The Slippery Slope Toward Disaster
As this article is being drafted, the Texas Legislature has indicated that the state budget will not utilize the Rainy Day Fund and will be balanced totally upon spending reductions and diversions of dedicated funds, including county road funds, criminal justice funds, mental health funds, and indigent health funds. At this same time, the Legislature is considering revenue cap legislation to restrict county budget authority.
With hard work and strong protest, we will probably avoid the full negative impact of these policies in this session. However, the trend is obvious. Many legislators believe that funding for the responsibilities of state government (education, criminal justice, health and transportation) can be reduced, and counties, cities, and school districts can be mandated to provide the services without raising property taxes. This unrealistic attitude will allow the legislators to return to their districts and proclaim: “I did not raise taxes.” In the meantime, commissioners courts will be compelled to fund mandated services and cut all other services, or increase the already over-burdened property tax.
This strategy will probably work for a few more years, but it will inevitably lead to a disastrous conclusion of inadequate services, infrastructure and education. A little tonic composed of partial use of the Rainy Day Funds and revenues from the repeal of some current sales tax exemptions would prevent the spread of this malaise. Probably will not happen, but we can still hope that the Texas Legislature will provide the leadership that our state requires at this difficult time.
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