Texas Governor Rick Perry, the Democrat-turned-Republican who served as George W. Bush’s lieutenant and won his third term last year, wants you to think he’s not a fan of federal bailouts.
Yet, on the same day “Texans for Rick Perry” launched their “No Government Bailouts” campaign, Perry himself was lining up with the rest of the states asking for billions in federal funding from President Barack Obama’s Recovery Act.
Despite having $9.1 billion in surplus in a so-called “rainy day fund,” Texas faced a $6.6 billion budget deficit in the 2010-11 fiscal years. To fill that gap, the state took $6.4 billion from the Obama administration and declared their budget gap covered, freeing up the Republicans who dominated the legislature to run on their fiscal responsibility.
The day after President Obama signed the Recovery Act, Perry published an op-ed in The Washington Times, railing against “unparalleled growth in government.” On his blog, he urged supporters to sign his petition against “irresponsible spending that threatens our future.”
Rick Perry’s future, however, was not the one at risk. On that same day, CNN noted, Perry applied for funds from the Recovery Act, slamming shut the state’s budget deficit and plugging holes in Texans’ Medicare and public education.
A spokesperson for Perry told the network that “Texas would have balanced its budget regardless of the presence of stimulus dollars.”
Texas, which had nearly double the national average percentage of its children who go without health insurance, today faced a $25 billion budget shortfall for the 2012-13 fiscal years.
The Republican-dominated legislature, which recently debated opting out of a federal children’s health insurance program to raise money for the state’s general fund, was seen as unlikely to raise taxes in order to close the gap.
The reason for such a sudden, massive hole? Texas “government gets about 60 percent of its revenue from sales taxes, so when there’s a dramatic drop in state revenues, or collections, there’s less money to spend,” the Texas Tribune noted. “During the economic recession of 2008-2009, Texas saw a drop in state revenues for 14 straight months.”
Grimmer still, the state’s unemployment swamp was continuing to deepen: even while employers added 20,000 jobs in December, that did not exceed the number of jobs lost in the same month, driving unemployment upwards to 8.3 percent.
Since Texas also lacked an income tax, that growing number of jobless meant even less revenue in sales taxes. The state’s job rolls still haven’t recovered from 2009 either, when over 350,000 positions were lost state-wide.