FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 16, 2012
Contact: JoAnn Fleming, Chairman, Advisory Committee to the Texas Legislature’s TEA
Party Caucus (903) 894-7204 or (903) 360-2858
JoAnn Fleming, chair of the advisory committee to the Texas Legislature’s Tea Party Caucus expressed early and enthusiastic support for the Texas Budget Compact unveiled by Governor Rick Perry today.
Fleming said, “We commend Governor Perry for stepping up to provide clearer direction and leadership for the upcoming legislative session in 2013. This is good news because our state’s fiscal house is not in order and exploding budget costs are ahead. Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs has issued a warning that the state’s Medicaid social safety net costs for the 2014 – 2015 biennium budget will likely require $15 – $17 billion in additional funding.”
Fleming went on to describe the situation in Austin: “With a sea of red ink facing the Texas legislature in 2013, we completely agree that it is high time to end the use of budget tricks, accounting gimmicks, tax payment speed-ups, diversions, and a Medicaid credit card to balance our state budget.
Since the legislature passed the current budget using an accounting shift that delays a $2.3 billion payment owed to public schools by one day so that the bill is not due until 2014, and knowingly underfunded Medicaid caseload growth by an estimated $4.8 billion, it is clear the House and Senate leadership always planned to raid the People’s Savings Account.
The Rainy Day Fund should be preserved to meet the state’s emergency needs that could arise due to devastating, widespread tornado damage, a bad hurricane season, wildfires, and other true disasters. The Rainy Day Fund should not be used to cover shortfalls and deficits caused by legislative sleights of hand and a continuing reluctance to take decisive action on long-standing issues.
If our state officials truly believe their own rhetoric about state sovereignty, ending dependence on Washington, D.C., and taking personal responsibility, they will preserve the Rainy Day Fund for true emergencies. Spending down that fund will send a clear signal that our state officials intend to continue to rely on the federal government to bail us out in times of trouble.”
Fleming emphasized the need for an action plan: “With federal debt poised to reach $16 trillion, the State of Texas must prepare now to pull down less federal dollars. Therefore, we urge Governor Perry to go a step beyond the Texas Budget Compact to assemble a talented task force to help him lead a comprehensive reform effort to restructure state government to fit into a constitution-sized box. This means the “core constitutional function” test must be applied to every department, agency, program, commission, and fund. Spending must be limited to the core constitutional functions of Texas state government.
Those core constitutional functions of state government are public education, management of natural resources, transportation, the justice system (civil and criminal jurisdictional courts, law enforcement, and correctional prison systems), and since the State of Texas took the first dollar of federal funding, healthcare via HHS-Medicaid.
Any departments, agencies, and programs outside the core constitutional functions of state government should be eliminated. All core function departments, agencies, and programs should then be scrutinized to determine if they are meeting their statutory mission. Finally, all overlapping, duplicated departments, agencies, and programs should be streamlined for efficiency and effectiveness.”
[Note: An example of overlapping, duplicated state government is the current structure of managing the state’s natural resources. According to the state government website www.texas.gov, there are at least 38 such departments, agencies, and programs.]
Concluding the TPCAC’s support for the Budget Compact, Fleming addressed the issue of state debt: “We also urge Governor Perry to put the brakes on more borrowing to meet legislative priorities. Our state government should resist the temptation to add to our state debt just because interest rates are low. Soaring debt is just as wrong for our state as it is for the federal government.”
The TEA Party Caucus Advisory Committee is pleased Governor Perry is driving a stake in the ground to – in his words – “be sure, constitutionally sure, Texas never turns into Washington, DC.” We fully support the five planks in the Texas Budget Compact and urge all legislative candidates to get onboard.
The TPCAC believes Texas needs more than strong rhetoric to tickle the ears of folks who are tired of out-of-touch politicians, government waste, and fiscal recklessness. We need strong, principled leadership with a clear vision to deal with the fiscal pressures ahead. We are greatly encouraged to see Governor Rick Perry take a strong first step today. We applaud our Governor.