January 13, 2009
Does it look like it's raining to you?

We have the bad budget news. We also have nine billion dollars in the rainy day fund. What are we going to do about it?

[Comptroller Susan] Combs' forecast was grimmer than anticipated by some leaders, noted House Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum, R-Pampa: "It was kind of a little bit less than our worst-case scenario." He predicted lawmakers will dip into the rainy day fund to pay for "one-time expenses."

But he said, as he has before, that new ideas such as putting significant money into higher education to stem rising tuition rates "are at least on life support" because of the constricted budget. "The focus has got to be to live within that revenue estimate," Chisum said.

GOP Gov. Rick Perry generally believes the rainy day fund should be used "for one-time expenditures that don't obligate the state to ongoing costs," said spokeswoman Allison Castle.

"It (Combs' estimate) certainly was unpleasant news," said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, Senate Finance Committee vice-chair.

Zaffirini said lawmakers have no choice but to dip into the rainy day fund: "I do believe that it's raining. Simply cutting programs is not the solution. We cannot shift the burden from the state to local governments."

Burka has more on this. It takes a 3/5ths majority in the House to authorize spending from the Rainy Day Fund, so the default action will be for the fund to go untouched. Putting aside the screaming need for Hurricane Ike relief and windstorm insurance replenishment, which I actually think are reasonably likely to qualify as "one-time expenditures" here, I'm not sure what the justification is for hoarding nine billion dollars. How much of this fund do we need, and why are we still adding to it if we don't intend to use it? It's not like the state of Texas is going to retire some day, after all.

Dick Lavine of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which works on behalf of lower-income people, said, "The people we're concerned about rely on the state for the most basic services, like health care and education.

"We're very concerned that the state make them a priority and devote as much as necessary of the rainy day fund to make sure that people who are already going to be hurt by the recession aren't hurt further by the elimination of services."

If we're looking for suggestions on how to make cuts in state spending without screwing the poor, the sick, and the school kids again, Scott has a few thoughts.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 13, 2009 to Budget ballyhoo

Dick Lavine has absolute egg on his face on this matter, however, since he was pushing for the Lege to spend all of this money last session rather than "hoard" it in the first place.

If his counsel had been followed we'd have a $9B hole and little to no money to fill it.

Posted by: Blue on January 14, 2009 1:46 PM
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