So, in order to meet its constitutional mandate of a balanced budget, and to avoid any tax increase (as they promised), Texas lawmakers must find $28 billion.
$28 billion. That’s a lot of money. A couple of sessions back, the shortfall was $12 billion and the budget cuts imposed then seemed draconian. How are they going to manage this one?
They can’t raise taxes. They — and by “they” I mean the Republican leadership in Austin — ran on a pledge of no new taxes, a pledge that trickled down to our local level (more on that in another post).
Back before the election, the only people who wanted to talk about our state’s budget were Democrats — and they wanted desperately to talk about the budget and about the projected $18 billion shortfall.
But no one listened.
The Republican incumbents just dismissed that talk as Democratic histrionics. Instead, they warned about the ills of big government and fanned the flames of fear of those brown people south of the Rio Grande and of the scary black man in Washington. They bragged about Texas’ unemployment numbers and about how we lead the nation job creation and our business climate was second to none.
Never mind the fact that where Texas really leads the nation is in the creation of minimum wage jobs, that nearly 25 percent of us have no health insurance, that our State Board of Education has rendered our great state a world-wide laughingstock, and that, were it not for Mississippi and Alabama, our high school graduation rate would be the worst in the nation.
That health business environment? Well, it may be healthy for large corporations but not so healthy for us. In fact, Texas is trying figure out a way to keep from enforcing the Clean Air Act … no kidding!
Prior to the election, no one in a position of authority over the state’s budget could say what was going to happen or how we would get the thing balanced. The comptroller didn’t have her revenue forecasts ready yet and the governor just couldn’t be bothered to press for early estimates, despite the fact that the legislature was due to meet two months after the election, and have 180 days to create a two-year balanced budget.
But, no one seemed to care about that. Except Democrats and a handful of newspaper editors and investigative reporters. But, no one paid much attention to them.
The day after the election, our Comptroller announced that the budget shortfall was $28 billion. You think she had that number before the election?
So, are we taking any bets on how this will affect us? Counties and cities are already worried about more unfunded state mandates, and the rest of us are worried (or should be)dramatic cuts in public school and higher ed financing, social services and the like.
If you thought Texas was a “low service” state, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!