Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) — who, depending on the hour, is considering a run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination — likes to point to the Texas economy as an indicator of his success. As we’ve noted several times, Perry’s tale is mostly fantasy, but that hasn’t stopped him from repeating it.
At the moment, one of Perry’s favorite claims is that the Texas budget was balanced for the 2012-2013 budget cycle without tax increases and while preserving $6 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. “We’ve passed a budget that cuts spending in Texas while maintaining essential services, keeping taxes low and preserving more than $6 billion in emergency funding,” Perry said in a speech a few weeks ago. In a speech last week, he reiterated the claim, saying, “I might add that new budget leaves $6 billion in a Rainy Day Fund.” The New Republic noted that Perry has “turned ‘preserving the rainy day fund’ into an applause line.”
But has the fund been preserved? Members of Perry’s own party in Texas are telling a different story, as the Texas Tribune reported:
“We’ve got to get the message right. There’s been a lot of misinformation out there that there’s $6 billion in the fund that’s not been used. It’s been used,” said Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock and no relation to the governor. [...]
Lawmakers have already drawn down $3.1 billion of the fund’s roughly $9.5 billion reserve to cover a deficit in the current budget. Then, to make the 2012-2013 budget balance, the state’s projected share of expected Medicaid costs is underfunded by $4.8 billion — for many, a conservative estimate.
That means when lawmakers come back in two years — and without a change in federal law diminishing the state’s obligation to Medicaid or an increase in Rainy Day revenue from an improved economy — they will need most of the remaining $6 billion to pay another past due bill.
“Effectively they’ve used it,” said Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business and a former state lawmaker. “They just aren’t going to fess up until January of 2013.” “They have used the entirety, depending on how Medicaid finally shakes out,” Hammond added.
So it seems that Perry’s claim regarding the Rainy Day Fund is little more than a budget gimmick. Of course, it’s nothing new for Perry to make bogus claims about the Texas budget. For months, he poo-pooed the idea that Texas’ 2012-2013 budget deficit would be any bigger than $11 billion. In actuality, the deficit was $27 billion.