Gov. Perry’s public, but reluctant agreement to use as much as $3.2 billion of the Rainy Day Fund to help the Legislature close one budget hole is hardly cause for celebration. That will help lawmakers get rid of a deficit for the current fiscal year but still leave a revenue shortfall as big as $23 billion for the 201213 budget period, and Perry still is vowing not to approve Rainy Day spending for that emergency.
In other words, the governor is treating the state’s biggest financial crisis of his lifetime as if it were a mere drizzle, when, in truth, it is a monsoon.
The $3.2 billion – depending on how much is earmarked for schools will help alleviate some of the $9 billionplus in proposed cuts to the public education budget. It will save some teacher jobs, and it will lessen cuts to health care. But the Rainy Day Fund is projected to have a record $9.4 billion for lawmakers to spend for public needs.
The governor still wants to leave $6.2 billion on the table, $6.2 billion that could save many more educators’ jobs, help preserve reasonable class sizes for many school kids and keep some nursing homes from having to shut down. Despite what Perry’s closedminded, antigovernment boosters are telling him, I believe most Texans would rather see the money put to good, public uses rather than left in the bank to give the governor bragging rights with a narrow slice of rightwing voters.
The Rainy Day Fund has a record balance thanks, in large part, to high oil prices, which Texans are paying daily at the gasoline pump. It’s their money, not the governor’s.