By Scott Chase
As a small business owner, I am worried our Legislature is going to make unnecessary and deep cuts to public services that local businesses and all Texans need. Yes, our state has a revenue shortfall, but we also have choices about how deal with the shortfall. We can take a balanced approach that uses our Rainy Day Fund.
My fellow business owners in the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce are concerned about unnecessary cuts too. Our chamber includes over 600 small business owners in the Dallas area. We were the first local chamber in Texas to call for the State Legislature to use the Rainy Day Fund to help balance the budget instead of the irresponsible “cuts-only” approach that the Legislature is considering.
The cuts-only approach of the Legislature is wrong for many reasons. All businesses, but particularly small businesses, such as the members of the Oak Cliff Chamber, know that spending on education, health care, roads and bridges, job training and the environment is an investment in the economic future of Texas. This investment will result in a more educated, healthier workforce and a modernized infrastructure. The large cuts in these areas being presented by reckless legislators will lead to a less competitive business climate in Texas, lower wage jobs and economic stagnation.
The cuts will affect our economy, not just in the future, but also right away. According to official legislative estimates, the cuts-only approach will also lead to over 300,000 fewer jobs, pushing unemployment up over 10 percent in Texas by 2013. Deep cuts to health care at the state level will mean increased costs of indigent health care for local taxpayers and higher health insurance rates -- both costing businesses.
But beyond the impact on our economy, the cuts-only strategy will have a detrimental impact on our society. Cuts in health care mean less healthy children; cuts in education mean fewer college graduates; cuts in transportation infrastructure mean longer commutes for workers and increased costs to move goods for businesses; and cuts in environmental monitoring mean dirtier air and water. That should not be the future of Texas either.
In the past, when Texas faced budget deficits, our state recognized that a balanced approach was necessary to keep the state moving forward. The Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker, and Legislators all worked together to find a solution that was in the best interest of all Texans. But, in the current Legislature, our future economic development and the health of all Texans is threatened by the imprudent cuts that do not have to be made.
Using our $9.4 billion Rainy Day Fund is one way to minimize damaging cuts. Texans created the fund by constitutional amendment for the very situation our state is in now -- a revenue shortfall created by an economic downturn. In the first 18 of its 22 years, the fund never had a balance of more than $1 billion. In fact, the Legislature has spent the entire fund several times, including two times approved by Governor Perry. This is safe to do because the fund automatically replenishes from oil and gas severance taxes. Prices for oil and gas are likely to stay strong, rebuilding the fund quickly. Keeping billions in the Rainy Day Fund when we need to protect Texas from the damage of this recession is foolish.
The Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce has gone on record asking our state Legislature to use the Rainy Day Fund as part of the balanced approach to solving our revenue crisis. Has your chamber of commerce gone on record in support of a balanced approach?
Chase owns his own solo law practice in Dallas and has represented small business owners, as well as public companies, in Texas for over 30 years. He is chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and has served on the Legislative Affairs Committee of Texans for State Parks.
Copyright (C) 2011 by the Texas Lone Star Forum. 4/11