Pardon the distraction, what with all of the newspaper headlines of state budget oxes being gouged, slashed and otherwise gored in everyone's backyard other than mine, but Rep. Richard Peña Raymond was prescient.
Back in December, Raymond, D-Laredo, said he was going to ask the Legislature to call for an amendment to the state Constitution requiring that any form of revenue generation for the state be called a tax. A month later the green eyeshade crowd at the state Legislative Budget Board produced a preliminary budget that calls for $13.7 billion in cuts in all sorts of programs for the coming two years but also an increase of $131 million in fees, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Let's not kid ourselves. If the panic peddlers are correct and there is a $27 billion budget shortfall, these fee increases represent less than .5 percent of that. But as Raymond said, just because you call something a fee or a surcharge doesn't mean it isn't wrung out of the wallets of taxpayers.
And Raymond couldn't be more right just now with the inevitable backlash building in anticipation of the voting of a new conservative Republican super-majority in the Texas House that has made government spending its bright and shining issue. Raising anything (insert preferred euphemism here) right now might not be good for business.
It is hard to imagine that this is the same news establishment that less than two weeks ago flooded the country with stories blaming inflamed, violent rhetoric for Jared Loughner's Tucson rampage. Here in Texas, it's like standing in the middle of Goya's "The Second of May 1808" with all of the images of flesh being yanked out and filleted.
The Legislative Budget Board would call their work a fiscal document and others might suggest it is a moral document. But as Raymond knows, a state budget is, above all, a political document. What it will look like by the end of May even Goya couldn't imagine.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or email@example.com.
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Photo of sign by flickr user TheTruthAbout, used via a Creative Commons license.