EYES ON TEXAS
John Fund has a suggestion for Gov. Schwarzenegger in fighting the deficit mess he’s signed up for:
If he has to look for models in successful governance, the Terminator could do worse than Texas. Governor Rick Perry, a Republican who succeeded George W. Bush in the governor’s office in 2001, has just wrestled a $10 billion budget deficit to the ground.
“I got a helluva New Year’s present–a deficit that was 16% of my total budget,” he told a group of conservatives in Washington last week. “I quickly decided be weren’t going to hurt the state’s people or economy by raising taxes.”
That’s been Arnold’s line too, and Gov. Perry has proved that it’s possible to mean it. He required every agency to state its budget needs starting from zero. They weren’t allowed to start by saying how much more they needed than in the previous year. This zero-based budgeting approach insured that no program escaped scrutiny and oversight.
His cost-saving efforts pared a billion dollars of the state’s health care agency by consolidating its bureaucracy. He performed the same surgery on the state’s sprawling education bureaucracy. Every other agency was required to cut its budget by 13% for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“Those who say you can’t balance a budget without raising taxes are just interested in the taxes,” he says.
Critics point out that Governor Perry had the advantage of a friendly Republican legislature, the first in Texas since 1868. But he notes that he took some of his most important reforms to the people, just as Governor-elect Schwarzenegger has said he’d be willing to do.