I listened to the March 10 statewide teleforum, arranged by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and featuring Governor Perry answering questions. The governor’s initial comments about the Rainy Day Fund were quite revealing: It’s one of the reasons, as we talk about this budget situation, a debate that rages on about our budget, one of the things that I remind people and why it’s so important to protect that Rainy Day Fund is that it is our insurance policy against a major natural disaster. You take a category 5 sstorm, a hurricane of that monstrous size up the Houston Ship Channel, and the devastation would be almost unthinkable, incomprehensible from the standpoint of how much damage to cost it does, and for Texans to be caught in a situation where they did not have a substantial buffer in that Rainy Day Fund, it could be catastrophic for this state economically. In other words, the Rainy Day Fund should be off limits until there is a real Rainy Day–a category five storm. No doubt the state would incur substantial clean-up expenses in the impacted area, but what else would have to be done? Maybe the state would help pay for the cost of rebuilding damaged schools, but I suspect most of that cost will be borne by local districts, which have their own insurance policies. Indeed, most of the cost of hurricane damage is borne by the private sector and by the state windstorm insurance pool. Perry’s explanation is a red herring. The Rainy Day Fund is not supposed to be an insurance policy in the event of a natural disaster. It is an insurance policy, but not against a hurricane. It’s an insurance policy against exactly the situation we have now–the state’s inability to pay for public services. Let’s just cut to the chase. Rick Perry will never allow the Rainy Day Fund to be spent for the purposes for which it was created. No matter how much money is in the Fund. Forget about it. It’s never going to happen.
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Weekly dispatches from the middle of the road of Texas politics.