AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Long before the public outcry over proposed cuts to public schools, there was one state leader who correctly predicted the current budget storm, former state comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.
On the eve of the budget vote in the Texas House, she spoke about her concerns.
Even before her unsuccessful bid for Governor in 2006, Carole Keeton Strayhorn talked tough about the state budget. She warned against Governor Rick Perry’s plan to cut property taxes, and create the state’s business margins tax. She said from the beginning, there was no way it would raise enough money for schools.
“The simple fact is that the schools have to be paid for, and that cost goes on,” she said in April of 2006.
Five years later, she says “Regrettably, I was right.”
She predicted Texas would soon have a $23 billion shortfall. Now, Some experts say the state is staring at a shortfall as high as $27 billion when you account for all those who’ve moved to the state.
“It was to increase spending for education,” she says, referring to the Governor’s plan. But she says it hasn’t – leaving a built in shortfall for public schools about five billion dollars each year.
Strayhorn remembers advising lawmakers. “It was structurally flawed, and they’d be writing the largest hot check in Texas history.”
So how would Strayhorn solve the budget problems if she was still here at the Capitol? She says long term, lawmakers have to fix the business tax, but short-term there are things that lawmakers can do. They include tapping the rainy day fund for the next two years, using lottery income, roughly one billion dollars as additional money for schools, and expand racetracks.
She says the racetracks alone could eventually add $1Billion. “We’ve been more than ready for video lottery terminals at racetracks.”
Now 71, Strayhorn may be out of office, but she’s not completely out of politics. These days she’s fighting to improve the state’s foster care system. “This is one tough grandma for these kids.”
The Texas House of Representatives is set to take up a vote on a state budget tomorrow, calling for deep cuts to education and social services.