February 15, 2011
For many months, it’s been widely assumed that the state would face a budget crisis this year. Yet it’s been only in the last few weeks that Texans have been given a glimpse into the state’s books – to see how deep a budget hole we face, and to understand how Texas’ tattered finances will undermine basic necessities for our schools, seniors, security, and the state’s economic competitiveness.
In the private sector, a Chief Financial Officer who for months failed to provide basic financial information would not, I suspect, remain CFO. By the same token, no law should be interpreted as an excuse allowing those in control of the budget to withhold basic financial information from the public.
I propose truly running the state like a business when it comes to financial reporting. My bill would require the Comptroller (Texas’ CFO) to provide quarterly reports about the state’s budget condition – including updates on revenue collections, comparisons with where the state was projected to be, economic trends, and financial forecasts.
In addition, the Legislative Budget Board (which helps manage the budget for the 19 months of the biennium when the legislature isn’t meeting) should have to meet at least quarterly – in recent years, the LBB has met as little as once every two years. And the panel should have to receive those reports in public and take testimony on what that information means for the state’s finances and its future.