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The deficit debacle

Think things are bad now? Just you wait.

Texas faces a budget crisis of truly daunting proportions, with lawmakers likely to cut sacrosanct programs such as education for the first time in memory and to lay off hundreds if not thousands of state workers and public university employees.

Texas’ GOP leaders, their eyes on the Nov. 2 election, have played down the problem’s size, even as the hole in the next two-year cycle has grown in recent weeks to as much as $24 billion to $25 billion. That’s about 25 percent of current spending.

The gap is now proportionately larger than the deficit California recently closed with cuts and fee increases, its fourth dose of budget misery since September 2008.

Against the backdrop of the acrimonious campaign between Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White, Texas’ top elected and budget officials have guarded even more tightly than usual against leaks of information. But bad numbers continue to dribble out in legislative testimony and agency reports.

The bottom line: Public schools, college students and government employees, not just poor and needy Texans, might very well lose money, grants, benefits and even livelihoods during and after next year’s legislative session.

Emphasis mine. Keep that in mind the next time you hear Rick Perry trash California.

Dale Craymer, president of the business-backed Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, said next year very well could bring unprecedented retrenchments, including layoffs or furloughs.

“This budget’s not going to be solved with a single magic bullet,” said Craymer, a top budget adviser to former Govs. Ann Richard and George W. Bush. “It’s going to be solved by a number of very hard decisions that cause a lot of pain in a lot of different areas. So furloughs may indeed be part of the solution,” though even far-ranging layoffs of state employees wouldn’t close the budget gap by themselves, he said.

In 2003, the Legislature eliminated more than 5,300 full-time jobs with the state or its universities and two-year colleges. Already this fall, though, the state agencies alone – not counting potential layoffs at the campuses – have pointed to nearly 10,000 full-time jobs lawmakers might whack if they desire to cut most programs’ spending by 10 percent. Employee groups fear that health benefits, recently reduced, will take further hits.

“It’s going to be pretty gruesome,” Craymer said.

And just remember, all of this has happened with Republicans in complete control of the state. The 2009 budget was balanced entirely because of the stimulus that so many of our Republican leaders like to trash. We’ll get no such help this time around. Every bit of this mess is owned by Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, Joe Straus, and the Republican majorities in both legislative chambers. If you don’t like the situation we’re in, and especially if you don’t like the things they’re talking about doing to deal with it, don’t vote for them. Nothing will change until the leadership of the state changes, and even that is only the first step. The state is simply not ready today to deal with the fact that we have a wholly inadequate tax system that cannot meet the needs of our growing and changing population. I don’t have a whole lot of faith that we’ll get there before it’s too late.

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5 Comments

  1. DB says:

    Well, we can still taunt California. They have a higher unemployment rate and, well, we just don’t like them anyway.

    They are a liberal disaster. The fact that we are a conservative disaster doesn’t really count. After all, “We’re open for business”. Screw everybody else.

  2. jost says:

    The Chron had an article on Sunday about Perry and said, to quote “refuses to accept estimates that Texas is facing a budget shortfall of as much as $21b….”

    I sent a letter to the editor of the Chron asking why the reporters only mentioned the deficit the one time and why the Chron had not reported anything about the deficit.

    Go to chron.com and search perry+deficit to see the results. Pretty sad.

  3. blank says:

    They are a liberal disaster.

    … except their governor, like ours, is a Republican.

  4. […] shortfall is now projected to be $25 billion. Here’s what Kuff had to say recently, The deficit debacle. And just remember, all of this has happened with Republicans in complete control of the state. The […]

  5. DDA says:

    What about what’s going on at the City of Houston? They’re furloughing employees while executive-level managers are ordering up expensive cherry furniture for their offices and throwing lavish parties all the while rank-and-file employees are getting furloughed. Then the city bestows millions onto Wal Mart to go into places like the Heights ( who’s residents didn’t want ). If they’re so much in the hole, then what are they doing offering 25 million for soccer stadiums, or mega-millions for a software program in the municipal courts that didn’t work. Why are the CTO’s who caused these expensive debacles still employed? The real money is being thrown away by those at the top.