Saturday, November 13, 2010

Token Cuts in State Spending: Let the Games Begin

Imagine my surprise today when I saw this headline at the Austin American-Statesman’s Postcards web page:

Holy smokes, I said to no one, these guys are getting serious. Imagine proposing cuts to an already meager existence: the payroll of Texas’ Citizen Legislators. I mean, the level of state compensation of its 181 legislators is miserable. They could do better if they got minimum wage.

But there it was.

So I opened the article and in so doing, re-entered reality.

Two Republicans are proposing a 10% cut in the per diem, from $168 per day to $150. The per diem, if you didn’t already know, is most of what a state rep or state senator makes. He or she gets that amount every day that the legislature is in session.

That is, they get that amount for 140 days every two years.

What is the bottom line then? How much does State Rep Charlie Geren and State Senator Kevin Eltife propose to slash from the budget that is thought to be in arrears to the tune of between $18 and $23 billion? Well that’s $18 times 140 days times 181 legislators. That’s $456,120.


Who are these jokers trying to kid? $456,120? That, in comparison to the looming budget deficit of a possible $23 billion, amounts to chump change. That’s such a small fraction of the impending debt that my calculator reports it in scientific notation.

That’s 1.9831304347826086956521739130435e-5 of the deficit.

Or if that’s confusing, that’s 0.00198 % of the deficit.

Heck that isn’t even chump change. That’s token chump change.

Tokenism has arrived in Austin. We are about to witness the broadest slashes in Education and Health and Human Services ever, but before we see that, we are going to witness Republicans, who have super majorities in both houses now, play the roles of sacrificial lambs.

The reality is this. Starting in January 2011 the Republican-dominated legislature will do whatever they want to do to the Education budget, to Medicaid, to SCHIP and all of that, and they will have a Republican governor to sign off on it.

So get ready, this is going to be bloody. They signaled the reality of this in that announcement. When Republicans say things like “If we're going to be asking state agencies to cut their budgets by 10 percent, then we should do the same,” you know there is trouble on the horizon.

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