Budget writers in the Senate laid out an initial draft budget that wouldn't even try to fix what's been broken when it comes to basic necessities such as schools, transportation networks and health care for Texas children, seniors and women.
It would fail to restore the $5.4 billion that was short-sightedly cut from schools in 2011, and instead would lean even harder on homeowners and property taxpayers to replace state funding.
One redeeming quality is that this budget, unlike years and years of earlier versions, would rely less on the diversion of money that's supposed to be dedicated for specific purposes such as parks, hospitals and clean air, but that isn't used for those purposes. Ending these diversions has been a priority of mine since I was elected to the Senate, and I'm glad to see budget writers and others responding.
But there's still a deceptive gimmick to intentionally underestimate the state's Medicaid responsibilities, and I suspect there will be more examples of debt, diversions and deception that come to light in the coming weeks.
Texas can do better than that, especially with the resources we now know we have.
Texas can do better
As I said in a statement last week, the state's thriving economy speaks very well of the entrepreneurs, business owners and workers who are fueling it.
But as much as politicians want to take credit for others’ success, it doesn’t speak well of the Texas budget, those in control of it or the decisions that shaped it.
There are a few basic things that a typical business person needs government not to screw up – the schools have to be strong enough to attract parents and train future workers; the health care has to be able to keep workers and their kids healthy; the roads and transportation networks have to be good enough to move people and products around; everybody’s got to be able to trust the water supply; etc.
In all of these areas, Texas can do much better than it's been doing. At some point, those in control of the Capitol will run out of tricks and diversions covering up the problems they’ve created.
So as we begin this year's budget debate, and especially as you hear budget writers talk of tightening belts while bragging about an alleged “surplus,” it’ll be helpful if you remember a few things:
- If your state isn’t paying its bills, you don’t have a surplus.
- If your state ranks near the bottom in vital necessities like education funding and health care, you don’t have a surplus.
- If most of your state’s school districts are suing you over an inadequate and inequitable school finance system, you don’t have a surplus.
- And if there’s an honesty deficit in the way your state balances its books, you don’t have a surplus.
We now know, without question, that Texas could have done better by its kids, parents, employers and its future in 2011. Now that we know we have the resources, there should be no more excuses.
It’s time for Texas to do better.