04.21.11

The lesser of two evils

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Taxes, The Budget, The Lege at 4:36 pm by wcnews

The Senate Finance Committee passed out it’s version of the budget for the 2012 – 2013 biennium.  And it truly is the lesser of two evils, when compared to the Perry-backed budget the House passed. Here’s how Peggy Fikac describes the difference between the two chambers.

The Senate proposal — which would soften cuts to public schools, higher education and human services in the face of a massive revenue shortfall — is at least $14 billion more in all funds than a plan approved earlier by the House.

It would still fall $8.9 billion below the current level of state and federal spending.

Or as the CPPP statement puts it, “…no one should pretend that the Senate budget meets the needs of Texas“. At the beginning of the session we were a $27 billion short of what was needed to fund state government at current levels. $4 billion was made up from the RDF, and the Senate plan made up $14 billion, which leaves the shortfall at $9 billion.

The Republicans in the Senate think they’ve done us all a great big favor, Relative “Heriosm”: The Senate’s Plan to Cut Just $4 Billion from Schools.

You might have expected the mood to be awkward Wednesday in the Senate Finance Committee. After all, the lawmakers were trying cut $4 billion from public schools in Texas and begin to fix a failed school finance system—that they’d created. The cuts will come to every school district in the state, including those that have spent the last five years scraping by on a fraction of what other, similar districts get. The bill wasn’t as drastic as the House version, where members cut $8 billion from school districts, but I expected most of the senators to be seriously concerned.

Instead, the mood was, at times, hesitatingly triumphant.

“People said we couldn’t do it but we have,” said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who oversaw the committee’s work on school funding and is carrying the bill.

“This is an heroic effort,” lauded Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Longview, who has spoken out against drastic cuts.

Finance Committee Chair Steve Ogden took it a step further. “I think this bill has the potential of saving public education in Texas,” he told the members. “If we don’t pass the bill, I think public education as we know it is in big trouble.”

Our schools were already underfunded and now the we’re supposed to be happy that they’re only being cut by $4 billion and not $8 billion.  While the Economic Stabilization Fund, (Rainy Day Fund), has more than enough to make up the difference. Texas Fund Driven by Oil Rally May Reach $12 Billion by 2013, Senator Says.

Texas’s reserve fund may climb to 28 percent more than officially forecast by 2013 as energy prices rally, a gain that might help the second-most populous state avoid some spending cuts, a key senator said.

The fund, fed by energy taxes and forecast by the state comptroller to reach $9.4 billion by the end of August 2013, may gain much more by then, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, a Bryan Republican, said yesterday.

“That fund could easily rise to $12 billion,” Ogden said at a committee hearing. He based his estimate on revenue increases from taxes on oil and natural-gas production in the state as energy prices climb.

Crude oil futures have jumped 34 percent in the past year, touching $113.46 in New York on April 11, the highest level since September 2008. Ogden said he favors using $3 billion from the reserve to help cover general-fund spending to avoid some cuts in education and health-care services. The state faces a projected deficit of at least $15 billion in the budget for the fiscal biennium that begins in September.

Ogden’s estimate of the so-called rainy-day fund’s growth was supported by John O’Brien, executive director of the Legislative Budget Board. The nonpartisan research unit advises lawmakers on fiscal issues.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of speculation that if prices stay high, it might be $12 billion,” O’Brien said at the hearing. Natural-gas futures have risen 8.6 percent in the past year in New York trading.

Ogden is president of Ogden Resources in Bryan and has worked in oil and gas exploration for more than 20 years. He holds a master of business administration degree from Texas A&M University in College Station and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

All of that being said, the main problem for The Lege is that the two chambers are still billions apart and likely months from coming to an agreement.  As this post points out, Two Shortfalls.

Accordingly, there are two shortfalls in the budget. One is the necessary votes to suspend in the Senate so that it can be debated on the floor. The second is the $3 billion the Senate proposes to spend from the Rainy Day Fund, which the House and the Governor say they will not support.

Which is where we stand and probably will until the Summer. Of course we must keep in mind who is being asked to sacrifice and who isn’t. All the sacrifice must come from poor and working Texans, while the rich and corporations can’t be bothered.

That’s why this Texas Observer article on tea party freshman Connie Scott is so illuminating, (beyond the dearth of knowledge Scott had of the legislative process before becoming a representative), The Sheepish Revolutionary. Scott had no problem breaking a campaign promise to “not cut education funding” when it came down to it.

Both of these budgets are bad for Texas and Texans, and are what we get from eight plus years of GOP rule in Texas. Tax cuts and tax schemes have not produced the economic growth that was promised.  And the only way we will get Texas where it needs to be is by raising taxes on those with money, the rich and corporations.  Until that is done the best we can hope for is the lesser of two evils.

5 Comments »

  1. Senate Finance Committee passes its budget – Off the Kuff – Finance said,

    April 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    [...] 1; the LBB summary of CSHB 1; and a comparison of HB1 and CSHB 1. Robert Miller, Abby Rapoport, and EoW have [...]

  2. Texas Blog News Roundup Apr 25, 2011 « TexasVox: The Voice of Public Citizen in Texas said,

    April 25, 2011 at 8:34 am

    [...] The Senate Finance Committee lead by GOP Senator Steve Ogden approved their version of the Texas budget last week. WCNews at Eye On Williamson shows that it truly is the lesser of two evils. [...]

  3. Eye on Williamson » Texas Blog Round Up (April 25, 2011) said,

    April 25, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    [...] The Senate Finance Committee lead by GOP Senator Steve Ogden approved their version of the Texas budget last week. WCNews at Eye On Williamson shows that it truly is the lesser of two evils. [...]

  4. Eye on Williamson » Republicans are cold, cruel, and irresponsible said,

    April 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    [...] last part is key. The Republicans in Texas will own this budget, no matter which of the two evils is chosen. The irresponsible part comes because not preparing the next generation of Texans, through [...]

  5. Eye on Williamson » Texas Senate breaks tradition, rams through partisan budget that will hurt Texas said,

    May 5, 2011 at 10:27 am

    [...] of that is correct, but no one should rally around this “lesser of two evils” budget. The House and Senate are still several billion dollars apart, and the best thing for [...]

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