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In my state of Texas, things tend to be bigger – bigger hats, bigger money… and bigger thievery by political con men.
Last year, the gang of GOP hucksters who control our state government pulled off a huge heist, covering it up with an equally huge boast: “We balanced our budget. Not by raising taxes but by cutting government spending,” bragged the gang leader, Gov. Rick “Oops” Perry. How’d they fill the $27 billion shortfall that they themselves had created by their previous budgetary mismanagement? By stealing money from already-poorly-funded programs – from education to parks – that ordinary Texans count on.
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People here are justly proud of their 94 parks, but many are now understaffed, open fewer hours, and in disrepair because the Perryites whacked the system’s budget by 21.5 percent. But that was only part of the robbery. A state sales tax on sporting goods, dedicated by law to help finance the people’s parks, will generate about $236 million this year and next. But the governor and his legislative henchmen also raided this pile of revenue, filching two-thirds of it for the state’s general fund so they could claim that they “balanced our budget [without] raising taxes.”
To replenish some of the money taken by The Perry Gang, the Great State of Texas is now engaged in a shocking spectacle: public begging. In a video played at 11 December press conferences in state parks across Texas, the chief of our parks department is reduced to shaking a tin cup, pleading for $4.6 million in donations. “Please act now to help keep our state parks open for all Texans to enjoy,” he beseeches.
Right-wing politicians across our country howl that they want to shrink government – but they are the shrunken ones, and the narrowness of their vision is diminishing what it means to be American.
“State park finding,” Austin American Statesman, November 7, 2011.
“Funding for parks,” Austin American Statesman, December 14, 2011.
“Texas’ new budgeting innovation: begging,” Austin American Statesman, December 9, 2011.
“Donations to parks fill in funding gaps,” Austin American Statesman, December 9, 2011.
“Parks and Wildlife asking public for $4.6 million amid budget woes,” Austin American Statesman, December 8. 2011.
“Texans pay billions in special fees and taxes for worth while programs. Why does the money go elsewhere?” www.texasobserver.org, May 4, 2011.
“Rick Perry’s budget sleight-of-hand,” www.washingtonpost.com, August 15, 2011.