The $1.5 billion that the Legislature appropriated for public education (on top of enrollment growth) in the new, two-year state budget certainly is better than a $5.4 billion cut, which is what happened four years ago. But it is nothing for lawmakers to brag about, particularly when you stack it up against $18 billion.
(Some lawmakers, however, are bragging.)
But, getting back to the $18 billion (billion with a very big B), that is the amount of taxpayers’ money that the Legislature left unspent, sitting in the bank, doing no one any good. That figure includes an estimated $11.1 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, which my friend and Texas Monthly writer R.G. Ratcliffe suggests should now be renamed the “Texas Hoarding Fund.”
And, the $18 billion includes what is left after the legislative majority spent $3.8 billion on a property tax cut that will be a joke for the average homeowner and a franchise tax cut that will be significant for many businesses.
In case you haven’t seen R.G.’s blog, which ran during the closing days of the session, it is linked below. In it, he calculated that a stack of one billion one-dollar bills would be about 68 miles tall, and a stack of 18 billion one-dollar bills would be about 1,224 miles tall, or the distance across the state from Texarkana to El Paso and halfway back. I will take his word for the math.
More significantly, though, R.G. calculated that the $18 billion the state is hoarding “would pay for an entire year of police and fire protection, garbage collection and wastewater service, parks and libraries and all other incidental operations for the cities of Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio – combined.”
Imagine what that $18 billion (or even just half of it) could have done if the Legislature had appropriated it for education, health care and other under-funded programs in the state budget.