Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Governor Perry: No Sacred Cows

In today's State of the State Address, Governor Rick Perry told Texans “The state of the State is strong.” Perry noted that Texas added more jobs in 2010 than any other state, has six of the nation's 20 strongest metro areas, and that sales tax revenues have grown for 10 consecutive months. However, he pointed out that while our unemployment rate at 7.9% is lower than the national average, there are still many Texas families who need jobs, and we need to take steps to maintain our competitive edge.

Among the Governor's proposals were calls to continue to remove “senseless obstacles to economic growth,” and to maintain a predictable regulatory environment. In reference to recent disputes with President Obama and the EPA, Perry pointed out that under Texas' Flexible Permitting Program, the state reduced ozone levels by 27% and Nox levels by 53%, and still created more private sector jobs than any other large state in the nation.

One especially controversial area Governor Perry addressed, is that of the State's $9 million 'rainy day fund'. While there are many voices calling for using those funds to offset revenue shortfalls, the Governor says that using the account to pay for “recurring expenses” is a bad idea. “That approach would not only postpone tough, necessary decisions, but also leave us ill-equipped to handle bigger emergencies in the future.” I think I am inclined to agree with the Texas Senate that some rainy day funds should be used to pay for the deficit in the current biennium, but the 2012-13 budget should not rely on rainy day funds in any way.

Lefty pundits on the Twitter feed immediately began referring to potential school closings as a qualified emergency, but I think they have missed the point. Keeping a school open is a recurring expense, and it would be better for the state AND the school districts to re-work budgets with more efficient spending. While our school districts are bragging about low per-pupil operating expenditures, the truth is that Texas actually spends over $11,000 per student on 'education.' Furthermore, there is nearly one non-teaching staff member for every teaching staff member across the state. I'm sure the left-of-center crowd will scream (or moo?) about layoffs, but the purpose of our education system should be to educate children, not to provide more jobs.

Along those lines, Perry also called out Congressman Lloyd Doggett for his infamous Doggett Amendment, an attachment to last year's so-called 'Education Jobs Bill' that withholds from Texas $830 million in federal education funding unless the Governor somehow manages to circumvent the state constitution and the legislature to fund education at unsustainable levels. The truth is that the state has increase education funding by 82% over the last decade, but districts continue to outspend revenue with dangerous levels of borrowing.

As Governor Perry stated, "there should be no sacred cows in this business." He has led the way by cutting his own portion of the state budget by $34.6 million, and is supporting consolidation of agencies at the state level. Funding education is, and will continue to be a priority for the state, however, a blank check to anything labeled 'education spending' is neither sustainable nor desirable. Bureaucrats in education must also tighten the belt and make sure resources are spent wisely and appropriately.

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