Monday, January 17, 2011

Carole Keeton Strayhorn gets to say “I told you so”

Interesting story in the Express-News over the weekend.
It turns out that this $20-plus billion deficit that the state is facing should not have been a surprise to anyone, least of all Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. The two individuals most responsible for our current predicament were warned that this would happen more than five years ago. Yet they did nothing.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn didn’t win friends five years ago when she warned Gov. Rick Perry and state lawmakers they were writing the “largest hot check in Texas history” during a tax overhaul that resulted in lower property taxes and a revised business tax.
Strayhorn told them their plan would fall about $23 billion short over a five-year period. Five years later, state leaders are staring at an estimated budget shortfall of nearly $27 billion.

Yeah, Perry and Dewhurst didn’t care because they knew that cutting taxes would make them popular, consequences be damned. But now that the time has come to pay the piper, Perry is pretending like it’s no big deal and all we have to do is trim a little here and cut a little there.
At least Dewhurst is acknowledging the problem while trying to blame it all on Bush....

At the time, Dewhurst called huge budget shortfall projections “hypothetical and speculative.”
He now says he knew that revenue projections from the revised business franchise tax “were inflated” and told Senate members in closed door caucus meetings at the time that the business tax would not perform as advertised “and that we were going to create a structural funding deficit in state government.” But Dewhurst said he also believed at the time that “we would grow out of it by now.”
He blames the nation’s economic collapse in 2008 for contributing to the state’s projected budget shortfall today.

Strayhorn acknowledges that Bush is partly blame, but shouldn’t get all the blame:

The nation’s economic collapse three years ago contributed to some of the state’s revenue troubles, but the biggest problem is that the new business tax did not generate enough money to pay for the school property tax cut, Strayhorn said Friday.