May 19, 2014

Texas Lege: More #TexasSolutions budget fear-mongering in 2015?

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus
On the surface, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus' call for all gas tax revenues to actually be devoted to roads sounds great, doesn't it?

Especially when, a year ago, TxDOT was talking about turning interstate access roads in oilfield-heavy areas back to gravel. But, per this Straus column (hat tip, Bay Area Houston), there's more beneath the surface.

First, Straus notes that money from dedicated funds was sequestered in the past. With that unavailable, wait for GOP wingnuts to talk about the need to cut the rest of the budget even more.

Here's Straus:
This November, voters will also consider a constitutional amendment transferring some revenue from oil and gas production taxes to the highway fund.
Given that surplus oil and gas taxes currently go into the Rainy Day Fund, that means less money there, as John also notes at Bay Area Houston.

But, wait? Didn't we just pass a constitutional amendment last year that said we'd use excess RDF money to fund revolving loan accounts for water infrastructure projects? Er, yes!

Of course, the likes of Straus will say that money's being borrowed, not taken, the water money. And, it's that financial brilliance that illustrates Denial ain't just a river in Egypt. And Straus represents the not-totally-nutbar wing (or back porch, or single piece of decking flagstone) of the Texas GOP.

Of course, as the drought which is NOT caused or abetted in any way by human beings, according to anybody to the right of Straus, continues, Denial ain't a river out in West Texas, either.

Borrowed, stolen, wisely used, whatever, the wingnuts will call it another "run" on the RDF, which they want to protect like Jack D. Ripper's precious bodily fluids.

So, expect fear-mongering over that in 2015, too. Wingnuts withholding vital essence from the state of Texas.

Meanwhile, Eye on Williamson notes the ultimate problem. It's "Texas solutions" that never mention taxes; he's referring to this column by Chuy Hinojosa. Of course, the Pointy Abandoned Object State™never has any trouble coming up with new fees for services, programs, and licenses, but, we can't call any of those "taxes," now, can we?

Note to Chuy,  Battleground Texas, and all others: You ain't getting anywhere if you keep to tiptoe around the manure passing for GOP financial brilliance. If your "solutions" don't involve telling Texans services cost money, they ain't solutions. So, if I hear "Texas Solutions" out of one more Dem mouth, I'll reach for Jerry Patterson's revolver.)

(Note to McBlogger: See, you can write stuff like this stone cold sober and without a single profanity, either.)

And, neither Bay nor Eye mentioned the bigger storm cloud over 2015 budgeting. I'm going to assume that the state loses the final, re-heard version of the school finance lawsuit, and that the financial remedies imposed by Judge Dietz are significant.

Per the reason Dietz decided to re-hear the case, after the 2013 Lege seemed so generous, there's this:
"Any and all funding changes are temporary at best. There is absolutely no requirement they be in existence beyond the year 2015," said Rick Gray, a lawyer for the Equity Center, which represents about 400 school districts, the bulk of them poor, in the sprawling litigation that involves five other parties. "It was an exceedingly small step in the right direction."
Exactly. And, per everything I mentioned above, stand by for some new Pointy Abandoned Object State™solution. For schools. For water. For roads.

And, these problems are all incestuous and intertwined. I already noted that we could have a roads funding state amendment competing with a water one. Well, part of the reason not all of the gas tax is going to roads is that hundreds of million of dollars of it has been going to ...

Wait for it ...

Wait for it ...

Look below the fold for it ...

Education. Yes, we've been stealing from the gas tax fund, stealing from trying to maintain the gazillion miles of road already in the state and even trying to build a few new ones that aren't toll roads, to pay for our underfunded schools.

A circular firing squad of financial mismanagement. Everybody to the left of Joe Straus (rhymes with "raus") knows it, everybody to his right pretends it ain't true, and after this year, Joe, there's going to be no Dudley Dewless running the other half of the Lege to try to even halfway be in your ballpark and help you out.

But, but, but ... Wendy Davis says Texas always does it better than Washington. No, Wendy. Even with the wingnuts capturing more and more of the GOP apparatus in DC, we just have more gridlock, plus the occasional cave-ins from a president so appeasing of Republicans he's managed to piss off John Lewis. But, we DON'T have (yet) those nutbars either shoving it down our throats or cramming it up ...

But, we just get that talk from her, and "Texas solutions" talk from Chuy. We've had a decade-plus of Texas solutions that don't work. And, we had, before that, a near-decade of Chuy and Wendy's political godfather, Bob Bullock, giving us more "Texas solutions" and enabling an alleged coke snorter to become president.

That's another reminder of why I'm voting Green, and why Greens shouldn't ask Brandon Parmer to fold his tent into Davis'.

Meanwhile, "Texas solutions" have resulted in underfunding of state water needs for a half century, and have now extended to deliberately ignoring the science of anthropogenic climate change. They've included oil-industry handouts while ignoring the cost to roads and the fracking world's unslakeable demands for water. And, they've included the state getting sued over education funding multiple times since the GOP has controlled all the levers of government.

That's no solution at all.

Don't worry; I'm sure the eXXXon folks who told us carbon dioxide is good for us will also tell us, eventually, that West Texas Intermediate actually makes a decent water substitute.

And, that's not doing it better than Washington, for all of its dysfunctionality, either.

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