Restore education, repair damage to necessities, reform budget practices
Senator Kirk Watson issued the following statement today on behalf of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus in response to the unveiling of the 2014-15 Biennial Revenue Estimate:
Today’s announcement of additional revenue speaks very well of the entrepreneurs, business owners and workers who are fueling the Texas economy. But it doesn’t speak well of the Texas budget or those in control of it. Instead, it demonstrates that the legislature must do much better to honestly and transparently fund our state’s schools and other basic necessities that Texans rely on.
For all the talk today of a surplus, there are a few things that the Comptroller and others in control of the budget should remember:
- If your state isn’t paying its bills, you don’t have a surplus.
- If your state ranks near the bottom in vital necessities like education funding and health care, you don’t have a surplus.
- If most of your state’s school districts are suing you over an inadequate and inequitable school finance system, you don’t have a surplus.
- And if there’s an honesty deficit in the way your state balances its books, you don’t have a surplus.
The fact is that if the Comptroller’s estimate from two years ago had been even close to accurate, the Legislature would have had almost $9 billion more in 2011 to cover Texans’ most critical priorities. That could have avoided most of the deep budget cuts that ended up packing more kids into classrooms, starving early childhood education, and intentionally underfunding health care for children and the elderly. This missed forecast was a colossal error that, in too many cases, took its greatest toll on Texas’ children, teachers and schools.
It’s clear now that the legislature’s first priority must be to undo the damage that was needlessly inflicted on Texans during the last legislative session. The legislature must work proactively to create a permanent solution for funding our public schools and restore necessities that seniors, children and low-income Texans rely on. It’s also irresponsible to hoard nearly $12 billion – a stunning figure – in what’s supposed to be a “Rainy Day” savings account while denying basic necessities that Texans demand and that, in many cases, the legislature is constitutionally bound to offer. And we must use our resources to end the gimmicks and tricks that have been used to balance the budget for years.
Texas is a great state. The increased revenues announced today demonstrate the strength, creativity and hard work of our people. Those in control of the Capitol are wrong to take credit for others’ success. Instead, they should get to work undoing the damage that threatens to limit Texans’ opportunities, lessen the prosperity they can spread through the economy, and undermine the future growth and success of the state.