Perry Pitches the California Model

Dave Mann

Gov. Rick Perry has made a habit of mocking California. In speeches, he loves to boast that workers and companies are bolting the Golden State for the Lone Star State. His press office rarely lets a month pass without hyping a media report that praises Texas and kicks dirt on California. Perry’s Web site currently touts a story from the October issue of Trends Magazine that reads, “California is $26 billion in the hole and has recently been paying its bills with IOUs. Its once-proud schools are suffering and the prison system is releasing criminals early because the state can’t afford to keep them.”

California’s budget is a mess, no doubt. So why is Perry pitching the same budget policies that have gotten California in so much trouble?

In early January, the governor proposed that Texas float a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise any taxes. He termed it a “taxpayers’ bill of rights.”

In 1978, when Reagan-style Republicans held sway, California instituted the same two-thirds rule—along with a cap on property taxes, which Perry has also called for in Texas. The result has been disastrous. California’s budget is consistently starved of funds, and its lawmakers can almost never muster the two-thirds vote necessary to raise taxes.

Perry might want to study the recent history of California a little more closely.

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Dave Mann is a former editor of the Observer.