Back in September, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) guessed that his state was facing a $10–11 billion budget shortfall for its fiscal 2012–2013 budget, and refused to entertain reports that his budget gap might be larger until he received the state Comptroller’s official report. He even poo-pooed pronouncements from his 2010 election opponent, Houston Mayor Bill White, that Texas’ deficit may be twice what he was estimating. “If [White] wants to be the budget forecaster for the state of Texas, that’s a different job,” Perry said. “It’s called the comptroller.”
Well, the Comptroller released its report today, and Perry was on the wrong end of this one:
Texas is expected to collect $72.2 billion in taxes, fees and other general revenue during the 2012–13 budget, down from the $87 billion used in the current two-year budget, Comptroller Susan Combs announced Monday. That puts the shortfall at $27 billion given that maintaining services would run $99 billion for biennium.
Not only did Perry severely underestimate the depth of his state’s budget woes, but he has also spent the last few years lecturing Washington D.C. on its supposed fiscal improprieties, giving speech after speech in which he held up Texas as the economic model for the nation to follow. Just last week, he said that Congress needs to propose a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, or else “the hard work that Texas and states like ours have done to make prudent fiscal decisions will be washed away by Washington’s growing avalanche of excess”:
“I am convinced that a constitutional limit on Washington’s spending sprees and irresponsible borrowing is the only boundary they will understand and heed. Otherwise, the hard work that Texas and states like ours have done to make prudent fiscal decisions will be washed away by Washington’s growing avalanche of excess.” [1/7/11]
“Americans are growing ever more aware of this spending explosion, and increasingly interested in grabbing the throttle, so they can slow down Washington’s runaway train. I’m convinced that the hardworking citizens of our state and country simply want government to handle the basics, then get out of the way, as we have done here in Texas.” [1/15/10]
“I don’t suspect I’m the only person in this room who is concerned about a national debt that has blown past $11 trillion and a federal deficit that is well over $1 trillion… Fortunately, we have taken the opposite approach here in Texas.” [6/30/09]
“In Texas and South Carolina, we’ve focused on improving “soil conditions” for businesses by cutting taxes, reforming our legal system and our workers’ compensation system. We’d humbly suggest that Congress take a page from those playbooks by focusing on targeted tax relief paid for by cutting spending, not by borrowing.” [12/2/08]
Though it’s facing a budget mess of roughly the same magnitude as California, Texas has received far less attention, and at this point, there’s practically nothing left in the state’s budget to cut besides education and health care spending (while Texas already has some of the lowest per-pupil spending rates and the highest number of those without health insurance).
As Paul Krugman wrote, “Texas is where the modern conservative theory of budgeting — the belief that you should never raise taxes under any circumstances, that you can always balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending — has been implemented most completely. If the theory can’t make it there, it can’t make it anywhere.” And it seems the theory can’t make it there.