I have already received a couple of calls from friends who wanted to be sure that I noticed the Dew’s op-ed piece in today’s Statesman about how Texas balanced its budget. His salient characteristic is on full display here: There is no depth of cravenness so low that he will not seek it out in pursuit of self-promotion. First, I will offer the piece without comment. Dewhurst writes: Given recent comments about our state’s budget, I feel it is time to separate fact from political fiction. The fact is, in stark contrast to the U. S. Congress, the Texas Constitution requires the Legislature to balance the state budget every two years, and that would have happened with or without any federal stimulus dollars. In 2007, I led the effort to save $7 billion to balance the revenue shortfall we anticipated this year. So it’s simply political fiction that stimulus dollars were necessary to balance our budget. Although we tried to use the federal stimulus dollars on one-time expenditures, in some cases the federal government made us use the money on recurring costs that actually add to the cost of state government. While other states struggle with overwhelming deficits, Texas has created a model for the rest of the nation to follow that is based on living within its available revenue. The state cut taxes a net $4 billion per year in 2007 while fostering a predictable regulatory environment that allows business to thrive and continue to make Texas the No. 1 job creator in the U.S. over the past two years. Although this year’s session took place in the context of significant turmoil in the global marketplace and economic upheaval in Texas and across our country, the Legislature successfully shaped a balanced state budget that meets the needs of Texans and sufficiently funds essential programs and agencies through the next two years. Working together, we crafted and Gov. Rick Perry signed a balanced budget that has left our state prepared to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. Not only did we balance our budget without raising taxes, we cut taxes for more than 40,000 small businesses and left our Rainy Day Fund untouched so we can once again balance our budget in 2011. The fact remains that Texas is one of only six states whose budget isn’t in the red, even though our state is among the fastest growing in the nation. The state has an unemployment rate well below the national average, it continues to attract jobs from companies that have relocated or expanded in Texas, it has one of the healthiest housing markets in the nation, and Texas cities are consistently recognized for their healthy job markets, high quality of living and resistance to the recession. Here in Texas, we live within our means and create a climate that gives individuals and businesses the opportunity to succeed. Texas has faced and overcome tough financial situations in the past by tightening our belt, just like Texas families are doing today. In 2003, Texas encountered a $10 billion budget shortfall. Instead of raising taxes, we cut discretionary spending and implemented sound fiscal policies that helped us generate a multi-billion dollar surplus over the next six years, before the national recession hit Texas. Unlike Washington, we balance our budget every session, control spending, keep taxes low and ensure our children and grandchildren aren’t saddled with the kind of crippling debt that our federal government has irresponsibly created. Now for some comments. I trust that readers had no trouble picking out the whopper in this epistle: So it’s simply political fiction that stimulus dollars were necessary to balance our budget. The truth is exactly the opposite. It is political fact that stimulus dollars were necessary to balance our budget. So then, why does the Dew insist that the stimulus dollars weren’t necessary? The fact is, in stark contrast to the U. S. Congress, the Texas Constitution requires the Legislature to balance the state budget every two years, and that would have happened with or without any federal stimulus dollars. Yes, it would have happened anyway. But there are those little matters of how it would have happened, and of what would have happened. Without that $12B in stimulus money, the state would have had three choices: 1. Raise taxes 2. Cut spending 3. Spend the Rainy Day fund And which of these courses would Dewhurst have advocated? Or Rick Perry? We would be like all those other states Perry and Dewhurst like to sneer at, facing special session after special session over adopting a budget. Does Dewhurst think that people are so stupid that they can’t figure out that without stimulus dollars, the money to balance the budget would have to come from somewhere? Those federal stimulus dollars bailed out Perry and Dewhurst one year before an election. This observation by Dewhurst is patently false: “While other states struggle with overwhelming deficits, Texas has created a model for the rest of the nation to follow that is based on living within its available revenue.” Texas is not living within its available revenue. It has a structural budget deficit. The tax cut for 40,000 small businesses that Dewhurst boasted about was fiscally irresponsible and only dug the hole a little deeper. Dewhurst also touts “sound fiscal policies that helped us generate a multi-billion dollar surplus over the next six years [since the 2003 budget cuts], before the national recession hit Texas.” I don’t contest that Texas follows sound fiscal policies (the small business tax cut excepted). I do contest that current practice differs from previous practice. What generated the multi-billion dollar surplus had less to do with decisions made by politicians than with pure unadulterated luck: a natural gas boom that filled the coffers of the Rainy Day fund. It’s pretty easy to break the code on why Dewhurst wrote this piece. The first line is very revealing: Given recent comments about our state’s budget, I feel it is time to separate fact from political fiction. And who has been making “recent comments?” Could it be Kay Bailey Hutchison? This is a not-so-veiled reference to reciprocal attacks in the governor’s race, in which the Perry campaign blasts Hutchison for supporting the TARP bailout, and the Hutchison campaign responds that Perry took $12 billion in stimulus funds. I firmly believe that they both did the right thing and should fight about something else. So Dewhurst, ever the lapdog, writes an op-ed piece that repeats Perry’s favorite talking points, without ever mentioning the actual amount of stimulus dollars in the budget, and — my favorite part — managing to blame the feds for giving us the money (“In some cases the federal government made us use the money on recurring costs that actually add to the cost of state government”). As I said at the start, there is no depth of cravenness to which he will not sink in pursuit of that senatorial appointment from Perry.
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