Thursday, May 13, 2010

Budget Woes for Texas Could Mean Unfunded Mandates for Local Government

Lots of talk going on about the financial situation for Texas. Seems as though while fairing better than most other states the recession has still had its effects on the Lone Star State. Last report has us about 18 billion short of what the state will need to operate over the next biennium.

Being an election year I am sure that Governor Rick will be taking advantage of the budget shortfall anyway he can. Note I said taking advantage not credit. Seems to me if he is requesting that all agencies cut budgets by 5% maybe he should take a look at what we taxpayers are paying for his living quarters. $8,900 per month plus utilities. Doesn't this guy have a house?

A five percent cut in his rent will only amount to 445 dollars, meaning we will still be paying 8,455 per month for his rent. A person really has to wonder about leaders that talk about cuts but seem to always find a way to avoid any cuts in their budget. Surely there are some suitable places for rent in the 1,500 to 2,000 range.

So, what about the budget shortfall? I am not real sure that five percent cuts will solve the problem. Cuts plus an increase in revenue for the state is what is needed. Austin already is using dedicated funds, such as the 911 fund, to balance the state budget. Those Stimulus Funds that Rick did not accept also helped balance the last budget.

Maybe it is time that Texas took a real long look at casino gambling. The facts are that casino gambling has helped in each and every state that has legalized the revenue source. The state currently conducts a lottery, which truly is one of the worst forms of gambling there is. Back in the days I think it was referred to as the numbers game.

Point is Texas will be needing more money to balance not only the next budget, but future budgets as well. One way that Austin has balanced budgets in the past without raising any taxes is through unfunded mandates. Texas has managed to keep schools running and take credit for not raising taxes. The truth of the matter is that they simply mandate that local government raise taxes.

Unfunded mandates currently cost local government millions of dollars each year. Instead of stepping up and accepting their responsibilities they simply passed the buck and then took credit for not raising taxes when in fact they were the only reason taxes were raised.

The next Legislative Session begins in January 2011. Redistricting will be a major battle and will detract somewhat from the state's budget woes. The reality for local government is that they must be vigilant and pull together to prevent Austin from passing the buck.