Taylor Daily Press
Tuesday, January 8, 2013 1:00 am
Gonzales Ready for Round Two
Larry Gonzales begins his second legislative session today as the House Representative for District 52 and he believes there are signs of more budget flexibility this time around.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature was focused on cutting expenses and – under mandate from Governor Rick Perry – staying out of the Rainy Day Fund.
Today, that fund stands at close to $8.1 billion according to State Comptroller Susan Combs and is expected to reach $11.8 billion by the end of the next biennium. In addition, projected general revenues are expected to be up $15 billion over the last biennium’s estimates.
Gonzales believes the increased revenues will help prevent the state from making huge cuts in education and across state agencies as it did in the last session.
“The good news is we have more money. The Rainy Day Fund has almost reached its constitutional cap and that is the good side,” Gonzales said. “Because we do have more this time I think you will see the state treading water on a lot of things.”
Despite many different issues drawing lots of attention and making headlines, Gonzales is quick to remind people that the Legislature really has only one thing it must do each session.
“The only thing we have to do, the only thing we are tasked to do every two years is pass a budget. It was a big deal last session, it will be a big deal this session,” he said.
The across the board cuts during the last session, as well as instructions from the governor’s office that state agencies submit reduced budgets for this biennium, are things Gonzales hopes the legislature can get away from as it takes on the new budget.
“I don’t believe you look at the state budget and say 20 percent across the board,” he said. “It is a horrible way to do business and it doesn’t leave you the economic infrastructure to go forward and be strong.
“There are some things in this state that should be cut zero, that need to be done that we do well. There are some things that probably could be cut 80 percent. To me it is lazy to say ‘move the decimal over and everybody cut.’ That’s not a good way to do business.”
While there is more money available this time around, Gonzales said there are still many future obligations and needs that funding is not available for now.
“The state is growing and infrastructure needs are tremendous,” he said, referencing a water plan passed in 1997 that has yet to be funded. That plan will require $35 billion over the next 50 years to pay for water infrastructure.
Water issues have become a key factor in economic development for the state.
“Everything we do economic development wise is going to use water,” Gonzales said. “You can’t build homes and subdivisions and flush the toilet and have nothing happen. You can’t bring commercial businesses here and turn on the sink and nothing comes out.
“We have done very well with that natural resource for a very long time in this state, but we have a problem now. We have less than other people do and the demands on our water supply in Texas with the people that are coming are huge.”
Citing projects like the toll roads in southern Williamson County, Gonzales said one key to paying for growth in infrastructure is not always popular among voters but proves itself every day.
“The answer is a public-private partnership,” he said. “There are people who hate that answer because there are a few high profile public-private partnerships that have gotten in trouble. Yet public-private partnerships are delivered thousands of times a day very successfully.”