Sunday, January 16, 2011

Grandma says "toldja so"

(Former) Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn did not 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.

Now, five years later, state leaders are staring at an estimated budget shortfall of nearly $27 billion over the next two years.


At the time, Perry rejected Strayhorn's warning — saying she underestimated the tax reform and ignored economic growth from property tax cuts.

He also said at the time: "Future legislators are going to have the opportunity to be working with some numbers that are more current than what they're working at today — and some honest numbers."

The governor's office declined to comment about the accuracy of Strayhorn's April 2006 warning.


Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said the "Texas economy continues to grow steadily ahead of the nation, and the comptroller's biennial revenue estimate, as expected, is also reflective of the national recession's lingering impact on state revenue."

The projected shortfall reflects the amount of revenue needed to maintain current services, including the cost of educating an additional 170,000 school children during the next two years.

Perry, however, does not address the cost of current services.

"I think we have a budget of $76.5 billion and we're going to live with that. It's only a budget hole when somebody has wished that they had more money," the governor said last week.

So out of one side of his mouth Governor Smirky McHaircut proclaims the Texas economy the envy of the nation, and out of the other blames the effects of the Great Depression of 2010 and its impact on the Texas economy as the budget culprit. I just don't think he can flip-flop fast enough to have it both ways.

Let's sample a bit more from the article, this time from aspiring US Senator Dewhurst:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said resurrecting Strayhorn's five-year-old forecast is "old news."

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 tax would not perform as advertised.

Dewhurst said he also believed at the time that "we would grow out of it by now."

The lieutenant governor blamed the nation's economic collapse in 2008 for contributing to the state's projected budget shortfall today.


"There is not a $27 billion deficit, and I don't think there is even a $15 billion deficit," Dewhurst said.

Denial is the first stage. Do we have time for these men to get through anger, bargaining, and depression before they can accept reality? The session only lasts 140 days...

Dewhurst's duplicity -- together with a legislature that will demolish an already badly beaten Texas educational system, not to mention a social safety net in tatters -- should ruin his chances for higher office.

Unfortunately it may not.

While "moderate" Republicks will fall over themselves to fall in line behind The Dew, TeaBaggers should be watching him closely, as he is demonstrating nearly perfect Beltway-GOP predilections for deficit spending and ignoring reality. He's exactly the kind of Kay Bailey model they despise. But are they capable of ending his hopes for moving up the food chain?

Yes, I believe that they are. Whether they select one of the Williams sisters or "Mic" Patrick, I think they are up to the task of frustrating a long line of aspiring office-climbers (who are already lining up) by denying Dewhurst the Republican nomination for Senate next year.

And nothing would please me more than to have the most ridiculous nominee possible in 2012 get beaten by a Democrat ... just like what happened in Nevada, and Delaware, and Colorado in 2010.

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