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Rick Perry's budget sleight-of-hand

The Washington Post | by Suzy Khimm | August 16, 2011

"We balanced our budget. Not by raising taxes but by setting priorities and cutting government spending," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Saturday, kicking off his presidential campaign. "It can and it must be done in Washington, D.C."

It's a line you'll be hearing at every turn of Perry's bid for president. And it's mostly true. Perry successfully closed a yawning $27 billion shortfall in the two-year state budget that passed in June--a budget that enacts deep spending cuts without any new tax hikes, all while leaving $6.5 billion in the state's rainy day fund. But contrary to his claims, Perry didn't balance the books through fiscal conservatism alone. The Texas governor also used accounting sleights-of-hand that deferred payments and papered over enormous expenditures that will soon come due, as the Associated Press explains -- though not until the 2012 election is over.

Texas's fast-growing population has been one of the main engines of its economic growth -- Perry's other major talking point. Over the last decade, Texas has added more people than any other state in the country, in large part due to its burgeoning Hispanic community. But its skyrocketing population also means an accompanying rise in public health and education spending -- costs that Perry and the GOP legislature failed to factor into Texas' 2012-2013 budget.  For the first time in more than 25 years, Texas will not factor in enrollment growth in school budgeting: Perry's budget assumes that the student population will remain constant, when more than 160,000 new students are projected to enroll in Texas public schools over the next two years.

Filed Under : Budget Gimmicks

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