Patricia Kilday Hart tried to spin the Howard amendment debate in Monday’s Houston Chronicle. She either doesn’t understand the RDF and the Howard amendment or she intentionally misled.
Hart said the Howard amendment would only divert new money from the RDF to school districts if our economy outperforms Comptroller Combs’s estimate, suggesting we’d patiently wait to see how our economy performs before spending new money. This is not how the Howard amendment works.
The Howard amendment schedules Comptroller Combs to reassess the RDF estimate on August 1, 2011 and again exactly one year later. If her revenue estimates increase, the Howard amendment immidiately spends the increase on education to fund growth (estimated at $2.2 billion for the biennium). But comparing a revenue estimate and an RDF estimate is like comparing apples and oranges.
With a revenue estimate, there are so many inputs – literally every enterprise in Texas – that the Comptroller can afford to be off on individual estimates – even way off. She’ll overestimate some sectors, underestimate others, and it can still basically balance out. This extreme input diversity is why revenue estimates are usable.
The RDF is the opposite of diverse. It is based on a single revenue input, oil and gas, which is the most volitile input in the entire Texas economy. Oil and gas prices are extremely hard to predict, and the RDF estimate is based totally on them.
For this reason, it isn’t responsible to spend a revised RDF estimate before the money comes in.
Further, we need every RDF dollar we get for the coming fiscal onslaught of ObamaCare. As Rep. Larry Gonzales has pointed out, ObamaCare will force us to spend our entire RDF and it still won’t be enough.
As much as some would like to wish the problem away, we need to start digging out of the coming ObamCare hole now, in case Obama is re-elected or the Congress can’t repeal it. Texans work with reality, not fantasy. We can handle preparing for a coming disaster in our state politics while fighting it off in our federal politics.
Unfortunately, Rep. Gonzales has voted for and defended the Howard amendment. He’s said that since ObamaCare will give us huge bills that will spend all our savings causing us to raise new revenues, we should deplete our savings first. Consider it a compliment if that doesn’t make any sense to you.
Gonzales’s is a weak dodge for having voted with the Democrat caucus, hiding it, and getting caught. The truth is, raiding the RDF before the ObamaCare bills arrive will make our problem worse, putting education in worse shape. Like the Democrats he voted with on the Howard amendment, Gonzales favors a one time education splurge over long term education sustainability. This is the Texas version of Ryan plan opposition – opposition to the only plan to save medicare in favor of high spending levels that will destroy it. This is shallow politics.
ObamaCare uncertainty has entrepreneurs and businessmen on the sidelines through the Presidential election. The economy may get much worse. We can no longer pretend we have enough money to maintain services or that government services are efficient. If we can’t scale back and create the pressure that produces efficiency this session, we never will. And if Texas can’t scale back, nobody can.
Patricia Kilday Hart and the mainstream Texas press are doing what they can to ward off fiscal responsibility.