Monday, January 24, 2011

Texas Depended Most On Federal Stimulus Of Any State

Gov. Perry has been a consistent critic of government spending, frequently pointing to Texas as proof that conservative budget austerity -- spending cuts coupled with low taxes -- works.

Gov. Perry raised his national profile by repeatedly criticizing the Obama administration’s support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e. federal stimulus) in response to a near collapse of the American economy during Pres. Bush's administration.

In contrast to Perry's criticism of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Texas legislature used federal stimulus funds to fill almost the entire budget deficit for fiscal 2009-2010, even as Perry scored political points grandstanding against the Federal Government. According to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures released Monday, Texas relied more heavily on stimulus funding to patch over its structural budget deficit problem than any other state:
Turns out Texas was the state that depended the most on those very stimulus funds to plug nearly 97% of its shortfall for fiscal 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Texas, which crafts a budget every two years, was facing a $6.6 billion shortfall for its 2010-2011 fiscal years. It plugged nearly all of that deficit with $6.4 billion in Recovery Act money, allowing it to leave its $9.1 billion rainy day fund untouched.
As Texas grappled with its 2009-2010 state budget deficit during the 2009 legislative session Gov. Perry made headlines for months proclaiming that President Obama’s economic stimulus plan was unneeded and unwelcome in Texas and "we can take care of ourselves.”

Perry, speaking in support of conservative fiscal ideology, said that federal money from Washington is so onerous to "all" Texans that we may rise up in revolt and secede from the United States by invoking the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Yet, Gov. Perry wrote a letter to President Obama accepting all of Texas' $17 billion share of the federal stimulus money made available by the stimulus legislation signed into law by Obama. (Read Perry's letter to President Obama) On the same day Perry asked Pres. Obama for the bailout money, he started a petition called "No Government Bailouts."
"Join our fight and add your voice to a growing list of several thousand Americans who are fed up with this irresponsible spending that threatens our future," Perry wrote on his blog on Feb. 18, 2009.
Texas used Recovery Act stimulus money not only to fill the state's 2009-2010 budget gap, but also to fund billions of dollars in infrastructure projects over the past two years.

After nearly two years of criticizing the fiscal policies of the Obama administration and touting “the hard work that Texas and states like ours have done to make prudent fiscal decisions,” Texas faces a budget fiasco on par with that in California.

Gov. Perry says the state's conservative budget austerity yields "fertile ground for job growth," yet in 2010 the state created only new 230,800 jobs to replace the 359,000 jobs lost in 2009. The Texas Workforce Commission reports the unemployment rate in Texas was 8.3 percent in December, up from 8.2 percent in November. As unemployment continues to deepen Texas'unemployment rate remains near 22-year highs.

While tax revenues have steadily declined due to a sluggish economy and job cuts across Texas, Gov. Perry has continually dismissed the idea that Texas has a growing structural budget deficit problem.

With the economy still sluggish the state comptroller estimated that tax revenues will further decline in fiscal 2012-2013. But, now, the Federal stimulus money to make up the difference is running out. The state comptroller now projects Texas has a $27 billion deficit for fiscal 2012-2013. State lawmakers last week released an austere budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal years that cuts $31 billion in spending. Public schools, colleges, collage students, Medicaid and social services, public safety (police and prisons) and transportation will all be hit hard.

If Texas can not produce a well educated workforce, or build and maintain roads, or keep crime off the streets, how does that make "fertile ground for job growth?"

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