F. Scott McCown, its executive director, had this to say last week when State Comptroller Susan Combs released her Biennial Revenue Estimate.
“Texas lawmakers heard they will have $101.4 billion in General Revenue to work with when writing the 2014-15 state budget. However, $5 billion is needed for the Medicaid IOU, leaving $96.4 billion to barely continue the current barebones budget and leave in place the devastating 2011 cuts to education, health care and other areas of critical need. In addition, the state’s Rainy Day Fund will have $11.8 billion available to support state services and investments by the end of 2014-15.
“With available revenue and the historically high Rainy Day Fund balance, which together total $108.2 billion, Texas lawmakers have the opportunity to return to the level of services provided five years ago—-before the financial crisis slashed state revenue. If we are willing to use the Rainy Day Fund, we could fund the rapid population growth and inflation while also undoing the devastating 2011 cuts that have left so many Texas families struggling.
“Today’s revenue estimate announcement officially begins this session’s budget writing process. Now, it’s up to state lawmakers to create a budget that reflects our state’s needs and priorities.
“Legislators should use the money available now to invest in the education and health care systems that will help ensure our state’s future prosperity.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday in an address to the Texas Public Policy Foundation seemed to slam shut the door of availability McCown wanted to see opened.
“Our job now is to remind people that this good news does not mean we’ll be free to spend any amount on anything we want.
“We have to make sure everyone understands that if we stray from the path we’ve crafted for ourselves, other states like Florida and Louisiana are eager to step up and take their shot at the nation’s job-creation crown.
“When I spoke to the Legislature on Tuesday, I made it clear that we have to continue keeping our spending under control.
“I also told them that the best thing we can do for our economy, for employers, employees, and our state, is to provide some tax relief.
“The last two years tell us that people do the most good when they keep more of their own money, so they can start new businesses, invest in new equipment, hire new employees, and blaze new trails.
“Time and again, we’ve seen that the best use of the people’s money is to give it back to them in some form or fashion.
“I think that’s an important discussion to have.
“In fact, I’d like to advance the discussion beyond the Dome, and I invite everyone to go to my website, Texas.gov, and share with us your own thoughts on what’s the best way to provide tax relief to Texas.”
It’s easy to predict how this budget battle will come out. Gov. Perry may not see eye to eye with his fellow Republicans who rule the Texas Legislature on every issue, but anyone hoping to see revenue restored to, say, the public schools during this session is probably going to be disappointed.
On the other hand, if you believe Gov. Perry et al. are going to deliver “tax relief,” it is safe to predict you also will be disappointed. No one seems to know where the last “property tax cut” Gov. Perry claims to have delivered to Texas taxpayers went.
Of course, there is no state property tax to begin with. He was promising cuts from entities over which he has no control. But it made for a good speech.