April 16, 2012
Senator Kirk Watson, Chair of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, released the following statement today regarding the Governor’s “Budget Compact” for the next legislative session:
It’s surprising that the Governor’s signature initiative doesn’t appear to mention Texas’ schools, affordability and excellence in higher education, early childhood education, or other issues important to middle-class Texans.
The fact is that Texas can do better. We can do better in all of these issues – finding a permanent solution to funding Texas schools; investing in early childhood education; controlling the growth of college tuition; restoring necessities to seniors, children and low-income Texans; and taking other actions that will make a real difference to the middle-class.
But these middle-class priorities don’t appear to be the Governor’s priorities.
For many of the past several months, the Governor has been traveling and away from Texas. Perhaps he hasn’t listened to the teachers, parents and children who’ve suffered as a result of bad budget practices and the perpetual lack of budget transparency. Or he hasn’t heard from the healthcare professionals across Texas who are struggling under this budget, or the seniors, children and low-income Texans who were targeted by it. Maybe he hasn’t talked even with the healthcare and education agency officials he appointed who’ve described the problems of the current system, or the heads of agencies like Child Protective Services that simply cannot keep up with the work they’ve been given.
That’s the only possible explanation for a proposal that would dramatically increase the pain for the middle-class Texans and others who can least afford it.
Texans do hope that the Governor is more serious about creating truth in Texas budgeting than he’s been about similar promises in the past. The truth is that over his tenure, those in control of the legislature have become increasingly dependent on debt, diversions, deception and denial when it comes to the state’s finances. Repeated calls for reform have been rejected or ignored.
Diversions of money that Texas taxpayers pay for worthy purposes such as parks, utility bill relief and clean air – money that’s instead moved away from these priorities and used to cover up a dishonest budget – have ballooned under the Governor’s tenure from about $1.6 billion in 2001 to roughly $5 billion now. And, less-than-transparently, today’s proposal is likely to lead to other taxes on Texans, whether they be higher local property taxes or more toll roads.
Maybe this, at long last, will be the year that Texans get an honest accounting of their money and real transparency into how it’s spent. Taxpayers all hope that the Governor’s words today will lead to more than a handful of headlines and another round of broken promises.
He needs to be accountable – both for the situation that’s been created on his watch, and for the results going forward.