Texas Gov. Rick Perry and House leaders agreed this week to use $3.2 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) to close a $4.5 billion shortfall. The agreement also calls for $800 million in agency cuts in the current budget which ends with the 2011 fiscal year. This will fall far short of a more massive budget shortfall for the next biennium that may range between $15 billion and $27 billion.
There is gloating about this in economically-ravaged California, a state that Gov. Perry has needled with boasts of “hunting trips” to poach golden State businesses. The 2012-2013 budget being considered by Texas lawmakers could mean massive cuts and layoffs for tens of thousands of teachers, closure of community colleges, and a severe reduction in state services for the poor and those with mental health problems. “Someone just turned the lights on in the bar, and the sexiest state doesn't look so pretty anymore," said California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who, The Los Angeles Times reported, made his comment “with evident satisfaction.”
But this here’s Texas, a state that, thanks in large part to its recession-proof energy industries, has weathered the economic downturn better than most and whose economy is “ far and away one of the strongest in the nation,” offered John Quintero with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan research institute.
Texas, which has no personal income tax, is one of five states with the fastest growth rate, according to 2010 Census data, and was the big winner in the apportionment sweepstakes with a gain of four seats in the House of Representatives. According to figures recently released by the state Comptroller, Texas increased its gross state product by 3.4% in 2010 (the nation increased its gross domestic product by 3.4%. The Texas unemployment rate has been at or below the national rate for 48 consecutive months.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, four Texas cities—Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio—were among the top 15 U.S. cities leading the global recovery from the recession as cited in the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, which ranked Austin as the No. 1 U.S. city and No. 26 of the surveyed 150 cities around the world.
It is characteristic of the region that consumer confidence index increased from 74.4 in January 2011 to 84.9 in February 2011, and is now up 14 percent from its level one year ago.