Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), who has raised his national profile by repeatedly criticizing the Obama administration’s response to the Great Recession, found out earlier this month that his state’s deficit for the 2012–2013 fiscal years is twice what he had thought. (Texas, unlike the federal government and many states, has a two-year budget cycle.) After months of criticizing the fiscal policies of the Obama administration and touting “the hard work that Texas and states like ours have done to make prudent fiscal decisions,” Perry wound up facing a budget fiasco on par with that in California.
Perry’s previous budget would also have been in significantly worse shape were it not for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e. the stimulus), which the Texas legislature used to balance its budget, even as Perry scored tons of political points grandstanding against a small portion of the funds. And as it turns out, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Texas relied more heavily on stimulus funding to fill its budget hole than any other state:
Turns out Texas was the state that depended the most on those very stimulus funds to plug nearly 97% of its shortfall for fiscal 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas, which crafts a budget every two years, was facing a $6.6 billion shortfall for its 2010–2011 fiscal years. It plugged nearly all of that deficit with $6.4 billion in Recovery Act money, allowing it to leave its $9.1 billion rainy day fund untouched.
When he made a show of rejecting some Recovery Act money, Perry said “this was pretty simple for us…We can take care of ourselves.” As The Wonk Room explained, in addition to filling nearly his entire budget gap with Recovery Act funds, Perry also used the Build America Bonds program — created as part of the Recovery Act — to fund billions of dollars in infrastructure projects. He also grandstanded against — and then promptly accepted — federal funding meant to prevent teacher layoffs.
Perry is hardly alone amongst GOP governors in bashing the stimulus and then turning around and taking advantage of the important funding it provided. Govs. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) and Chris Christie (R-NJ) have done much the same thing. But Perry was the only one threatening secession as a response to government spending, even as his state took advantage of that spending more than any other.