State builds up its bank, lectures locals

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Funds are there, but stingy ways guide some lawmakers

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There is a difference between conservative and miserly.

Our state legislature, conservative by nature and by its representation, is conservative. But some of the capitol’s inhabitants are acting miserly, while they lecture local governments about their own spending.

The state’s “Rainy Day Fund” currently holds more than $10 billion. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar predicted that, left untouched, it would reach $12 billion by the end of this biennium.

Even with that bank account, some legislative leaders, in seeking to justify their cuts to public education spending, have criticized school districts for carrying a fund balance that will cover several months of expenses should anything catastrophic happen. (Even financial guru Dave Ramsey tells families to keep that much in savings in case of job loss.)

So it is hypocritical for the state to continue to rathole that much money while they tell higher education, mental hospitals, nursing homes and children’s advocacy groups there isn’t enough to go around. And they do this even as they push for more tax cuts.

Our legislators also continue to decrease their share of funding for public schools. The Texas Tribune notes that, on a per-student basis, local spending rose $990 over the past 10 years, federal spending rose $45, yet state spending fell $339.

State leaders like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick then add insult to injury by insisting that local school districts are spending too much. They then grouse and work to put clamps on local school districts when these have to raise property taxes to cover expenses.

House Speaker Joe Straus said the rainy day fund’s balance could fall as low as $5 billion without affecting the state’s credit rating.

We certainly are not advocating for use of the fund to cover ongoing expenses. But there are even simple maintenance expenses that the state ignores.

State business should not be run like a for-profit business, and the idea is not to build up its bank account. We urge legislators to stop lecturing local governments and put their own house in order.