AUSTIN – With sights set on the 83rd Texas Legislature convening in January, Gov. Rick Perry on April 16 announced “five key principles for a stronger Texas” that he has titled the “Texas Budget Compact.”
The principles are:
• Practice truth in budgeting;
• Support a Constitutional limit of spending to the growth of population and inflation;
• Oppose any new taxes or tax increases, and make the small business tax exemption permanent;
• Preserve a strong Rainy Day Fund; and
• Cut unnecessary and duplicative government programs and agencies.
Perry called on lawmakers to commit to the principles in preparation for the 2013 legislative session.
In his news release, Perry praised the 82nd Legislature’s belt-tightening budget cutbacks and made special mention of Medicaid, the health care program for low income Texans that would be increased under the 2010 federal health care law, the fate of which is now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. Perry said the law, which requires an increasing share of state funding to augment federal dollars, “is primed to eat up significantly more” of the state budget “in both the short and long terms.”
Perry also said, “in order for Texas to continue leading the nation in job creation and economic development we must rein in state spending and make the small business tax permanent.”
Now, especially during a campaign season like this, whenever a public figure makes a statement calling others to clamp down on waste and ramp up on accountability, it can’t be said without inviting back splash. So, here’s an excerpt of a reaction to Perry’s budget compact by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin: “For many of the past several months, the governor has been traveling and away from Texas. Perhaps he hasn’t listened to the teachers, parents and children who’ve suffered as a result of bad budget practices and the perpetual lack of budget transparency. Or he hasn’t heard from the healthcare professionals across Texas who are struggling under this budget, or the seniors, children and low-income Texans who were targeted by it. …”
Watson also said Perry’s proposal “would dramatically increase the pain for the middle-class Texans and others who can least afford it.”
Turning to the monthly revenue watch published by the office of the Texas comptroller, data for September through March of the current fiscal year show a nearly 15 percent overall increase in tax collections over the same period in 2011. This measure of economic activity appears to point toward more money for the state to work with.
Meanwhile, the Texas State Teachers Association is circulating a “Stop the Cuts” petition “urging the governor to call a special legislative session to appropriate $2.5 billion of the Rainy Day Fund and head off deep budget cuts to the public schools for the 2012-2013 school year.”
Be careful in work zones
April 23-27 is 2012 National Work Zone Awareness Week, marked by a joint publicity effort by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. TxDOT official John Barton, in promoting mindfulness when transiting work zones, said, “Each of us has the power to protect lives as we drive. We just need to put our cell phones down, stop adjusting the radio and focus on driving safely.”
Unemployment drops again
Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 7.0 percent in March, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor. March was the seventh month in a row the number has improved. Texas’ unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in February and 8.0 percent a year ago.
Board adopts math standards
The State Board of Education last week approved new math standards and textbook adoption rules that it said reflect the changing instructional materials marketplace. More than 100 amendments to the mathematics Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for students in kindergarten through high school were adopted.
The Texas Education Agency reported that several educators who testified before the board said the new standards provide more in-depth coverage of math topics than the current standards. Changes adopted will be implemented in kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms in the 2014-2015 school year and the new high school standards will be implemented in 2015-2016, the agency said.
Austin installs Willie monument
The city of Austin on April 20 dedicated a bronze monument depicting iconic Texas musician Willie Nelson in front of the new Austin City Limits studio downtown. Nelson, in his trademark braids and strumming his old guitar, “Trigger,” performed with his band at the unveiling.