February 23, 2009
When I was a kid, in third grade or so, I came home from school one day real agitated about something that I can’t begin to remember now. But it was a big enough deal back then that I needed to find my dad.
When he got home from work, I said, “Daddy, all the kids at school are against me. And I went to talk to the teacher, because I know you would have wanted me to, and she’s on their side. She’s wrong too.”
And I’ll never forget – my father kind of screwed up his face and said, “Son, when the whole world’s wrong, and you’re the only one that’s right, it might be time to re-evaluate your position.”
Well, the whole world was against Governor Rick Perry last week as he seriously contemplated turning down about $17 billion in economic development and stimulus money from the federal government.
This was a running Capitol drama that, unfortunately, was based almost entirely on politics and ideology.
The Governor can say he thinks it was a bad idea for the federal government to take extraordinary action to fortify the economy, protect jobs and get people back to work. But he can’t single-handedly stop the President, Congress, and so many Republican and Democratic governors, mayors, and other officials who know how much trouble our economy is in.
Yes, it would have been a huge mistake to reject this money at a time when Texas is facing a budget shortfall and so many Texans are hurting or worried about their jobs.
And certainly, it would have been wrong to turn our backs on needed resources for schools, kids’ health programs, and other responses to the challenges that have left Texas at the unfortunate bottom of so many rankings.
But mostly, it would have been foolish to reject this funding because Texans would still have been responsible for paying off our share of it.
It’s like that old joke about two brothers – a veterinarian and a taxidermist – who went into business together. They put up one sign:
“Veterinarian & Taxidermist: Either Way, You Get your Dog Back.”
Well, we’re going to be paying for the stimulus, one way or another. And if we’re going to be responsible for paying off this package, we ought to make sure we responsibly get the benefit of it.
Now comes the hard part as far as Texas is concerned – how do we spend this money in a way that protects the economy and jobs while building for the future?
Over the last few months, I’ve been pushing for state agencies to figure out how this money might best be spent and to look for opportunities, wherever possible, to make long-term investments that would pay off for future generations.
The final stimulus package that passed isn’t perfect – even President Obama concedes that. But it does have a number of provisions that could make a real difference for Texans. Click here to see details about the package.
Over the next few months, the Legislature, the leadership, and various state agencies are going to make some big decisions in deciding how to best use this money.
It’s essential – now more than ever – that we be careful and responsible in setting priorities. Here are some of mine:
There’s no question that Texas is in a better economic position than much of the country. But it’s the height of denial to suggest that we’re somehow insulated from the troubles that are hitting the rest of the world so hard.
This stimulus package means opportunity for Texas – to bolster our economy, to help struggling Texans, and to ensure healthier kids, a smarter workforce, and a stronger infrastructure system that benefits those who are here and those who are coming.
And when we pull that off – when we take advantage of that opportunity – then maybe, just maybe, we can start doing the same thing with the budget.