The Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee, made up of 13 tea party organizers from around the state, have issued a unanimous call to the legislative Tea Party Caucus and statewide elected leaders to hold the line on spending the State’s Rainy Day Fund.
In a letter sent to the legislative Tea Party Caucus, as well as to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker, the Committee stated: “We strongly support a budget that is balanced without the use of any portion of the State’s Rainy Day Fund and without the imposition of new taxes, new fees that are effectively increased taxes (such as increased vehicle registration fees) or other new sources of revenue (such as gambling).”
The Committee stands firmly against any use of the Rainy Day Fund, even for any shortfall of revenues (estimated to be $3 billion) during the current biennial budget. “Belt tightening is painful, “ stated Julie Turner of The Woodlands, “but Texans know that it has to be done if we are going to be ready not only for this next biennium but for budget cycles in the future. We shouldn’t ignore the cost-side problems that we face, especially in Medicaid and other social services, by covering them up with money from the Fund. We need to address these issues here and now, and we can do that without harming our public education system.”
Konni Burton of Colleyville pointed out that the Rainy Day Fund should be set aside for coverage during a natural or other disaster, such as a hurricane, flood or terrorist attack, and for a financial buffer to allow the state to maintain a high bond rating. “If our elected officials believe we have more than enough for those contingencies within the Fund,” she said, “the rest should be returned to the taxpayers of Texas, not used to cover up past revenue mismatches or pay for recurring expenses. We know what happens when we use that approach with our personal and family budgets – it’s not sustainable.”
The full text of the letter of the Tea Party Advisory Committee is as follows:
Esteemed Senators and State Representatives:
We continue to be extremely appreciative of your willingness to participate as Members of the Legislative Tea Party Caucus and to listen to the views and concerns of our committee in our role as citizen representatives of the grassroots activists and voters of Texas. Already in this 82nd biennial legislative session, you have gathered with us to discuss our legislative priorities and to provide us with an excellent overview of the State legislative process.
We write to you today to make clear our views regarding the current State budgeting process for the 2011-2013 biennium. We strongly support a budget that is balanced without the use of any portion of the State’s Rainy Day Fund and without the imposition of new taxes, new fees that are effectively increased taxes (such as increased vehicle registration fees) or other new sources of revenue (such as gambling).
We are acutely aware of the revenue position that our State faces. Despite significant reductions in administrative and agency costs and personnel, our State must make deep cuts in either or both of public education or human services. Current federal law prohibits large reductions in the latter category, so we are left with larger-than-desired cuts in public education.
At the same time, the economy in Texas, while stronger than in any other state, is not strong enough to withstand additional taxes or tax-like fees. We recognize that some of the most likely forms of tax increases or user fee increases would especially affect those in our State who are least able to bear additional costs.
We have a growing structural problem in our State.
Our public education system would, if consolidated, be the fifth largest corporate employer in the world. The number of non-teaching personnel in primary and secondary schools has increased markedly in the last 40 years. The cost curve of public higher education continues to bend upward even as we write this letter. Parents are concerned for the availability of future educational resources for their children and communities.
In the meantime, due to a myriad of factors, our costs for providing social and health services continue to outstrip almost all predictions and will soon be – by far – the largest use of general revenues from our State budget. We are on record as saying we desire to protect those for whom the State government must be the last or only provider, but we must recognize that at some point we may not be able to fund these services unless we explore private and non-profit alternatives that replace or supplement government programs.
The use of any portion of the Rainy Day Fund will only serve to mask budgetary problems that have been long in the making. The next biennium promises higher costs at almost every turn, with or without the new mandates of the federal healthcare legislation. Our public education system, which has reserves of its own to help it weather cuts in this biennium, will surely need more funding in 2013-2015. If we as a State bury our heads in the sand in this biennium, what will we face next time when no or few Rainy Day Funds may be available?
Texans deserve a legislature that will deal head-on with the significant budgetary choices that we must make. Texans have always been willing and able to shoulder the load together, and we must do so now. Allow Texans to know of the hard choices that must be made and give us the transparency to view the alternatives. We believe that you will find support across party lines once the facts are made clear and the choices are made to work in the best long-term interest of the people of this State.
What we ignore today will not be gone tomorrow. Let us work together to solve our structural problems and adopt a budget that will give us the clarity and the courage to do it right.