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New Texas Laws Take Effect Today

September 1, 2011

WACO, Texas - Today marks implementation of most new laws passed by the 82nd Texas Legislature - a session famous for wrestling with a $27 billion budget shortfall. While Gov. Rick Perry and Republicans who dominated the House and Senate claim success in balancing the budget without raising revenues, Democrats predict many Texans will be dissatisfied with the results.

Former state Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, who headed the House Democratic Caucus and is now a senior fellow with the Texas First Foundation, says families not only will feel the squeeze from sweeping cuts to education, health care, nursing homes, and other necessities, but also will soon realize that the budget was never truly balanced...

"We were always a pay-as-you-go state, and this new Republican majority is basically a borrow-and-spend government. They get to claim they balanced the budget, but if you take the math to any third-grader they'll realize it's just borrowing from their future."

The Legislature "passed the buck," Dunnam says, by relying on "clever bookkeeping," such as accelerating future tax collections, deferring payments to school districts until the next biennium, and underestimating growth in Medicare and student populations.

"They basically said 'we're going to ignore the facts as we know them' - and when the Legislature convenes again in 2013, there's going to be some real problems with the budget. They will have used all the accounting tricks that they can - and it'll be time to pay the piper."

Focus was diverted from the budget crisis by social issues such as abortion, family planning and immigration, Dunnam says. Perry set that stage in January by elevating several measures to "emergency" status, including a voter photo ID bill, a pre-abortion sonogram requirement and a ban on so-called "sanctuary cities." The sanctuary-cities bill failed to pass and the sonogram legislation was blocked this week by a federal judge.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX