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Nothin’ but good times ahead

Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander says the projected state budget shortfall really is only $5 billion, despite what some Gloomy Guses are saying. The Gloomy Guses are sticking to their guns.

“There has been recent speculation of a $7 billion, $10 billion and even $12 billion shortfall,” Rylander said.

“These numbers are based on `wish lists’ of various agencies and also they are manufactured from faulty fabric that ignores natural revenue growth during 2004-05, which will help offset spending needs,” she added.

Rylander’s statement puts her at direct odds with the projections of fellow Republican Sen. Chris Harris of Arlington, vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the Legislative Budget Board.

Harris said his belief that the state could “easily” see the budget shortfall grow to a frightening $12 billion is not based on agency “wish lists” but rather on what it will take to maintain current services amid rising demands.

If anything, he argues, agency requests are understating needs, not the opposite.

Rylander thinks that we’ll outgrow this messy situation. Others want to know what drugs she’s taking.

Rylander, who is seeking re-election this fall, projected that the state’s budget problems will be eased by a “modest to moderate” economic recovery during the next two-year budget cycle.

“We believe that real gross state product will be 2.1 percent this calendar year and rebound to a more robust 4.6 percent next calendar year,” she said.

Bernard Weinstein, an economist at North Texas State University, said he’s skeptical of that rosy outlook.

“Boy, I would love to see that happen, but I don’t think so,” Weinstein said. “I believe there is a very, very strong possibility of a double-dip national recession, which will affect Texas.”

Weinstein said it is true that tax revenues grow when the population grows. However, current population growth in Texas is concentrated among the lower-income, a stark contrast to the migration of wealthy Californians in the last two decades.

“Most of the population growth is in people who are going to put demand on state services,” he said. “What’s driving population growth in Texas today is immigration, mainly from Latin America, and higher birth rates among lower-income immigrants, particularly Hispanics.”

(Nitpick: There is no such place as North Texas State University. It’s been known as the University of North Texas for over a decade now. Kind of an odd error to slip past the copy editors.)

The title of this post is taken from a book by Molly Ivins. Be sure to scroll down the page and note the review from “A reader from USA”, which 0 of 12 people found helpful.

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