Some lawmakers in Austin brag with every other breath about being “conservative,” when in truth they are ideologues who simply want to blow up state government and let local property owners clean up their mess with higher school, city and county taxes.
Other legislators really do have a strong sense of fiscal responsibility, a true conservative outlook that recognizes they not only are stewards of everyone’s tax dollars but also are responsible for investments in education and other services to insure Texas’ future.
An early test of the differences between these two political genres is beginning to play out at the state Capitol over a $12 billion (b as in boy) pile of money called the Economic Stabilization Fund. More commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund, it is the state’s savings account, and it has enough money to boost funding for public schools and other critical needs and preserve a cushion for the future.
Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, the new chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, is a fiscal conservative who wants to make government work. To that end, he is considering using part of the Rainy Day Fund to avoid unacceptable cuts in education and other needed services.
That could help the House pay for a $1.5 billion increase in education spending that Speaker Joe Straus has proposed to spark overdue changes in the school finance system. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate, meanwhile, have proposed a new state budget that would barely – maybe – cover enrollment growth in the public schools and do nothing to give educators and students the additional resources they need.
Patrick doesn’t want to talk about the Rainy Day Fund, even though the state comproller’s office has told budget-writers that the Legislature can spend part of the fund and preserve, perhaps even enhance, the state’s credit rating.
To ideologues such as Patrick, the Rainy Day Fund is a platform for right-wing bragging rights, a fat idol to be worshipped, not a nestegg to spend on important public needs. The fatter the idol gets, the more Patrick and his allies brag about shrinking government and saving taxpayers’ money. But they are not saving anybody anything.
They are hoarding $12 billion that taxpayers already have paid, while transferring a larger share of the burden for schools, etc., to local property owners. Remember this the next time Patrick pretends to sympathize with property taxpayers.