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Dewhurst the deficit peacock

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst wants you to believe that he cares about deficit spending.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst warned Wednesday that new federal health care legislation will bust Texas’ budget, saddling state taxpayers with $27 billion in extra costs over the next decade.

“That’s an astounding number for us,” Dewhurst told the Texas State Society at a breakfast that included a half-dozen members of Congress. “We’re on the hook for all those folks we’ve been trying to get to sign up for Medicaid.”

Let’s put aside for a second the fact that his figures are alarmist and highly misleading. Dewhurst is fretting about $27 billion over a decade. That’s $2.7 billion per year, or $5.4 billion per biennium, which is what really matters from a budgetary perspective. Let me bring you this blast from the past, quoted from the Quorum Report:

Chisum first laid out HB 2, which appropriates the $14 billion to make whole the property tax revenue lost by schools, and quickly moved to a vote.

Emphasis mine. This was from the 2007 legislative session, the first regular session that followed the special session of 2006 in which the Lege adopted a one-third cut in property taxes as a fix for the Supreme Court ruling over school finances. Because of that cut, $14 billion had to be taken from general revenue to make up the difference. That’s all in one budget. Now, of course, the Lege did create the new business margins tax, which along with an increase in the cigarette tax and some other small measures was supposed to replace the revenue lost to that property tax cut. Except for the fact that the margins tax has fallen short of projections, which we knew from the beginning it would do. In the end, we’ve spent about eight billion dollars of general revenue to pay for that tax cut, and we’ll spend billions more in this biennium and the biennia to follow. And David Dewhurst doesn’t make a peep about it. In fact, he thinks that’s just peachy. The lesson we learn from this is that it’s not the spending Dewhurst cares about, it’s who the beneficiaries are of that spending.

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