Texas’ two year budget plan will be released by the State House of Representatives today. It will reportedly cut government spending by 11%. Of note is the fact that the Texas Constitution requires a balanced budget be passed which means no spending above the projected State revenues. If spending increases are sought, there must be either cuts in spending, tax increases or a combination of both. I find it interesting how States on the brink of bankruptcy today fail to see the budgetary logic in the Texas budget policies. This also ties into the National Debt we face today and the fact that in 2010, the Federal Government was run on continuing resolutions and never produced a budget. That is just plain irresponsible as far as our Congress is concerned. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, any maybe this is why you are now known as the Ex-Speaker of the House.
When researching the Texas Budget debate, we see two very different sides to this debate from The Washington Post’s April Castro* and Mark Tannenbaum of NewsMax.com.** The Washington Post piece seems more like a Democratic attack piece that ignores the reality of the situation. The Texas Legislature is being vilified for making the tough choices required to create a balanced budget (Which is required by law). Here are the main talking points from April Castro at the Washington Post.* (both articles were accessed on 1/19/2011)
The lead paragraph exposes the agenda behind this piece.
“Texas lawmakers got their first glimpse of what the next state budget might look like late Tuesday, including a staggering $5 billion cut to public schools, as Gov. Rick Perry and his supporters were dancing at an inaugural celebration. Is there something wrong with the Governor and his supporters dancing at an inaugural ball? Note the inclusion of the word ‘Staggering’ when discussing the cuts to public school also. When talking about cutting wasteful spending within a huge Texas State budget, is 5 Billion dollars really that staggering? Are they doing away with wasteful,redundant or unnecessary programs? What is really “staggering,” is a country that is 14 Trillion dollars in debt, now that’s staggering!
“While almost every other state agency would see a reduction in employees, the average number of full-time employees in Perry’s office over the next two fiscal years would go to 132, up from an average of 120 in the 2010-2011 budget.” I would think that the demand for more intense budgetary scrutiny by the Governor’s office would require a few more people to get the job done here. This seems like partisan nit-picking here. 12 new employees over a 2 year span doesn’t seem all that “staggering” to me.
“It’s a catastrophe. No financial aid for kids to go to college. No pre-kindergarten for kids to learn their numbers and their letters. Health and human services slashed,” said Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine. “No Texan can be proud of this.” That simply isn’t the truth there. There will be cuts, but there still will be financial aid and grants. To say everyone will be denied is a sad attempt at false propaganda usage. I wonder where the quotes from the realists that have drawn up this budget plan are here? A decent, unbiased article on the proposed Texas State budget should include viewpoints from both sides.
“Perry took the oath of office earlier Tuesday for his third term in office. After a day of parties, he spent the evening at a celebration in downtown Austin, just a mile from the Capitol. Donors are picking up the $2 million tab for the 2011 inaugural. The Legislative Budget Board was required by law to release the budget to leaders on Tuesday, the fifth business day after the session starts.” Another dig at Governor Perry, which seems to be a pattern here.
In analyzing the Newsmax article, we see a more realistic approach to reporting the proposed Texas Budget legislation. There are quotes from several viewpoints, such as Mr Hochberg- D- Houston,( bigger class sizes) Republican Jim Pitts the main House budget writer, ( the votes for more spending are not there) and Democrat Roberto Alonzo.( Use the rainy day funds now).
In contrast to the Washington Post lead attack paragraph, Newsmax leads with the cold hard facts:
“ The two year budget plan that the Texas House of representatives will release today may eliminate more than 8000 jobs and cut spending spending schools, universities and social services by 11 %. It will not tap the 9.4 billion set aside for deep economic stress, Republicans say.” Nobody enjoys having to make serious budget cuts, but the fact is that without them, Texas wouldn’t be confronting the realities of the true need for budget reform. They should also be commended for refusing to go the way of Illinois, who raised taxes 66% recently.
Newsmax also points out the danger of what other States have done in recent years, by refusing to make the tough choices and instead used up their own rainy day funds:
‘”The (rainy day) fund has risen six-fold since 2007, while other states drained reserves to balance total deficits likely to top 190 billion over the next two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.” This is the common sense long term budgeting that is needed today. It doesn’t rely on the “budget gimmicks” that seem so popular today,and that are based on the denial of reality.
Newsmax also lets Governor Perry express his viewpoint in this article, which The Washington Post article deemed not worthy of inclusion:
“We don’t have shortfalls in Texas,” Perry told reporters last week. “You prioritize what’s important in this state. We will fund those.” It is hard to take any journalist seriously that would leave that statement out of an article about the Texas budget.
Newsmax also included a statement from a spokeswoman from the Texas Hospital Association, Amanda Engler that stated that the sick will suffer under the proposed cuts. That is a different view that isn’t mired in any facts yet, since the exact cuts haven’t even been announced. Kudos for Newsmax for putting an opposing viewpoint in there.
Newsmax also summed their article up with a very good explanation on the rainy day fund, and how it was used from 2003-2007 to shore up funding for children’s health insurance, retired teachers healthcare and two economic development funds.
So there you have the tale of two news articles which both vary immensely. The first one from the Washington Post is a very poor example of reporting, when it comes to being unbiased and fact-based. The author seemed more intent on attacking the Governor of Texas and it’s legislature, than facing the reality of the necessity of a properly balanced budget today. They also ran a very one-sided article there. Newsmax gave us the basic facts as we they were known at the time, a statement from the Governor as to how Texas approached their budget, and some viewpoints from both sides of the debate.
After looking into the current Texas Budget debate here, we also see some disturbing facts as to what Journalistic Integrity, ( or lack thereof) means today. My deep respect goes to Governor Perry and the Texas legislature for taking on the responsibility of balancing their state budget today. Well done.