Texas Conservative Review on the Budget
Mon April 25, 2011 10:49 am

The Texas Conservative Review is the work of Gary Polland, a former Harris County GOP chair and state Senate candidate. This is TCR's take on the budget situation, from its April 22 issue.

The battle in Austin regarding balancing the next biennial budget continues. The Senate says "it favors" additional money through budget tweaks, fee adjustments, and the like. The House has the tighter budget and doesn't want to dip into the Rainy Day Fund again. To TCR, the House position makes sense, as we don't know what the fiscal picture will be two years from now, and it could be worse. It's a better idea to make the budget reductions now with the state prioritizing its spending and eliminating unnecessary spending.

The problem with this reasoning is that it is designed to work in perpetuity. Budget writers never know what the fiscal picture will be two years from the moment they begin their work. Who knew in 2006 that 2008 would bring a long-lasting recession? I could point at this moment to increasing sales tax receipts and rising oil prices as reasons why spending the rainy day fund is sound policy: (1) the crisis is now, not two years from now; and (2) the price of oil is such that if we do use the rainy day fund now, the fund will be replenished by the end of the fiscal year. And TCR could still say, the fiscal picture could be worse in two years, we must make budget reductions now.  TCR's observation is a variation on something Governor Perry said earlier about why the fund shouldn't be used now: there might be a hurricane. There are always reasons not to do something.

A lot of this is just parroting shibboleths like "prioritizing spending." What is a budget if not prioritizing spending? TCR also calls for "eliminating unnecessary spending?" I'm for that. Who isn't? But what spending is "unnecessary?" Schools? Health care? The commission on the arts? TCR's analysis of the budget is just another bunch of slogans.

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