Although Gov. Rick Perry insists that the taxpayerfunded Emerging Technology Fund is an important economic development tool, the extent to which it has become a political plaything for the governor has been unveiled in a series of stories in The Dallas Morning News, linked below.
According to the newspaper, Perry (with the rubberstamping of legislative leaders) has awarded more than $16 million from that fund to companies with investors or officers who are large campaign donors to the governor.
Yes, that is a relatively small percentage of the total $173 million that has been awarded to private companies with promising ideas since the fund’s creation five years ago. And, no, abolishing the entire fund wouldn’t make a very big dent in the looming $21 billion revenue shortfall. But there is a bigger issue involved.
Using the fund to supplement the riches of selected, already wealthy donors is an extension of the same taxpayersbedamned attitude that allows the governor to live in a $10,000permonth, taxpayerpaid rental mansion and rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in security charges for foreign travel, while asking the mere mortals among his constituents to “tighten their belts” during tough times.
Just last month, the Texas Education Agency, to fulfill a Perry request for more budget cuts, proposed slashing $261 million from the next public education budget, including $48 million from new textbook purchases, $35 million from science labs and millions more from dropout prevention and student success programs.
The grant screening process for the Emerging Technology Fund is mostly secretive. So who knows how much dealmaking may go on – with taxpayers’ money.
One $1.75 million grant went to a company in which San Antonio businessman James R. Leininger owned 390,000 shares. Leininger has been a major contributor to Perry and, in case you may have forgotten, has spent millions of dollars trying to undermine the public schools with tax paid, private school vouchers.
Another Perry donor whose companies have benefited from the fund – amongst bankruptcies complained that the Dallas News coverage was “largely a political rant.”