State Comptroller Carolyn Keeton Strayhorn has released her report on money saving measures for the upcoming budget. Called
“Reinventing Government” Limited Government, Unlimited Opportunity, the report claims to find a total of $3.7 billion in savings, mostly from efficiencies, as well as some ways to increase non-tax revenues.
I haven’t read Strayhorn’s report (I’m waiting for Greg Wythe to do it for me), but I do have two observations. One is that her recommendation to combine the Railroad Commission office into the Public Utility office would oust the highest ranking black Republican in the state, Michael Williams. I don’t think that has any bearing on the validity of this idea, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
More broadly, Texas has a handful of statewide offices, and the general progression up the political ladder here is to start in one of the lower offices – Agriculture Commissioner, Land Commissioner, Railroad Commissioner – and work your way up. Rick Perry moved up from the Ag Commish office, David Dewhurst was the previous Land Commissioner, Strayhorn herself was once Railroad Commish. Eliminating the Railroad office means one less stepping stone for politicians on the rise to aim for. In recent elections at least, you just haven’t seen people giving up State Lege jobs to run for a statewide office.
(There is precedent for this sort of office elimination, by the way. There used to be a State Treasurer office, but it went bye-bye in the 90s. True to form, it was a good place to groom for bigger and better things – the last two Treasurers were KB Hutchinson and Ann Richards.)
The other thing I want to mention is that even if all of these recommendations are adopted and meet their stated levels of savings or revenue enhancement, it’s still only one-third to one-half of the total projected deficit. In other words, this is the easy stuff, the stuff that’s (mostly) noncontroversial. The hard stuff – cuts in services and increases in taxes/fees/whatever – is yet to come.