After spending the last few years lecturing the country about how his supposedly “prudent fiscal decisions” stood in stark contrast to fiscal policy at the federal level, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) is being forced to grapple with a huge hole in his own state’s budget. At $27 billion (more than twice what Perry had expected it to be), the state’s deficit puts it about on par with California.
It isn’t only Perry that’s been holding out his state as a model of economic performance. The “Texas miracle” has long been touted by conservatives as a success of an economy that is low-tax, low-regulation, and low-social service. But as a new report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities noted, Texas’ child poverty rate is going through the roof, with nearly one in four children living beneath the poverty line:
At the same time, Perry and the state’s Republican legislature are aiming to gut the child support services in his state to address his budget gap:
In the wake of a massive revenue shortfall the proposed state budget will invest $10 billion less in Texas kids over the next two years, even while more of the state’s children live in poverty, have no health insurance, and are born too early and too small…If current trends continue, the ‘Texas Century’ will likely will likely be one where [our] kids are sicker, less educated, and unprepared to take on the challenges of the 21st century.
While other governors, like Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), are at least trying to raise some revenue, in addition to implementing painful budget cuts, Perry and the Republican controlled legislature are going for the slash-and-burn approach. Not only are child services and health care coming up for cuts, but so are funds for education, highways, and law enforcement.
The worst part of this story is that Texas is currently sitting on a $8.2 billion rainy day fund that it refuses to use to prevent severe budget cuts. And some of the money in the fund is Recovery Act dollars that Perry squirreled away, instead of using them to actually boost the economy or preserve jobs.
The situation in the states is only going to get worse as the last drops of the Recovery Act begin to dry up, and states are going to have to budget responsibly to address their fiscal problems while still providing important services for their most vulnerable citizens. This nuance, however, seems to be lost in Texas.