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Comptroller's Desk

Tightening Our Belt

I'm going to tell it like it is. If Texas lawmakers don't make the tough choices of tightening up our state's budget, Texas taxpayers face a $9.9 billion shortfall in the upcoming biennium.

Two years ago, I warned that while the Legislature had technically balanced the budget, they had done so in such a way that we would inevitably be facing a shortfall of $5.1 billion when the 78th Legislature convened. The spendthrift decisions by the last Legislature to blow the $3 billion surplus, stacked upon the passage of unfounded obligations, have now collided with an anemic economy.

Since my original projection, our economy has suffered an economic triple play: the aftereffects of September 11 and the continued threat of war and terrorism, the bursting of the dot-com bubble and the drag on business investment ignited by the Enron and WorldCom financial scandals.

Many will use this news to issue a call for higher taxes. Some will say this means we need a state income tax. I say either of these ideas will only dig a deeper hole for Texas taxpayers, and I will fight against them both each and every day throughout this legislative session and for as long as I hold public office.

We will learn from this budgetary challenge. The Legislature must make a commitment to the people of Texas that they will never again spend every last dime of taxpayer money, nor establish program after program, while leaving an IOU for the next generation.

In January, I proposed $3.65 billion in revenue savings and efficiencies in my e-Texas report, Limited Government, Unlimited Opportunity. I have offered 64 separate proposals and 179 individual recommendations addressing general government, health and human services and education. These proposals will improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of state government while producing $1.7 billion in additional general revenue over the next biennium, without raising taxes.

I will not abdicate my responsibility to the people of Texas. I will continue to search for additional savings. I will monitor economic indicators and revise the revenue estimate as needed. And I will continue to tell it like it is! To paraphrase the country western song, I'm going to see to it that Texas doesn't have "too much month at the end of the money."

Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Texas Comptroller