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Calling on God to bring some rain to Texas

COMMENTARY | April 29, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed Easter weekend as Days of Prayer for Rain to help put out massive wildfires in many areas of the state. Some in the state prayed the governor would stop posturing for the Tea Party and do things within his own power for schools and nursing homes that face disastrous budget cuts.

By Dave McNeely

Gov. Rick Perry asked Texans to pray over Easter weekend for rain to combat massive wildfires that are threatening many areas of the state.

Meanwhile, Texas school kids and teachers and seniors were praying that Perry will realize schools and nursing homes are also being threatened, by disastrous budget cuts. They want the governor to put public schools above political posturing to the Tea Party, and quit opposing use of the state's Rainy Day Fund to reduce the damage.

From his press office, here's Perry's April 21 Call to Prayer:

Austin -- Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed the three-day period from Friday, April 22, to Sunday, April 24, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas, following extreme drought conditions that have sparked dangerous wildfires across the state, which have taken lives, engulfed more than 1.8 million acres and destroyed nearly 400 homes.

"Throughout our history, both as a state and as individuals, Texans have been strengthened, assured and lifted up through prayer," Gov. Perry said.

"It is fitting that Texans should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this ongoing drought and these devastating wildfires, and for the safety of the brave firefighters and emergency management officials who have worked tirelessly to protects lives and property around the state."

Gov. Perry urges Texans of all faiths and religious traditions to offer prayer for the healing of the land, rebuilding of communities and the restoration of our normal and robust way of life in Texas.

Also on April 21, the Texas Senate Finance Committee voted 11-4 to send its version of the appropriations bill to the full Senate. It calls for putting $12 billion more back into the budget than the Tea Party-driven slash-and-burn House version.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, was blunt in comparing the Senate and House bills.

"I think our budget saves public education," Ogden said. "I think their budget wrecks it."

Ogden also points to the hole the governor and legislators dug in 2006. That's when they created, with the help of a committee headed by former Democratic Comptroller John Sharp, a local school property tax cut, to be replaced by a new business margins tax. But the business tax actually brings in a few billion dollars less a year than the taxes that were cut.

"Our system is out of balance, and we've got a significant structural deficit," Ogden said.

In an April 21 statement headlined "The Bad-News Budget," state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said the gap was predictable – or should have been, if the state's financial dealings were more open. Watson's trying to make that happen. Ogden says the governor and legislators need to use $3 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund to come closer to making ends meet. He says oil and gas taxes that replenish the fund should bring it to around $12 billion, compared to the $9.4 billion predicted by Republican Comptroller Susan Combs.?

Even then, the Senate's version of the budget cuts school spending by almost 6 percent. Sen. Watson praised Ogden for work under very difficult circumstances, and for his call to repair the structural budget deficit.

But, Watson said, let's be honest, the budget proposal "strips billions of dollars from schools, universities, and millions of Texans who don't have as much political power in the Capitol as they should.

"But even more than that, it just throws a rug over the cracked foundation of the state's finances. It doesn't shore up the structural problems that have become an open secret at the Capitol. . . there's no significant reform to be found in this proposal.

"Yet somehow, in the bizarro world of Texas politics, those in control of the Senate are talking about their budget like it's some kind of victory...

"For weeks, politicians and pundits have focused on a genuinely horrendous plan approved by the Texas House of Representatives to hack away at schools, nursing homes and so many other priorities that Texans hold dear – even knowing that such a devastating proposal would never be approved by the Senate.

"So compared to that gore-fest, the milder horror show of the Senate budget must look pretty good, right?

"But compared to anything else – Texans' priorities, Texas' history, even the status quo – the Senate plan that's now on the table remains unworthy of this state and its people. . . .

"Lost teaching jobs, more crowded classrooms, closing schools, deteriorating support for students ... These are the results of the Senate spending plan. . . .

"This is what you face . . . when those responsible for it avoid accountability for fixing it."

There was scant evidence of divine response to prayers for rain in Texas, with scattered thunderstorms in Central West Texas and Dallas/Fort Worth. In Travis County, where the Capitol is located in Austin, the month of April will close with less than half an inch of rain, making it the driest April in 156 years.


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