FORT WORTH - Gov. Rick Perry wants fiscal responsibility to be a top priority next year.
That was the key message he delivered Wednesday during a brief stop in Fort Worth, when he talked about asking state lawmakers to make the right choices - and practice truth in budgeting - during the upcoming legislative session.
"There is no such thing as 'extra' money when it's coming out of the pockets of taxpayers," Perry told a small crowd gathered at the Fort Worth Club. "We owe it to Texans to create a budget process that's more honest and transparent by making the tough decisions Texans make every day and presenting a truly balanced budget free of IOUs and accounting maneuvers."
Democrats on Wednesday chuckled at Perry's call for transparency.
"The truth is, the last two legislative session, the only way they have been able to balance the budget ... was to sweep funds out of dedicated revenue sources into general revenue funds," Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Maxwell said. "If he really means this is what he needs to do, ... and he says to do away with tricks and gimmickry, that's great."
Perry traveled to Fort Worth to talk about one of his key issues for the session that begins Jan. 8.
Standing by GOP state Reps. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth and Bill Zedler of Arlington, and speaking to a crowd of community members including Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, he said he's asking state lawmakers to focus on five key principles of the Texas Budget Compact.
Governor since late 2001, Perry now is asking lawmakers to practice truth in budgeting, support a constitutional limit of spending to the growth of population and inflation, oppose new taxes or tax increases and make the small business tax exemption permanent, preserve a strong Rainy Day Fund and cut unnecessary and duplicative government programs and agencies.
While some projections show the state could face a revenue shortfall as high as $15 billion next year, Perry said that's not the case. He said the Legislature will go into the session with an estimated revenue provided by the state comptroller - an number that will be released later this year.
"We don't have deficits because we have a balanced budget amendment," he said.
Perry has tried different ways of balancing the state budget during his years in office.
In 2003, he submitted a zero-dollar proposed budget. He said every state agency should be forced to build a budget from zero - a proposal that drew praise from supporters and fiscal conservatives and criticism from those who said his plan shirked responsibility and didn't pinpoint priorities.
Shelton, who is running against incumbent Democrat Wendy Davis of Fort Worth to represent Texas Senate District 10, spoke after Perry, touting economic growth in Texas and his commitment to controlling state spending.
"I hold a strong commitment to both the constituents of Tarrant County and taxpayers of Texas to balance the state's budget without raising taxes," he said.
Davis said Republicans have used "budget gimmicks, risky accounting practices and dishonest rhetoric" to cover up an ongoing structural shortfall in the state budget.
"Rick Perry's budget gimmicks have lit our own Texas house on fire," she said. "Now, he's at the front door with a pail of water trying to put it out, when we all know he's got the matches he used to start it hidden in his back pocket."
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610