Thursday, June 23, 2011


The special session that began May 31st will come to an end next week. No more than 30 days per special session. That’s the law. However, don’t be surprised if there is another special session called, or maybe two more before it is all said and done.

Mind you there is a super majority in Austin and they still have yet to get the budget balanced for the next biennium. Of course they have all the emergencies taken care of, but you already know that story.

The constitution requires that the state of Texas to have a balanced budget. I am not sure that the writers of that requirement defined balanced in the same manner it is being defined in Austin today. I am not sure that normal accounting procedures can tell you the whole story.

Balancing the budget with smoke and mirrors is simply delaying the inevitable. Using dedicated funds such as the 911 and Trauma fund do not truly balance the budget. Delaying payments due until the next budget cycle do not reflect sound budgeting principles. Basically it is lying to the taxpayer.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just delay or postpone our obligations to some future date? Why not renew your vehicle registration and tell the state you will pay next year. Think Rick would go for that?

Another interesting aspect of the tricks used to balance the budget might well make those special license plates not so special. Each year over 100 organizations including the University of Texas, Special Olympics and Girl Scouts earn collectively $2.5 million from specialty license plates voluntarily purchased by drivers across Texas.

The plates cost an extra $30 over the regular registration fees. Of that extra $30 organizations receive $22, $7.50 goes to the state highway fund and 50 cents goes to the county in which the vehicle is registered. Under the current budget bill half of the $22 that organizations receive would be deferred until 2013.

The idea is that turning that revenue into state income would help balance the budget. Bottom line is that the longer the money sits in Austin the more attractive it becomes for Austin to want to keep it for some other purpose. Another thought is what if the economy has not rebounded in 2013? Then what? Take the other half and defer it for another two years?

The sad thing here is that many of these organizations depend on this money to support their programs. This will leave some organizations hundreds of thousands short for their next budget. So before you purchase that special plate in support of your favorite organization just remember that plate is not near as special as it could be thanks to our leadership in Austin.

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