If you were looking for Governor Perry to make a statement about the excess spending and little tax relief in the state budget, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Outside of a political swipe at the embroiled head of the state’s Public Integrity Unit, the governor left the budget virtually intact form the way it arrived on his desk.
The governor talked a big game at various times throughout session. When big-spending educrats and liberals alike were calling for the restoration of “cuts” supposedly made during the 82nd session, Gov. Perry rightly declared that public education funding has been “phenomenal”—indicating he had no desire to see the Legislature cave just because it was sitting on a surplus.
Additionally, Gov. Perry used his “State of the State” address to call for significant tax relief—$1.8 billion to be exact—after the Legislature used money from the Economic Stabilization Fund to “invest” in water and transportation infrastructure.
And in the heat of session, when the Legislature seemed to be interested only in spending money, Gov. Perry issued a warning to lawmakers that the budget better include that $1.8 billion of tax relief he asked for if they all wanted to “enjoy their summer.”
As you are probably well-aware, the Legislature choose not to heed the Governor’s warning, passing at most $1.4 billion of tax cuts (depending on how it’s counted), right along with a budget full of approximately $4 billion of extra public education spending (and several other problems).
The governor’s response was less than inspiring.
On Friday, his office announced the slew of bills he vetoed, including the line-item vetoes made to the budget. (Or the lack of line-item vetoes to put it in better perspective.)
Outside of refusing to fund the Public Integrity Unit due to Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg’s refusal to step down after a recent drunk driving conviction, there were no significant line-items made. In fact, the vast majority were simply removing contingency riders for bills that did not pass during the regular session.
In other words, the governor signed off on a budget that conservatives decried, and that the Wall Street Journal said was a big step in making Texas look a lot more like Sacramento than it did before lawmakers showed up to Austin. (Worth noting: the final version of the state budget spent about $10 billion more than the budget proposed by Gov. Perry at the beginning of session.)
It’s disappointing, to say the least, to see him mail it in when so much more could have been done to make the budget more fiscally responsible during the special session. Especially when so many aspects of the Texas Budget Compact—a concept originating from the brain of the governor himself—were completely ignored.
Whether he’ll play a more active role in pushing for conservative fiscal policy relating to transportation funding, or simply rubber-stamps any legislation the Legislature sends to his desk, is yet to be seen. Here’s to hoping the governor uses his executive pen more judiciously this special session.