Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"We have billions in surplus."

"We have billions in surplus."
-- Governor Rick Perry, February 8th, 2010 in a TV advertisement

"Public education in Texas faces massive cuts"
-- Headline, January 19, 2011, in The Austin American Statesman.

After the jump, wrapping my head around the contradiction.

In between February 8 last year and January 19 this year, voters re-elected Rick Perry to the governorship by a wide margin. I haven't seen buyer's remorse set in yet, but the impact of the electorate's decision hasn't hit home yet. Once the state legislature is finished doing its damage in May, it'll be up to local governments, like the Richardson ISD, to stanch the bleeding. Good luck with that impossible assignment. The impact will only start to be felt by individual Texans late this year. By then, Rick Perry is likely to be trudging the snows of Iowa, appealing to another group of voters with promises of surpluses to come.

Back in Texas, this is what Texans face in the next two years, according to the two-year budget proposed by House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie):

  • Up to 100,000 kids will be dropped from pre-kindergarten programs
  • Public schools face a $5 billion cut from current state funding levels
  • Up to 70,000 college students will lose financial aid
  • Four community colleges will be closed
  • State universities will lose $772 million
  • Public safety spending will be cut $1.5 billion
  • Medicaid reimbursements to doctors and hospitals will be cut 10%
  • Community mental health services will be cut by 40%
  • Retirement funds for state employees and teachers will be cut to less than what is needed to maintain the funds

Meanwhile, Texas's population is expected to grow by 1 million people over the next two years. There's zero funding in the budget for any growth, so those smaller budgets above will have to be spread over a larger population, increasing the pain.

So far, there's no indication that Chairman Pitts sees the state budget as a catastrophe. On the contrary, he and Gov. Perry see it as an opportunity to impose their vision of limited government on the residents of Texas. Before the scope of the budgetary damage was even being comprehended around the state, Rick Perry spent the day at parties and dancing at inaugural celebrations in downtown Austin.

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