May 20, 2010
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, gave a pretty thorough critique Wednesday of how the Legislature writes the state budget, saying he wouldn’t vote for tax increases or taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund until the budget-balancing gimmicks end.
For some time now, Watson has been one of the Legislature’s most outspoken critics of the practice of collecting money for one purpose and then spending it on something else — a practice that has become a cornerstone of the budget-writing process in Texas.
“My vote will not be there for taxes, my vote will not be there for the Rainy Day Fund, until we have real budget reform,” Watson said at a breakfast event hosted by the Texas Tribune.
He said the budgeting process in Texas has become about debt, diversions and delay. “Over and over again, it’s about how we can kick the can down the road,” Watson said.
He said state leaders are focusing too much on one piece of the economic-development puzzle — low taxes — while neglecting to “invest in Texans,” through, for example, higher education.
Asked about Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s claim that stimulus dollars weren’t necessary to balance the budget, Watson said, “I could be playing in the NBA Finals right now if I weren’t four feet tall.”
(As I have written before, yes, you could balance a state budget without stimulus dollars, but not one that spent as much as lawmakers spent last year, and isn’t that the only thing that matters?)
Finally, he said it could work to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White’s advantage that he’s a details guy. “Bill White’s a nerd. But that’s a good thing. Bill White is going to be the kind of governor that will take the time to get the details.”