As the 2012 nomination process gears up for the primary season, the already crowded GOP field is making way for yet another contender – Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry enthusiasts are quick to highlight Perry’s fiscal record in Texas as the basis for their support, stating Perry reduced government spending in Texas. He balanced the budget without tax increases while leaving $6 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, they say. We are also told that under Perry Texas has created more jobs than any other state. While Perry supporters have managed to generate some buzz for his candidacy largely by touting Perry’s economic credentials there is, however, a growing concern that Perry’s record might not hold up under the full scrutiny of a national campaign.
To begin with, there is the matter of Perry’s supposed budgetary prowess. While the Perry camp claims to have overcome a $27 billion shortfall while leaving a $6 billion balance in Texas’ Rainy Day Fund, the truth is most of that $6 billion will be used in Texas’ next budget biennium. Why? Because the current Texas budget underfunded Medicaid by nearly $5 billion. In addition, Texas’ debt has doubled under Perry, up 11% in the last year alone. But the real kicker – when adjusted for inflation and population growth, spending under Perry rose more on average that it did under George W. Bush. And while Perry claims he hasn’t raised taxes, he in fact raised taxes on cigarettes, diesel equipment and franchises.
In February of 2011, former First Lady Barbara Bush wrote a letter to the Houston Chronicle outlining the state of Texas’ education. Texas ranks 49th in verbal SAT scores, 47th in literacy and 46th in average math SAT scores and 36th in graduation rates. Rick Perry’s response was to cut education funding even further. An amendment to use the Rainy Day Fund surplus that wouldn’t touch the current balance of $6 billion failed due to lack of support from Perry. This is unlikely to improve Texas’ educational standings, harming Texas’ future workforce.
As for Perry’s record on jobs – it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, jobs grew at the same rate in Texas under Ann Richards as they did for Perry. Texas jobs actually grew at a faster rate under George W. Bush! Perry claims Texas is the best state for business, but Bloomberg recently ranked it 6th for most friendly for employment – behind Massachusetts. Bloomberg noted only two states had more jobs in 2010 than they did two years previously – Alaska and North Dakota. The truth is, Texas has weathered the recession better than other states not because of any particular policy of Perry’s but because of long standing policy in Texas such as no state income tax.
Most importantly, multiple polls show President Obama not only beating Governor Perry, but trouncing him. When the MSM starts trotting out these same statistics and America learns Governor Perry pales in comparison to George W. Bush, Obama’s gap will widen even further. Surely the GOP can do better.