FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2011
Contact: JoAnn Fleming, TPCAC member, Tyler area (903.894.7204)
House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts just doesn’t get it. While he dismisses Governor Perry’s call for spending cuts instead of a raid on the Rainy Day Fund, Chairman Pitts insists he’ll push for a committee vote soon on a bill to spend $4.3 billion of the People’s Savings Account instead. In some news reports, Pitts has likened the state’s budget situation to a family facing the loss of its home due to a sudden drop in household income. Pitts concludes that the family has two options – either tell the bank to take the house or take money out of the family’s savings account. It is also reported that Pitts believes anyone who doesn’t see it his way needs a “reality check.” Such an outrageous statement deserves a reality check from citizens who see the matter quite differently.
“The loss of state revenue was not sudden, nor was it a surprise. Chairman Pitts knows better,” says Tea Party Advisory Committee member Sharon Hall (San Antonio). “The legislature has known the economy was slowing since 2008. They could have taken more aggressive cost-containment measures in the 81st legislative session, but did not. Now we expect them to cut – not take the easy way out.”
Tony Corsaut, TP Advisory Committee member from Wichita Falls, agrees. “When families and businesses see a reduction of income or revenue coming, they prepare. They look at all expenses and cut out wants to get down to needs. The state has a way to go to get down to basic needs. After all, we still have an arts and film commission. The legislature is still underwriting a Formula 1 race track for some $25 million, and there’s been no move to furlough non-essential state employees to save money. Why should government be exempt from the cuts families and businesses have had to make and are still making?”
Between fiscal years 1990 and 2010, All Funds appropriations for Texas state government increased from $23.3 billion to $92.7 billion, a growth of nearly 300 percent. By contrast, the rate of population growth plus inflation increased only 115.5 percent over the same period. (Source: Legislative Budget Board, Texas Public Policy Foundation) This clearly demonstrates that state government has grown to unsustainable levels. The Tea Party Advisory Committee insists it is time for state leaders to do the hard work required to get spending under control and balance the state budget without raising taxes, instituting new taxes, putting the state further into debt, or raiding the Rainy Day Fund.
In an effort to give Committee Chairman Pitts and his colleagues in the State Legislature a helping hand, the Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee advances the following “Fourteen Point Plan to Cut Spending to Balance the State Budget” as authored by Tea Party Advisory Committee Member JoAnn Fleming (Tyler area):
Fourteen Point Plan to Cut Spending to Balance the State Budget: Across-the-board cuts do not get to the root of the over-spending, over-regulating problem. Cutting 2.5%, 5% or 10% of a department, agency, or program that is outside basic constitutional authority does not go far enough to solve the spending problem. It is time to get state government spending under control by:
1) focusing on the basic constitutional duties of state government, making those the top budget priorities;
2) employing zero-based budgeting for every agency, department, and program;
3) asserting constitutional and moral duty to first protect and preserve the interests of the citizens and legal residents of Texas by requiring all public service providers to verify and report the citizenship/legal residency of those they serve to the State and to the People of Texas, thereby ensuring appropriate budget allocations can be made for legal Texas residents, versus those from other States (both foreign and domestic);
4) eliminating overlapping, duplicated agencies, departments, and programs (example, the natural resource agencies: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Rail Road Commission, Public Utility Commission, General Land Office, Agriculture Commission, Parks & Wildlife);
5) injecting competition into the delivery of services for improved service quality and lower costs (outsourcing, improved centralized procurement for volume purchasing discounts, and efficient contract management);
6) determining feasibility of purchase deferrals for all unspent appropriations in current budget and for new budget requests for capital assets (vehicles, equipment, technology, new facilities/upgrades/remodels);
7) instituting an immediate hiring freeze and review of all state government positions, all personnel policies, and all benefits; review solvency of benefit funding for state employees; end longevity pay for state employees; increase contribution levels for state employees toward their own pension and insurance benefits;
8) cutting pay for state employees, including statewide officials. Top officials should lead by cutting their pay first. (No public employee should make more than the Governor, including school superintendents.) Care should be taken not to reduce lowest paid state workers to the point of making them eligible for social services, thereby driving up state costs.
9) ending the practice of diverting funds from the originally-intended purpose to other uses (for example, the state motor fuels tax of which 47% is diverted to non-transportation fund use);
10) mandating review of all agencies, departments, and programs to match funding with originally-intended mission and to determine whether or not the agency/department/program is producing measurable results; although this is the purpose of the Sunset Commission, the Sunset Commission needs to be revamped with more private citizen representation on the review board;
11) reviewing state debt for savings through debt consolidation, lower interest rates;
12) suspending funding of parks, bike and walking trails, renovations of historical properties;
13) reviewing and curtailing in many cases state economic incentives and subsidies (our low taxes, limited regulations, right to work laws, and civil justice system provide plenty of incentives for companies to come to Texas, when compared to other states);
14) reasserting State Sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution. Too much state spending is driven by accepting unconstitutional federal funding with strings, regulation, and mandates. All federal funds that come with added strings and regulation should be rejected.
This will not be the state’s last difficult budgeting cycle in the near term. According to Texas Public Policy Foundation, “Medicaid costs before ObamaCare will double every 10 years through the next three decades. ObamaCare adds 3.1 million people to Texas’ Medicaid rolls by 2014, and Texas will need an additional $10 to $15 billion in the next budget to meet those costs.” In addition, rising fuel costs, unrest around the globe, and uncertainty caused by suffocating federal debt and onerous regulations affirm that it is a wholly reasonable and prudent expectation that the 82nd Texas Legislature would exhaust all fiscally-responsible cost-cutting remedies before ever thinking about raiding the People’s Rainy Day Fund.
Governor Rick Perry expressed support for citizen involvement in the state budget process: “Ever since they burst onto the national consciousness in April of 2009, the TEA Parties have been waking people up with their fundamentally American message of fiscal discipline and accountability for elected leaders. The Texas TEA Parties have remained in the vanguard of the movement and I’m honored to have their support. You can trust that I’ll stand my ground on our core principles and continue our efforts to balance the budget without raising taxes or touching the Rainy Day Fund. Only through continued TEA Party engagement can we hold elected officials’ feet to the fire and ensure they deliver on their promises from last November.” [Statement provided to Katrina Pierson, TPCAC member, Garland]