Monday, March 2, 2015

What Rick Perry Is Bragging About

Rick Perry, in his quest to become the next President of the United States, is boasting that Texas has been a leader in almost everything under his watch as Governor. Many of his boasts have been determined to be untrue at least in part or whole. For example, he claims Texas is responsible for 1/3rd of the entire job growth in the United States. A recent article published by the wire services has rated that one with two Pinocchios.

The big thing Rick is not telling is the financial shape he has left Texas in. While Rick and other right-wingers decry Democrats as drunken sailors taxing and spending, what Mr. Perry did was probably worse. He borrowed and spent. About the time Rick Perry took office as a Republican, our state was almost debt free. Unfortunately, in a recent local news publication called County Citizen, it is revealed that Texas leads all states in the nation in the rate of increase in state and local debt. Between 2007-2012, spending in our state has increased 18.2% while revenue on the no new tax policy of Perry and others is down 1.1%.

Between March, 2010, when Perry took office, until 2013, Texas’ state debt had more than doubled. Statistics from the Texas Bond Review Board, a state agency, show that from December, 2000, about the time Bush and Perry took control of our state, our state debt was approximately $13.7 billion. Today it is more than $34 billion. A huge chunk of this went on the Perry program of building toll roads instead of maintaining the highway system which once was the pride of America. In 2001, partially with Rick Perry’s leadership, Texans were convinced to authorize a bond issue allowing the state to issue bonds for highways. The reason a statewide constitutional amendment was necessary is that since about 1877 our state has had a constitutional provision to pay-as-you-go and not allow the state to become indebted.

Following Perry’s lead, however, we, the citizens of Texas, authorized an indebtedness which was supposedly to be paid back by the increase in Texas’ economy (no new taxes). Unfortunately, our conservative leadership in Austin has ignored the debt such that now a substantial portion of our annual budget is going simply to pay interest. 

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that Rick Perry created two or three slush funds and diverted tax money to them which mostly went to his political cronies and donors. Regrettably, a substantial number of the recipients of Perry’s Business Development Funds went broke. Many were awarded millions of dollars without proper investigation or vetting. And, at the same time, most of the beneficiaries of Perry’s slush funds happened to be large contributors to his campaigns.

A big part of Texas’ indebtedness is the indebtedness of local school districts, counties and cities. While local government bears its share of the blame for deficit spending, a large part is also attributable to the fact our state leadership and Legislature are so in love with the slogan of "no new taxes" that they continue to push more of the responsibility for government onto the cities, counties and school districts. Local governments have had to pick up the slack in education, health, law enforcement, streets and roads and many other areas formerly taken care of by our state government.

Still another thing Perry won’t boast about on his trip around the country, touting his leadership of Texas, is the way he claims to have maintained a balanced budget in Texas. It was often done by cuts in essential state services.  One of these examples is the $5 billion he cut from public education while maintaining more than that in the Rainy Day Fund. The Perry budgeting system has often been referred to as the method of smoke and mirrors. Very few people outside of Austin really understand what is meant by such tactics.

A prime example of smoke and mirrors occurred  during one budgeting session of the Legislature wherein funding for schools was delayed by a few days. In other words, the school districts did not get their money on time. This delay placed funding for public education outside the fiscal year for which budgeting was taking place--therefore, the several billion dollars allocated to public education did not count in the budget. This made it easier for the State Comptroller to certify that our budget was within the range of anticipated revenue. Such tactics make a mockery out of the spend-as-you-go mandate of our state’s constitution.

Borrowing like a man with a credit card for which he thinks there will be no tomorrow is offensive and detrimental to our state.

While Perry continues to try to polish his credentials as a true conservative and great leader, I can only hope some of his Republican primary opponents will tell the truth about him and what he did in our state–or to our state.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are reviewed and it may take a little bit before your comment is published. Anonymous contributions take a lot longer and may perish for lack of attention.