October 4, 2011
A kid buys a dog from a guy for $100. But when he goes to pick up the dog, it’s dead. The guy tells him it died after the kid agreed to buy it, so, tough luck, he’s not giving the money back. But the kid hauls off the dead animal anyway.
A few months, later the guy runs into the kid and asks what he ever did with that dead dog. The kid says, “I held a raffle. I asked, ‘Would you be willing to pay $10 for a dog?’ I collected $1,000.”
The older guy is flabbergasted. He asks, “Weren’t people upset when they found out the dog was dead?” The kid says, “Not really. Just the lady who won. So I gave her $10 back.”
Folks, that kid has the skill set necessary to write the Texas budget.
This, of course, is a practice that’s been going on for a couple of decades. But it’s gotten worse and worse in the last few years, because those in control of the Capitol are having more and more trouble covering over and propping up their failed business practices.
And as we now know from this report, the use of diversions absolutely exploded during the last legislative session.
In 2001, the total amount of these diversions was $1.6 billion. In 2009, it was expected to be $3.7 billion. This past session, we were told the total might grow to $4 billion or even $4.5 billion.
The real number? According to the Comptroller, it now stands at $4.95 billion.
When power plays stopped committee action, I proposed a floor amendment to a must-pass bill that would have capped diversions at no more than double what was spent on intended purposes. Unfortunately, that push for open and honest budgeting failed on a party-line vote.
During the debate on that amendment, the Senate Finance Chair said I was right and that the state needs to reform the budget. And then, of course, he moved to kill the amendment anyway.
The worst part of all of this is, this isn’t really the bad news.
No, the bad news is that these diversions aren’t an isolated problem. Really, they’re just part of the pattern of debt, diversions and deception that’s allowed those in control to balance a less-than-transparent budget for years.
And in case you’re wondering how long it’ll be until all of this catches up with them … well, I’d say about 15 months.
The budget passed this year was very hard. It’s required widespread cuts in classrooms across the state. It’s led to a 10-figure shortfall in healthcare funding. And there have been so many layoffs among state, school district and other public employees that it’s pushing up the state’s unemployment rate.
But that’s not the end of it – not by a long shot.
All of this adds up to significant budget problems in 2013. The sooner we start being honest about them, the easier it will be to solve them. Those in control of the Capitol like to say we should run Texas government like a business. That sounds great. Almost fits on a bumper sticker.
But this ain’t no way to run a business. Unless you want to run it into the ground.
I really need to lose weight. Some of you, I’m sure, are spending lots of time worrying about my commitment to getting back into shape in time for a mid-November half marathon. Your thoughts and prayers are highly appreciated.
I don’t mean to sound unappreciative but, frankly, I don’t think you’re praying or thinking hard enough. Get after it. Here’s the update:
Pounds lost: 3
Running mileage gained: Progress so negligible that I considered removing the category.
New body parts hurting: 3 (There are 5 hurting, but 2 were hurting when I started the program.)