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Those evil, dirty, federal dollars

Rick Perry loves ’em.

Which of the following revenue sources has grown the most since Rick Perry became governor?

A. Sales tax, driven by a strong economy.
B. Natural gas production tax revenue, driven by a strong economy and the Barnett Shale discovery.
C. Federal income.

The answer is C, though you’d never know it from listening to the rhetoric from the governor. Rick Perry is trying hard to capture the anti-Washington mood of voters, and he likes to argue that he is turning away federal dollars because, by golly, we Texans are independent and can solve our own problems. Problem is, the numbers just don’t support that assertion.

Compare the 2009 revenue for the state of Texas with the 2000 revenue, and you’ll see something you might not expect from a state that is led by someone who is sypathetic to secessionists. Federal income has grown 108.53 percent since 2000, more than double the revenue growth of taxes (50 percent). That means the Texas miracle is producing half as much revenue growth as reliance on federal dollars. As a portion of the state’s total revenue, taxes actually decreased by 6 percentage points while federal dollars increased by 7 percentage points.

There are a lot of causes for this, some of which are beyond a Governor’s control, but not all of it; the figures aren’t broken down, but I’d bet a lot of that growth in federal revenue comes from things like food stamps, Medicaid, and CHIP, for which there might be less need if there were less poverty in Texas. The point here is simply that what Rick Perry says – and what some people believe about him – often has little to do with reality. I know, big surprise, but one can never have too many reminders of it.

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