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The Brief: June 7, 2010

Forecasters pegging a looming state budget shortfall at $18 billion don't have Gov. Rick Perry particularly worried.

Republican Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White


Forecasters pegging a looming state budget shortfall at $18 billion don't have Gov. Rick Perry particularly worried.

In a TV interview that aired Thursday, Perry said he "think[s] it's a number that somebody just reached up in the air and grabbed," The Dallas Morning News reports. House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, announced the $18 billion figure in May, after Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus had called on state agencies to look toward tightening their belts in preparation for an impending state budget hole.

"Fill that budget gap, if there is one — which we suspect there will be — with the appropriate reductions in spending, without raising taxes," Perry said in the interview, according to the Morning News.

Challenger Bill White accused Perry of sugarcoating a dire financial situation. White's campaign shot back in a press release on Saturday: "Pitts took into account the revenue shortfall, cost pressures because of more Texas residents and the fact that the state used a reported $14 billion in federal stimulus funds to balance the budget last year. … Career politician Rick Perry tells Texans one thing, but then does something else behind their backs."

Pitts, a Republican with whom Perry has squabbled in the past, asserted the figure's accuracy, telling the Morning News that "the testimony of the Legislative Budget Board before the full committee reflected the $18 billion number."

The back-and-forth came amid further accusations from the Perry campaign that White had mismanaged funds as mayor of Houston, nearly pushing the city into bankruptcy. In March, The Houston Chronicle examined each candidate's critiques of the other's handling of government finance, ruling that their histories, in fact, have "a lot in common."


  • Whether accurate or not, those budget-shortfall figures have higher education leaders fretting, wondering whether the state — which instructed all agencies last month to trim their budgets but exempted some, such as Medicaid, that provide essential services — is committed to supporting higher education. "It couldn't come at a worse time, because we're experiencing record double-digit enrollment growth," Rey García, president of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, told the Austin American-Statesman. "If the state's not going to pay for the cost of enrollment growth, we may not be able to grow, and we may have to abandon the state's goal of more access to higher education."
  • GOP spirits may be high with this week's Texas Republican Party convention approaching, but worries over the state GOP's debt have dampened much of the festive mood, with some doubting the party's future, which could partly hinge on the leadership of its next chairman. The Tribune's Morgan Smith reported in May on the race and its potential major implications.
  • "Welding sparked flash fires. Overloaded cranes dropped heavy loads that smashed equipment and pinned workers. Oil and drilling mud fouled Gulf waters," the Houston Chronicle reports, noting just some of the safety violations logged in Gulf of Mexico oil rig accidents within the past five years. The penalties issued? Few and far between.

"[T]he editorial boards that say [Thomas] Jefferson was deleted, either they're lying or they're just not reading the standards." — State Board of Education member Ken Mercer on the controversial changes to Texas curriculum in a Q&A with the Houston Chronicle


Forced to Fight — A joint effort between the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw and the Houston Chronicle's Terri Langford. Read more about the partnership — and the future of such collaborative efforts — here.

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State government Bill White Budget David Dewhurst Griffin Perry Joe Straus Ken Mercer Republican Party Of Texas Rick Perry State agencies State Board of Education Texas Legislature