Generally speaking state Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) is one of the few Republicans left in Texas that can at times be reasonable and an honest broker, of course there are exceptions. That’s why what Kuff points out in a recent interview he did in the Houston Chronicle is so disconcerting, First, you have to admit you have a problem.
Peggy Fikac has a frustrating conversation with State Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden. I say frustrating because I know he knows what the correct answer to this is, and I also know he’s never going to say it out loud:
Q: When you look at the challenges that are facing you, is the problem the recession or is there a systemic problem with the way the budget is structured year after year?
A: Well, how about yes and no? I think last session if you really go through all the numbers, we used about $6 billion of the stimulus money to balance our budget … I think it was a smart thing to do in the context of we didn’t use the rainy day fund to balance our budget, or we didn’t make Draconian cuts to balance our budget. Well, depending on how much federal assistance we have next session, we’ll be faced again with the same decision: Should we make cuts? Should we use the rainy day fund? Or should we use federal funding stimulus money?
Ogden is a budget writer. He knows fully well what the effect was of the 2006 property tax cut – how much revenue was forsaken, how much was supposed to come in to replace it, how far short of projections those other sources fell, and how much general revenue had to be tapped to make up the difference. He also knows that this isn’t going to change by itself. If we can’t say what the problem is, we have no hope of fixing it. And one consequence of that is it means we can’t fix some other problems as well.
Kuff goes on to discuss Ogden’s answer on school finance which is equally as bad, if not worse. But Ogden’s “plan” to solve the impending budget problem, that he thinks may or may not exist, is to do like in 2006 and institute another “revenue neutral” tax swap:
Q: How much more money do you think that could bring in, or should it bring in?
A: I would want it to initially be revenue neutral, but I would argue that over time … as the economy grows, a broader-base, lower-rate tax would raise more money over the long haul than the one we have.
It could, just like the tax swap of 2006 could have been “revenue neutral” like he told us it would be, but it isn’t likely. We should no longer be willing to take the word of the same people that created the current mess at face value. In essence Ogden’s plan, if reelected, appears to be to try and run the same scam, like in 2006, all over again. Hopefully he’s seen the news today, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said today the state received $1.46 billion in sales tax revenue in March, down 7.8 percent compared to March 2009. For context March 2009 was down 3.8 percent compared to March 2008.
[UPDATE]: One more thing. What also can be seen from one of Ogden’s responses is what has been in the GOP playbook for several decades. That is to run up deficits, or in this case a shortfall, and use it as an excuse to cut spending on things they don’t like.
Q: On the budget, lawmakers face a minimum $11 billion shortfall next session.
A: No, I disagree. … I don’t think you can define it yet because you don’t know — when you say shortfall, you imply some sort of mandatory spending level and some sort of predetermined revenue level, neither of which we have. There’s no shortfall if you don’t spend it. And we don’t know yet what our revenue projections are.
The current budget shortfall projections are indeed that, projections. Those projections are based on what it will cost to fund what is in the current budget in the next budget cycle. But what Ogden is saying is that the shortfall is an opportunity for him and his party to finally do what they’ve been wanting to do for decades. That is to cut, draconian or not, what they see fit from our state’s budget if they are returned to office. In this case it’s the much needed money for public education, the there’s no money lie that the Texas GOP is spreading.