More Perryisms from his Texas Tribune interview

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Election 2010, Good Stuff at 2:57 pm by wcnews

In today’s First Reading Jason Embry does a great job of pointing out some more of Perry’s fuzzy math from his recent interview:

We all want to know how the state is going to close a budget shortfall expected to exceed $10 billion next year. Gov. Rick Perry gives a pretty standard answer on this front, saying he’s confident that the Legislature can balance the budget by cutting spending because that’s what happened when the state faced a similar shortfall in 2003.

In an interview last week with Evan Smith, Perry said, “In 2003, cutting $10 billion out of the entire budget, yet we put $1.8 billion into public education, we put $800 million more into health and human services.”

How did lawmakers cut $10 billion out of the budget while increasing funding for the two largest sections of the state budget?

They didn’t.

The Legislature did not balance the budget in 2003 with spending cuts alone. Lawmakers also prolonged a tax that was set to expire, used accounting tricks to delay state payments and accelerated their practice of collecting fees for one purpose and spending that money on something else entirely.

Earlier this month, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for more spending on programs that aim to help low-income Texans, outlined what it described as the balanced approach that the Legislature took to balancing the budget in 2003.

The Legislature cut $1.4 billion in state funds from the 2003 budget - the one written in the previous session. On top of that, the Legislature actually reduced state spending by $1.2 billion, as compared to what was budgeted the prior year. CPPP (which says the budget shortfall that year was actually $15.6 billion) estimates that lawmakers cut $7.5 billion from what it would have cost to maintain current services and keep up with inflation.

Here is the stuff that Perry doesn’t talk about: Lawmakers took $1.26 billion out of the Rainy Day Fund. They extended the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund tax, which was set to expire, and that brought in $250 million. They hired additional state workers at the comptroller’s office to enforce tax laws, which brought in about $122 million. They delayed payments to schools from the last day of the biennium to the first day of the next biennium, an accounting trick that saved $800 million on paper but that had to be paid for in the 2005 biennium. And state employees and teachers faced new out-of-pocket costs for health care.

Now let’s go back to those spending figures for education and health and human services that Perry mentioned. He said the state put $1.8 billion into public education in 2003. The state actually cut state spending on education by $1.2 billion. So where did that increase in funds come from? The federal government and the No Child Left Behind Act. According to Texas Education Agency figures, federal revenue for Texas public schools increased from $897 million in 2002 to $3 billion in 2004.

As for that $800 million more that went into health and human services, state funding only increased by $232 million. But state and federal funding for those programs increased $1.3 billion. So when Perry talks about the state increasing funding for education and health and human services while cutting the budget in 2003, it is important to remember that almost all of that increased funding came from the federal government.

That’s an excellent piece of journalism taking apart Perry’s obfuscation.

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