Obama, Perry don’t meet here
Democratic President Barack Obama came to Texas May 10 -- partly to raise a million-plus bucks in Austin, and partly to make a speech at El Paso’s border with Mexico about border security.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s office says he’s too busy to accept the President’s invitation to meet him in El Paso.
The White House says Obama is scheduled too tightly in Austin to accept Perry’s invitation to fly over some of the 2.2 million acres of Texas that have been charred by wildfires. So he’s wheels up after just four hours on the ground that included speeches to a $1,000-a-head crowd ($44 for students) and a private dinner with a much higher price tag.
It was probably OK with both men that their paths didn’t cross. Perry has made almost a religion of blasting everything Obama does and doesn’t do. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed by Obama that, although Perry blasted the federal stimulus money, he took almost all of the cash authorized for Texas to balance the state’s budget in 2009.
Last August, when Obama made an Austin-Dallas swing to raise money for Democratic candidates in the mid-term election, Perry met him at the airport, and they shook hands. But Obama side-stepped before Perry could remove from his pocket a letter he’d hoped to hand-deliver to Obama (photo-op?), asking for more federal help with border security. Perry handed it to an Obama aide.
Speaking of Perry, the federal government and the Texas budget, help figure this out:
The governor says he won’t sign a budget for the next two years that takes more money from the Rainy Day Fund, which is expected to have more than $10 billion over that period. That’s despite a House appropriations bill that envisions cutting school spending by $6.5 billion.
Perry says the state needs to preserve the fund for things like natural disasters, such as hurricanes Ike and Rita. (That didn’t stop him from using it in the past for things including to help fund his pet Texas Enterprise Fund.)
So now, Perry contends the wildfire damage he wanted the President to observe from the air should allow Texas to be declared a disaster area.
The Obama White House hasn’t done so thus far. But, as a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the governor’s request doesn’t have to go to the President or the White House. The state can get fire management assistance grants from a regional office.
And guess what? It already does.
FEMA’s director of public affairs, Rachel Racusen, told the Star-Telegram’s Bob Ray Sanders that the administration “has been working closely with the state throughout the duration of these fires, and we are supporting the state’s firefighting efforts.”
The agency has, in fact, approved 26 fire management assistance grants, Racusen said. “Each of these grants covers 75 percent of the costs to fight the fire and many of the same emergency response needs that Gov. Perry was seeking assistance for.”
And if some additional money is needed to deal with the fire disaster, there’s always the Rainy Day Fund – especially since the governor doesn’t plan to use it for schools and nursing homes.
Speaking of schools, state legislators usually get a report on how much state aid the school districts they represent will get. Usually, some school districts do better than others.
But this year under the House appropriations bill, all legislators see state support for their school districts cut. Instead of winners and losers, everyone’s a loser.
That’s starting to sink in with some Republicans, who passed a budget bill that would cut state spending for public schools by $6.5 billion over two years beginning Sept. 1.
Freshman state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, one of the almost two dozen Republicans added to the House after the 2010 elections, and who voted for that appropriations bill, told Austin American-Statesman reporter Kate Alexander he can’t support the school finance cuts.
That’s because that bill presumes state aid to the Austin Independent School District will be cut $192 million over the biennium.
The Texas Senate’s appropriations bill is less severe – cutting just $4 billion.
An increasing number of folks around the capitol suspect some of these machetewielding budget-cutters may get home to find school board members, and former superintendents and principals, and teachers who lost their jobs due to the cuts, lining up to run against them next year.
A legislator-turned-lobbyist said some of these budget-cutters, who plan to return home and enjoy the “man cave” they created after their kids left home, may have to move over to make room for their mother-in-law or great aunt, who’s being thrown out of her nursing home.
Contact McNeely at email@example.com or (512) 458- 2963.