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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Cut spending and run for president?

 
 

In June’s special session, the Texas Legislature controversially passed $4 billion in cuts to public education; a 6 percent statewide reduction in 2012 will be followed by $2 billion in targeted cuts in 2013.
While some believe that lawmakers are unnecessarily shortchanging our public schools, others regard the cuts as a necessary evil in balancing the state’s budget (which is required by law). The most intriguing aspect of the debate, however, is that it reflects the growing pervasiveness of taxing and spending concerns across the county—propelling our own Governor Rick Perry into the national spotlight.
With Washington engulfed in an ongoing budget battle, it is interesting to note the linguistic parallels between the local and national discourse. The arguments that have advanced in Austin could easily have been uttered in the halls of Congress—Democrats advocating spending as a means of socioeconomic investment; Republicans pointing to the ruinous impact of new taxes. Yet as the fog clears, political reality unfolds: the economy has shrugged off our faithful remedies of spending dollar after borrowed dollar, resulting in an impetus among conservatives to offer an alternative method of doing business in Washington. As the national debt approaches $14.3 trillion amid an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent, Americans are finding that the usual “tax-and-spend” approach has lost its omnipresent allure.
Enter Rick Perry. The governor has managed, once again, to balance the state budget without raising taxes or raiding savings. He remains steadfast in his commitment to small government and limited regulation. Most of all, he continues to enthrall the attention of the national media as he positions himself for a run at the White House.
Pundits have decried Perry’s refusal to increase revenues. They are more incensed by his reluctance to tap further into the state’s “rainy day” savings fund as a means of floating the budget. But it may well have been prudent to refrain from either action—no one can know for sure whether the economic climate will improve before the Legislature reconvenes in 2013.
To be sure, Texas’ new budget means that real sacrifices are hitting home. Tens of thousands of college students will compete for a smaller pool of financial aid, and school districts will be forced to downgrade indispensable programs. Many Texans are understandably distraught; Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) lamented that “opportunities to close corporate tax loopholes and to use the rainy-day fund to close the gap in public education funding were disavowed in favor of political extremists threatening to hold politically hostage those who did not tow the ‘cut, cut, cut’ party line.”
What Sen. Davis fails to realize, however, is that no one denies that tough choices are being made. Rather, the so-called “extremists” are simply accepting that, in the words of Rep. Kelly Hancock (R-Richland Hills), “we don’t have unlimited financial resources and we must live within our means,” adding that “when times get better—and hopefully they will soon—we will work to increase funding levels.” Davis’s alternative solution of closing “tax loopholes” is simply the pseudonym of choice for those who want to raise taxes without facing the political fallout once corporations reign in investments.
The truth is that forging any compromise with Davis and the Democrats would have been an unpopular move for Gov. Perry and his party; as noted by The Economist on May 26, most Texans support the strict fiscal conservatism that has gained the governor a national following, and Texas’s favorable business climate is only bolstering perceptions of his policies.
But Perry is not without his political vulnerabilities; some business leaders are dismayed at his refusal to utilize “rainy day” savings, and educators are wary of his apparent lukewarm attitude toward the emphasis on research at Texas’s major universities, including Texas A&M. The GOP field should be vigilant of him nonetheless. As noted by William McKenzie of The Dallas Morning News, Rick Perry has always “followed the political winds and used his fierce Republicanism to beat all foes.”
Ultimately, Perry’s calculated maneuver onto the national scene is proving to be his masterstroke. Former Texas Railroad Commissioner and current Congressional candidate Michael Williams recently told the Texas Tribune that he has never seen “a politician as artful as Perry,” citing the governor’s uncanny ability to emerge unscathed from the hazards of public policymaking. It is certainly hard to argue otherwise—Perry’s 10 years in office eclipse the tenure of any other governor in Texas history. Today, he is the longest serving governor of any state in the nation. Whether the issue has been the Trans Texas Corridor, HPV vaccinations, or the recent education debacle, Perry has navigated political firestorms that would have consumed a man of lesser skill. More than any other characteristic, it is endurance that defines Rick Perry; to date, no one has made a nickel by betting against him.
Down by five cents, Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) could not contain his outrage at Perry’s cuts to education, telling reporters that, “it’s a catastrophe…no Texan can be proud of this.”
But I know of one Texan who can. Perry will be able to point to a fiscally disciplined record when he finally decides to let us in on the worst kept secret in American politics—his ensuing campaign for the presidency.
Kevin Markowski is a senior political science major.

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