Perry Lays Out Priorities in State of the State Address
Texas governors have limited control over what the state budget looks like. There’s the ability to veto items in the final budget and at the start of the legislative session there’s the bully pulpit of the State of the State address to lay out priorities.
Throughout the speech, Governor Rick Perry threw in his standard budget talking points of efficiencies and no new taxes while giving a nod to how those priorities could affect local governments.
“Let’s be sure we’re not burdening local authorities with unfunded mandates because they are facing their own budget challenges as well,” Gov. Perry said.
His cuts included the consolidation or suspension of a few state agencies including the Texas Historical Commission and the Commission on the Arts, however, those proposals only save the budget $56 million. That number is small potatoes in a $158 billion budget.
Gov. Perry also introduced some spending increases, especially in the education department.
“So let’s expand our virtual school network with a virtual high school,” Gov. Perry said. “That will not only enable students who have dropped out to earn a degree online but also give students access to those classes that their own schools may not offer.”
Once those kids finish high school, he wants to make college cheaper by challenging the state’s colleges and universities to develop a bachelor’s degree that costs less than $10,000, including books. Democrats are excited about the increase in spending but Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis said the promises and platitudes in the governor’s speech provide unrealistic view of the state’s current economic problems.
“Schools are closing. Teachers are losing their jobs. And state support for public education, already among the lowest in the entire nation, are facing cuts,” Sen. Davis said.
Davis and the rest of the Democrats did not have their own budget proposal Tuesday. Instead, alluding to the super majority Republicans hold in the Texas House, they said the current budget problem was created by the GOP and they’ll have to fix it.
The democrats pointed specifically to what they call the structural deficit, a deficit that has reached $10 billion.
All that’s referring to the 2006 property tax for business tax swap which hasn’t brought in enough to pay the state’s share of the K-12 bill. And for now, it remains an unanswered criticism.
Houston Senator Rodney Ellis said he wasn’t ready to release how he would fix the problem but he plans on making waves during the budget debate.