Peggy Fikac puts it in perspective.
Why are state GOP leaders so firmly against spending more money from the rainy day fund for public education? As some explain with increasing clarity, it’s because budget writers have all but spent it already.
The fund is projected to have $6.4 billion uncommitted after taking care of a deficit this fiscal year. But because of accounting maneuvers that lawmakers plan to use to balance the upcoming two-year budget, they’ll need more money to fully fund it. They just won’t have to come up with that money until they return in regular session in 2013. The biggest maneuver is leaving as much as $4.8 billion in Medicaid caseload costs unfunded, meaning they’ll run out of money at the beginning of May 2013 and will have to make an emergency appropriation when they return in regular session. It’s common for them to underestimate Medicaid caseload growth, but not by that much.
“The rainy day fund has been committed indirectly because of the accounting methods that we’ve used, particularly underfunding Medicaid,” said Senate Finance Committee Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan.
So on the one hand, when legislators tell parents and teachers that they can’t use Rainy Day funds to help mitigate the cuts to public education, they’re telling the truth. On the other hand, when legislators – and especially Rick Perry – say they “balanced” the budget without using the Rainy Day fund, they’re lying. They just chose to use it for other things and hoped nobody would notice. I hope we’re all clear on that.