Last week, Senator Kirk Watson issued a letter to Susan Combs asking for an update about the state's fiscal standing. From his letter:
I am respectfully asking that you, as the state's Chief Financial Officer, provide badly needed information about the state's finances, for both the current biennium that Texans are coping with and the next one that legislators are preparing for. At the very least, I suggest that you update the revenue estimate for the 2010-11 biennium, as the Texas Constitution clearly contemplates — and, I believe, requires you to do during times of such fiscal instability and uncertainty. I also urge you to provide additional information, particularly about the budget difficulties legislators are likely to face in balancing the 2012-13 Texas budget — if only because it would be such a poor business practice not to.
Rick Perry interjected on Comb's behalf, claiming such simple requests are “bizarre”:
Senator Watson has responded to Perry's characterization of his request for more transparency as “bizarre”:
What I find bizarre is the reluctance to provide basic information and accountable government. On something as fundamental as the budget, the only thing information might damage is someone’s ability to deny the reality we’re facing.
Most businesses and most families wouldn't consider a current revenue estimate and up-to-date budget information, in the face of a budget crisis, to be bizarre.
What's interesting — something I found last night — is that the budget Perry signed at the end of last session contains a specific provision to ensure the Comptroller is prepared, with numbers, so that lawmakers can discuss for the state's budgeting process. From the Appropriations bill signed into law last session, Article IX, Part 6:
Sec. 6.15. Accounting for State Expenditures.
(a) Notwithstanding the various patterns of appropriation established in this Act, the Comptroller shall account for the expenditure of funds appropriated by this Act in a manner that allows for the reporting of expenditures attributable to each strategy in each agency's respective Strategic Planning and Budget Structure as approved by the Governor and the Legislative Budget Board. The information shall be recorded and maintained systematically in the state accounting system in a manner that provides for the integration of the state's budget data and the state's accounting data and to facilitate the state's budget development process.
More below the fold…
In a press conference today, Bill White hammered on Perry for continuing to hide from the $18 billion budget deficit:
“Only a professional politician could call knowing the facts on our finances 'bizarre.' A chief executive has to be looking out for the future. Perry's not thinking ahead, he's only thinking about the next election,” said Bill White.
“The money belongs to Texas taxpayers, not the governor. As governor, I will provide monthly public reports on projections for the entire fiscal year,” said White.
I'm going to write much, much more about the budget crisis for tomorrow. If you haven't yet, be sure to read Jason Embry's excellent story in the Austin American-Statesman outlining the state's current fiscal outlook: “Lawmakers seek answers on Texas' budget outlook.”
Meanwhile, Rick Perry is in Dallas today — visiting a boot manufacturer. At a boot store trip during the primary, Perry emphasized having constitutional amendments on tax increases and growth of the budget. Here's WFAA, covering the fact that Perry tends to repeat the same empty rhetoric on the budget without actually doing anything: