When I think about our current Texas governor, I’m reminded of the old saying that where leaders have no vision the people perish. It takes very little research to document that Rick Perry and his right wing followers are leading Texas down the wrong path.
In an era where it is clear to almost everyone the future of this state and this nation lies in hi-tech jobs, a well-educated workforce and a modernized, efficient infrastructure for our states, Texas is headed in the opposite direction. While Perry can travel to the other states of the union boasting of low taxes and low regulation in this state, low taxes and low regulations are not helping the vast majority of Texas’ citizens.
Perry’s faulty leadership has led us down the wrong path more than once. If people will recall, he is the one who condemned a former corporate tax system and sucessfully advocated the current unsuccessful and unpopular business tax. Perry opined it would produce even more money and be more palatable to small business in Texas. The comptroller of the state at that time, Carol Keaton Rylander, predicted the state would suffer about a $5 billion loss each two-year period. Perry “poo-pooed” and ignored the comptroller’s prediction saying that economic growth would more than make up the loss. As it turned out, Rylander was right, Perry was wrong, and now almost all small businesses are unhappy with the new tax system, and it is not raising enough money to replace the corporate franchise tax which was repealed.
The stubbornness of our political leaders to cling to a no new tax pledge has led us to a situation where our elected officials in Austin will not even discuss modernizing our revenue system to respond to modern-day needs. As a result we are 49th of all of the states in the amount the state allocates per pupil for our public education system. We are deeply in debt having borrowed money to try to balance our budget and maintain our roads and bridges throughout the state. We lead the nation in lo-tech jobs having more minimum-wage workers than any other state in the union. And now, purely for politics, our governor is posturing, demanding that the Legislature find a way to refund $1.2 billion to business interests in Texas.
Conservatives often compare our state government to a family and mistakenly avow that a family that loses income must simply tighten its belt. This metaphor does not resonate well with the current situation--our state would be better compared to a family that had an ample savings account in the bank and let their children go hungry in order to maintain the status of their savings.
Texas has a savings account called the Rainy Day Fund. It contains approximately $8 billion, with a projected $11.8 billion by the end of the 2015. Yet, our leadership has slashed over $5 billion from public education and still searches for ways to take even more money from those funds allocated to public education and give it to charter schools or vouchers. Shortchanging our public education system will never lead us to a workforce prepared for the increasingly technical, high-paying jobs of the future.
Another potential disaster looming on the horizon has been brought about by conservatives who refuse, because of partisanship, to take a realistic look at the future needs of this state. Citizens and our leaders had best wake up to the fact that we might be able to live without oil, but we will not be able to live without water.
There is no doubt our state is suffering from severe drought. State Representative Allan Ritter and his staff have worked diligently for two sessions on a comprehensive water plan. For generations our water resources have been wasted and there has been little or no state regulation or oversight. Representative Ritter's plan has been considered reasonable by a vast majority in Austin. Unfortunately, the Legislature has not seen fit to provide funding to assure an adequate supply of water for the future. With almost $12 billion projected in the Rainy Day Fund, the idea evolved to make a two billion dollar loan from that fund to various governmental entities around the state which would be repaid. Objections were raised by the Tea Party advocates that the money should not be spent. Democrats objected because they had unsuccessfully advocated using this fund to restore draconian cuts in public education. As a result, the measure failed to achieve a 2/3 vote necessary for passage. Ritter and others then attempted an end-run by providing a different mechanism of funding which was killed by a simple point of order.
Finally, a longstanding rule of the House provides that no spending bill can be adopted prior to the adoption of the general appropriations act. This is a reasonable and good rule in that nickel and dime projects passed before the general appropriations bill could rob the state of adequate funding to carry on essential government services. Additionally, if you allow small appropriations throughout the session, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the comptroller of the state to predict the amount of money available to run the state.
The only consolation I see for the future is that if Republicans and Democrats truly get thirsty enough they will put aside their political bickering and join in the search for something to drink.