Numbers games push Texas budget veto

Posted Monday, Jun. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Conservative and Tea Party groups in Austin — supported during the weekend by an editorial in The Wall Street Journal — are furiously throwing numbers at Gov. Rick Perry, trying to get him to veto the 2014-15 budget passed by the Legislature little more than two weeks ago.

Perry has until Sunday to decide. He has the power to veto the entire budget or to delete individual line-item appropriations.

It would be unusual for him to throw out the entire $197 billion spending plan, but this is Texas politics. Anything could happen.

The Journal’s editorial was particularly vitriolic. It noted that legislators also added money to the current spending plan, the 2012-13 budget.

One practical effect of the addition to the 2012-13 baseline was to increase the amount that can be spent in 2014-15 and still remain within the required spending cap.

“This is the kind of stunt one would expect from Nancy Pelosi,” the Journal said. That reference to the California Democrat and former House speaker was a pie in Republican Perry’s face as he contemplates another run for president in 2016.

But talk about stunts, what about the one pulled by Perry and the Legislature two years ago that required that addition to the 2012-13 budget this year?

They knew they were underfunding that budget even while patting themselves on the back and publicly claiming to have balanced it.

Their key stunt was to ignore $3.9 billion in Medicaid expenses for 2013, planning all along to make it up in this year’s session.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation says that when you add up all the stunts, the budget adopted by the Legislature this year is a 26 percent increase from the one approved two years ago.

But to get that number, the foundation compared the General Fund budget from 2011 against the General Fund and General Fund-Dedicated budget this year (a $6.8 billion difference from the get-go). Another stunt.

What could prompt Perry to veto the new budget is legislators’ failure to meet his $1.8 billion target for tax cuts. At most, they delivered $1.4 billion, and some say much less, depending on how you count.

If he decides to use his veto stamp, the governor must be very specific about what numbers he sees.

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