A recent study by the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities found that at least 41 states have recently faced, or are facing, budget deficits. Today 13 states are staring at budget shortfalls in excess of $1 billion in fiscal year 2009, with California ($31 billion) and New York ($6.4 billion) leading the pack. Moody's recently reported that 30 states are in recession, and 19 more are at risk.Ah, maybe this is why Texas Governor Rick Perry wrote an op-ed against state bailouts from the Federal Government. Why should my tax dollars go to bailout other irresponsible states?
Texas is currently the envy of the nation with an $11 billion budget surplus. How did the state do it? For starters, the Texas Constitution gives the state Comptroller of Public Accounts (a chief fiscal officer, of sorts) the responsibility to certify the state's budget and send back any spending bills that the state can't afford. It's an elected position and the current comptroller, Susan Combs, launched a "Where the Money Goes" website to boost transparency and show taxpayers where their money is going. Having a third-party enforce prudent fiscal forecasting and spending helps to avoid the situation so many states now face—governors and legislators gravitate to the rosiest of revenue projections to help justify new spending, and then when the mythical money doesn't materialize, the state faces a budget "crisis."
Texas also engages in performance-based budgeting—tying a given programs' funding to its effectiveness at meeting clear performance targets. A Sunset Advisory Commission conducts mandatory periodic reviews of all state agencies to find duplicative or unnecessary programs that must be cut. Since the Sunset Commission was created in 1977, over 47 governmental agencies have been eliminated and another 11 have been consolidated.
Guess who's likely to get my third consecutive unapologetic vote for Governor in 2010?