11.15.12

Perry and the wing nuts getting back to work

Posted in Around The State, Had Enough Yet?, Taxes, The Budget at 10:37 am by wcnews

It didn’t work in Florida so Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst want to try this right-wing “dog whistle” in Texas, Perry, Dewhurst push controversial drug testing bill.

On Tuesday, he and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst advocated drug testing for individuals receiving state money, a move which has drawn both criticism and praise from around the state.

[...]

“We have a right to privacy. We have a right to be left alone by the government,” Matt Simpson with the ACLU of Texas said. “This really oversteps it for just a certain amount of people.”

In a state known country-wide for advocating personal freedom, ACLU officials say the drug testing would amount to unlawful search and seizure.

“Taking a group of people and subjecting them all to screening doesn’t give any basis for why that one individual should be tested,” Simpson said.

It’s a policy that Simpson says have been proven inefficient in Florida.

The Miami-Herald reported earlier this year that in four months of testing welfare recipients, just 2.6 percent tested positive for illicit drugs, most often for marijuana use.

According to the report, the state saw a sizable net loss of state money.

What a horrible waste of money and time this would be, just to punish the unemployed ever more.  Paul Burka has more, Drug testing: a solution in search of a problem.  And this from Progress Texas, Texas Republicans Attempt to Embarrass and Humiliate Needy Texans.

Now that there’s more money coming into the state coffers, it means that Perry and the wing nuts have to make new excuses to not spend state money to help Texas taxpayers, Perry, allies look to tighten state spending cap.

Legislative leaders on Thursday will set a state spending limit for the next two-year budget that critics, including Gov. Rick Perry, say does little to actually limit spending.

Perry and his allies are once again pushing to tighten the spending cap, which voters overwhelming added to the state constitution in 1978, and apply it to more of the Texas budget. Legislation has already been filed in both the Texas House and the Senate to put a constitutional amendment before voters next year.

“As a small government conservative, I believe that government growth, if any, should be kept to the bare minimum,” Perry said at a news conference in Houston earlier this fall promoting his five-point Texas Budget Compact, aimed at controlling the cost of government.

Perry has long argued that the spending cap is too loose. But key lawmakers haven’t shared his view in the past, pointing to Texas’ low-spending history. In 1990, Texas spent $1,628 per person from state general revenue — money that pays for public schools, courts, prisons and other basic services — compared to $1,690 in 2012, said Eva DeLuna Castro, a fiscal analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for low- and middle-income Texans.

But some say the proposal might get more traction now that more revenue is pouring into state coffers — thus making significant increases in spending possible for the first time in years.

“I want to be sure that our taxpayers know that we are going to be fiscally responsible with their money in both good times and bad times, no matter who is in charge of Texas,” said state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who filed the spending limit legislation.

Tea party supporters have also amplified the calls for more spending restraint, even though Texas’ state spending per capita is among the lowest in the country.

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The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a limited government think tank, estimated the tighter spending cap, if it had been in place since 1990, would have forced total state spending to be $41 billion — or 43.5 percent — less in 2012.

“I can’t say there is that much overspending,” said James Quintero, a fiscal policy analyst with policy foundation. Still, he added, “there are plenty of areas to cut.”

Depending upon who is doing the math, Texas lawmakers have either allowed state spending to soar to unsustainable levels or they have kept that growth in check as the state’s economy and population have increased.

The policy foundation, an influential voice for many conservative legislators, maintains that total state spending since 1990 has increased by 310 percent, far outstripping the growth in population and inflation.

The Legislative Budget Board, which is the official scorekeeper on state fiscal matters, asserts that the policy foundation’s calculations are incorrect, and that the group inflates the growth by starting its count the year before the last major tax increase took effect. The budget board reported that Texas’ total budget has increased 176 percent over the past two decades.

But that number drops to an average rate of 1.5 percent per budget biennium when adjusted for population growth and inflation. In fact, when federal dollars are taken out of the equation, the adjusted state spending has decreased by 2.6 percent over the same period of time, according to a budget board analysis.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said ratcheting down the spending cap is an arbitrary and overbearing regulation that chokes off investments in Texas’ people, businesses and economy.

“Things like regressive budget-writing regulations just aren’t designed to promote an honest conversation about what Texas needs, what that costs and how it can be provided as efficiently and transparently as possible,” Watson said. “Instead, they seek to bind the state’s hands and make it harder to tend to our future.”

It doesn’t matter what the economic conditions show, their only plan is to cut government spending and lower taxes on the wealthy.  The rest be damned.  Logic tells us that if we had to cut the budget when we had a funding crisis, now that the budget has turned almost 180 degrees that funding should be restored.  But that’s not how Perry and the wing nuts work.

1 Comment »

  1. Eye on Williamson » TPA Blog Round Up (November 19, 2012) said,

    November 19, 2012 at 10:16 am

    [...] Rick Perry and the Texas wing nuts are back at it again. WCNews at Eye on Williamson shows us that no matter the economic situation their game plan is the same – cut government lower taxes on the wealthy, and the rest of us be damned – Perry and the wing nuts getting back to work. [...]

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