also facing another projected $27 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget, but that was not the subject of Thursday's hearing."
"Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, a Waxahachie Republican, asked Combs to testify after he introduced a bill to spend $4.3 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund to cover the deficit. In opening Thursday's hearing, he tried to communicate the gravity of the problem, which left lawmakers silent and stone-faced."
"The budget adopted by the Legislature last session, and signed by the governor, exceeded the comptroller's measure of available revenue," Pitts said. "This committee, and this Legislature, has very limited options: the use of the Rainy Day Fund, further reductions ... or deferring payments into the next biennium."
"While Combs never called on the committee to dip into the Rainy Day Fund, she presented a detailed history of how it had been used in the past and how spending it would not hurt the state's credit rating. She also examined the other options."
""I don't know how you can get to $4.3 billion in cuts," Combs said. She warned that even if the recession ends, that doesn't mean revenues will return to levels seen in 2005, when the Texas economy was booming."
"When some lawmakers tried to compare the situation to 2003, the last time they tapped the Rainy Day Fund, the Democratic vice chair chastened them."
""I wish this was 2003. But if anyone tries to compare 2003 to what we are going through now, and saying they are similar, you are not facing reality," said state Rep. Sylvester, D-Houston. "This situation is far worse.""
There are other, sensible, long term solutions to Texas' budget woes - but in the short term, will someone please tell our Governor 'it's raining!'!

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