June 20, 2006
Burnam and Dunnam on the budget

A couple of Democratic State Reps are out there on the op-ed pages making the case that what happened in the Lege this past spring did not represent success in dealing with school finance. First, Rep. Lon Burnam chides the Star Telegram for its cheerleading.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board seems to have lowered its standards for what it considers "good work" from the Legislature. Merely succeeding in passing legislation does not mean we succeeded in passing good legislation that works in the interest of the people.

The board's kind treatment of the Republican leadership is the equivalent of "social promotion" in schools. If a student simply shows up and puts in minimum effort, he or she gets passed on to the next grade, regardless of merit. There is little merit in the legislation produced last month in Austin.

The Republican leadership basically succeeded in saddling the state with indefinite annual budget shortfalls. According to the Legislative Budget Board (of which the lieutenant governor and Texas House speaker are members), the tax plan will lose about $5 billion per year.

Miraculous tax cuts are not difficult to achieve if you take the money from future budgets. The money raised from tax increases on business, smokers and used-car sales does not come anywhere close to paying for the property tax cuts that Gov. Rick Perry promoted.

Five billion dollars is no small amount. It represents 15 percent of annual expenditures from state revenue.

This hijacking of the state government almost guarantees that Texas will face a $10 billion shortfall for the '08-'09 biennium, precipitating a budget crisis similar to that of three years ago.

And over in Amarillo, Rep. Jim Dunnam sounds a similar theme.

How do you define success?

Is it enough that the Legislature passed bills that will keep public schools open for one more year? Or should the Legislature have taken the opportunity to craft a truly long-term solution for our broken public school finance system?

Since the end of the last special session of the Texas Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry and several other Republican politicians have in one way or another claimed success.

For example, Perry is now running TV commercials claiming that the average Texas homeowner will receive a $2,000 cut on his or her property taxes.

But anyone even remotely familiar with our state's property tax system knows that this claim is utterly ridiculous.

Unlike the governor, I believe that, sadly, the latest special session achieved little beyond getting us out of court temporarily. Unlike the governor, I'm not running TV commercials that make false claims in order to sell a lemon to the people of Texas. Unlike the governor, I don't define success as just doing something - I define it as doing the right thing.

Governor Perry's been rewarded with an approval bounce from SurveyUSA, so whatever the truthiness of his ads, they have probably done what he hoped they would do. I wonder, though, if people begin to use property tax calculators and come to realize that they ain't getting a $2K cut no matter how you slice it if some of that bounce will flatten out. We'll see.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 20, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack