An unsigned editorial in today’s Midland Reporter-Telegram expresses concern that the $12 billion in stimulus funds that were used to balance the budget “might some day come back to haunt us.” The paper was alerted to the danger by “a recent report to Midlanders from Tom Craddick, our state representative, [that] appears to bring some of those fears into focus.”
The editorial goes on to say, “Gov. Rick Perry wanted to turn down some of the stimulus funds because he saw that the stimulus would ultimately cost Texas taxpayers a lot of money.” Not exactly. The governor blocked the use of $555 million in stimulus funds that would have expanded unemployment benefits while easing the pain of a tax increase on business. He may have “wanted to” turn down the other $12 billion that Texas received, but he didn’t do it. He signed a budget that, without the stimulus funds, could not have been balanced without deep cuts, raiding the Rainy Day Fund, or new sources of revenue. Without the stimulus funds, Perry and the Legislature would have faced some very hard choices with an election looming in the near future. I think Perry did the right thing. But since then he has done nothing but bite the hand that fed him. He wants to have it both ways – take Washington’s money, then accuse Washington of profligacy, and if Hutchison happens to score some money for Texas, it’s pork.
The editorial continues: “Craddick told Midlanders there currently is $9.5 billion in the state’s ‘rainy day fund,’ making Texas the only large state to carry a surplus. The sad part is that Craddick thinks the stimulus ‘gift’ from Washington will end up creating a significant cut in that surplus or even a deficit. Many Texans simply can’t see why a $12 billion gift from Washington can be a bad thing. What is unseen is how that money is spent. Craddick says much of the money went to projects and services that will create future expenses.”
“We would have been much smarter to limiting the use of stimulus funds that qualified strictly as one-time uses as Craddick favored,” the editorial says. He did? I don’t recall Craddick going to the microphone to urge refusing the stimulus. Of course, it’s not his style; he prefers to huddle with his acolytes. Still, one such word from Craddick and lawmakers would have been running for cover, especially the Republicans. I do remember that during the rules debate, early in the session, Craddick helped round up Republican votes for a Dunnam amendment to accept stimulus funding – and good for him for doing so. But it’s a little late for regrets.