Deficit? What Deficit?
The GOP leadership may have found a new way around the problem: creative accounting. Traditionally, the Legislative Budget Board drafts a budget reflecting funding for current programs in light of actual demand for those state services. If the available revenues then show a deficit, lawmakers have to consider how to cut programs or else raise additional revenue. Last week, Gov. Rick Perry's office announced that Perry, Lt. Gov.-elect David Dewhurst, and presumptive Speaker Tom Craddick were considering a reversed procedure: using the available revenue projections as the base for drafting the governor's budget, which legislators would then use for their budgeting purposes. In effect, the budget cuts would be made before the legislative process even begins. That would make it easier to pretend that there aren't any cuts at all, and certainly no need for additional revenue (i.e., taxes) -- and it would also handily short-circuit the Legislature's constitutional responsibilities.
State Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant, who will be replaced as lieutenant governor by Dewhurst when the session opens, says that he has had "some contacts from other offices" suggesting the reversal in budget procedure, but he remains skeptical. "The question arises, 'Who is it that's going to decide what to cut?' Some people are advocating that the LBB staff go in and create such a document," he told the Houston Chronicle. "I think the only practical way to do this is to create the same document we have in the past and let the committees decide what to cut."