July 4, 2011
Texas lawmakers, who will do almost anything to avoid raising broad-based taxes, balanced the budget this year with one of their favorite flavors of money: dedicated funds.
Budget writers set a record by refusing to spend $4.1 billion raised from fees and taxes that are designated for a particular area — about 40 percent of what’s available from those fees. This let them avoid deeper spending cuts in the overall budget because they could pretend they had that much more in general revenue.
“Our budget situation has gotten out of hand, and we’ve become so dependent on this deception,” said Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, recently chosen as the Senate Democratic leader.
The result is that programs intended to be fed by the designated money, from electricity discounts for the poor to incentives for medical students who practice in areas short of doctors, face deep cuts.
“The state has become like the old drunk who says, ‘I’ll stop this by having one less drink per day,’ but unfortunately can’t even pull that off,” said Watson, who authored a provision now on Perry’s desk that would require Comptroller Susan Combs to publish an annual schedule of unspent fees and taxes once touted as dedicated to certain causes.
To read more, click HERE (subscription required).