Gov. Rick Perry shot back Monday at conservative critics who say the state budget is growing too fast, offering the clearest signal yet that he plans to sign the two-year, $197 billion appropriations bill into law.
The governor noted that he is still analyzing the legislation and wouldn’t commit to officially approving it, but he said the Legislature is meeting the challenges of a growing state in a fiscally responsible way.
“I did read some of the criticism, and I’m not sure that those who were making that criticism have a really good handle on the Texas budgeting process,” Perry told reporters. “Frankly I don’t understand their math.”
Perry spoke at a bill-signing ceremony to mark the approval of several education bills. Inspired by the theme of the event, the governor suggested that critics of the two-year spending plan might need some “remedial work.”
The budget plan, which passed a Legislature firmly in the hands of the GOP, has drawn fire from conservative voices in recent days. The director of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, former state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, called the budget “an unwelcome departure from the guiding principles of fiscal responsibility.”
And The Wall Street Journal, in a weekend editorial titled “Texas Goes Sacramento,” called the budget reckless and urged Perry to veto most or all of it — or risk being compared to profligate California and Washington, D.C. Perry has line-item veto authority, so he still has time to pare down the spending before his weekend deadline to sign or reject legislation.
“Now Austin is borrowing from Washington’s playbook as the Lone Star State embarks on its biggest spending spree in memory,” the newspaper said.
Perry said detractors should not be counting the supplemental spending bill as part of the budgetary growth, because that legislation paid for billions of dollars in health care costs that had not been taken care of in the 2011 session.
Several Texas Republicans also defend one-time expenditures from the Rainy Day Fund. Legislators voted to take $4 billion from the account, largely to pay for water infrastructure upgrades and to phase out accounting tricks used in previous budgets.
“This state is growing and we’re growing fast, and we’re putting great pressure on infrastructure, both transportation, water, schools, and we have been meeting that challenge rather well,” Perry said.