It’s no secret that many journalists in the Texas media are sympathetic to certain politicians in Austin, especially those whose conservative campaign rhetoric doesn’t match their irresponsible spending record. But both the Texas Monthly and the Quorum Report have, unsurprisingly, sunk to new lows.
First, they both misquote the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s statements on discretionary state spending, which increased 26% between the 82nd and 83rd legislative session. QR claimed that TPPF “revised” their figures from 26% down to 9% (they did not), while Erica Grieder at the Texas Monthly parroted the same claim using different language.
Grieder then proceeded to confirm that TPPF had reported the facts accurately, but intentionally used “misleading euphemisms” to nefariously advance an alleged false narrative. She accuses TPPF of sounding a false alarm that forced legislators “flush with cash, including the $8.8 billion surplus” to “appropriate a lot more money”, while somehow failing to address core responsibilities of government like water and transportation infrastructure.
Stated differently, she admits that TPPF has their facts straight. Politicians stumbled upon an unexpectedly large amount of tax revenue, squandered it like drunken sailors, and still failed to prioritize the services taxpayers expect from their government.
According to Grieder, they just messaged the facts inappropriately.
In fact, after accusing TPPF of allegedly reporting two conflicting spending figures, Grieder explicitly confirms both the 9% biennial increase in state spending and TPPF’s original report on the 26% increase in session to session spending, which looked at the GR and ESF spending that the legislature controls, while accounting for backfilling and accounting gimmicks.
Grieder writes, “The Eighty-third Lege…passed a [biennial] budget that represented a 9 percent increase in state spending. They also made some supplemental appropriations to backfill the 2012-13 biennium, which was still in effect, and appropriated several billion dollars from the rainy day fund for one-time expenses. So all told, between January and May 2013 the Texas Legislature made a lot more appropriations than they did between January and May 2011—about 26 percent more. But it wasn’t a spending spree.” [Emphasis mine]
Let’s examine how that compares to a recent report released by TPPF.
- “Total Texas state government spending for 2014-15 is estimated to be $201.9 billion, a 9 percent increase over the previous biennium.”
- “The Texas Legislature appropriated $44 billion more in 2013 than it did in 2011, a 25.8 percent increase.”
Where’s the controversy?
Even in today’s climate of moral relativism where it’s become commonplace to take quotes out of context, it’s still a cardinal sin to stuff words in people’s mouths in a desperate attempt to discredit them. But it’s downright embarrassing to write an article in which you hypocritically accuse someone of spinning facts for political motives, while simultaneously, admitting their claims are accurate.
When the facts aren’t on the liberal’s side, they feel compelled to fabricate conspiracies rooted in nothing more than baseless propaganda aimed at protecting irresponsible politicians.
Due to both unavoidable circumstances and intentional accounting gimmicks, understanding how the state accounts for its spending can be a challenge. For those seeking a more in depth explanation of this issue and its nuances, we recommend you read the complete report from TPPF along with a previous post written by our general counsel, Tony McDonald.