Revenue estimate reveals more than one deficit
"The timing of today's revenue estimate, and the bad news it contains,
illuminate a deficit in budget honesty."
Senator Kirk Watson released this statement following the release of the Biennial Revenue Estimate by the Texas Comptroller on Monday:
AUSTIN — This revenue estimate puts the speculation to rest: Texas will, definitively, face a financial deficit over the next two years that threatens to drain the state's savings and undermine the long-term competitiveness of the Texas economy.
But the estimate also demonstrates the deficit of honesty and openness that has so thoroughly weakened our state's finances. The current budget situation is part of a bigger problem that requires reform and changes.
Texans deserve more respect. After months of talk about the looming budget shortfall, only now – one day before the start of the legislative session – are we getting an indication of how big a hole we're truly facing.
The state budget isn't an insiders' game. This money – and the information about it – belongs to the people of Texas.
Nothing has prevented those in control of the budget from providing more information over the last year about what we're up against. They could – and should – have distributed the sorts of projections this estimate contains as widely as possible. They didn't. They haven't been accountable for the budget problems we now face. They need to be.
Texas needs an Honesty Agenda to address both the financial deficit and the deficit of transparency and accountability.
This week, the legislature can take a step toward budget honesty by giving Texans five days – a business week's worth of budget honesty – to review the final draft of the budget before that roughly 900-page bill is voted on. It's abundantly clear that Texans want and will need at least five days to review the budget that will address this shortfall.
Here are other fundamental budget reforms that need to occur:
Essential budget information, including more regular revenue estimates, must be made widely available to the public.
Money that's supposed to go – that was promised to go – to specific state programs should be spent only on those programs.
Whenever Texas politicians threaten to cut Texans' basic necessities, they should declare who will be specifically impacted and how. They should reveal how Texas will maintain its commitments to essential priorities so that we can be economically competitive. And whenever they threaten to increase taxes or fees, they should tell taxpayers exactly what the money will be used for.
Legislators should consider the short-term and long-term impact that budget decisions will have on Texas' economy. Texas politicians need to start accounting for spending and performance.
The state must create a comprehensive plan to sustainably balance the budget.
Texans should not accept any attempts to drain the state's savings accounts, deprive our children and neighbors of necessities, or increase taxes or fees until reforms are in place.
I will not vote for a budget that perpetuates a lack of fiscal openness and budget honesty.
The timing of today's revenue estimate, and the bad news it contains, illuminate a deficit in budget honesty. Nothing about the holiday season – or the campaign season – should have forced so many Texans to wait so long for such critical information.