Monday, October 04, 2010

Perry and Abbott Waste Taxpayer Money with Frivolous Lawsuit

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times called it today: Rick Perry and his chief counsel, Attorney General Greg Abbott have committed an egregious act as any Texas Republican will likely admit – they have filed a frivolous lawsuit.

But more damning is the fact that they are using taxpayer money to do this.

This is about the $820 million that the federal government has allocated to Texas to augment its education budget. An infusion of cash so that Texas teachers aren’t laid off and Texas students aren't made to sit in overcrowded classrooms.

A tidy sum, this $830 million. A sum that can make a real difference. But Rick Perry and Greg Abbott divined a way to look this $830 million gift horse in the mouth. Have divined a way to make themselves look like crusaders tilting at the federal government while it desperately tries to get Texas to accept this money.

The problem is the Doggett Amendment. Crafted by Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett, this amendment requires the governor of Texas to “guarantee no drop in state education funding for the next three years, as a condition of receiving the $830 million.” This was in reaction to the 2009 shell game that Perry played with the $3.2 billion federal stimulus check that was issued especially for the state’s education fund. Perry simply placed it in the education budget, then reallocated a like amount from Texas revenue to other places.

In short, he used the $3.2 billion, meant to augment Texas education, to balance his budget.

So according to the Doggett Amendment, all they have to do is make a political promise. All they have to do is promise that the state’s education budget will stay at the same level that it is at for three years. But this, they say, they cannot do because the Texas Constitution ties their hands.

“Their primary assertion, however, is that the Doggett Amendment would require Perry to violate the Texas Constitution because the Legislature, not the governor, allocates funds and can do so only two years at a time. The Doggett Amendment requires a three-year guarantee.”
This reading, while true, begs the question: no one asked them to allocate funds, they simply asked for a guarantee. They make guarantees all the time. They even make them and renege on them. That’s politics.

But no.

Perry and Abbott spend taxpayer money to make a political point, and in so doing, deny Texas much needed education funds as the Education Commissioner proposes $260 million in slashes to the education budget.

But it gets even better. It seems that Greg Abbott’s opponent, Barbara Ann Radnofsky had out-lawyered Greg Abbott again. She read further on down in the Texas Constitution and found that what Perry did with the $3.2 billion last year was illegal.

And I thought is was just bad taste.

“His opponent, Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky, setting out to prove that this is just needless political theater, read further into the Constitution and found something that appears to trump Abbott’s legal premise:”

“‘The Legislature shall not have power to ... in any manner divert from its purpose, any special fund that may, or ought to, come into the Treasury; and shall make it penal for any person or persons to borrow, withhold, or in any manner divert from its purpose any special fund, or any part thereof.’”
That $3.2 billion was a “special fund” meant to benefit education. It was diverted. And it is “penal” to do that.

In short, Rick Perry did what any Columbian drug lord does as a standard business practice, he laundered money. But at $3.2 billion, Perry certainly did his money laundering in a grand way.

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