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Editorial: Funds mess demands action by next governor, Legislature

By Longview News-Journal
Oct. 1, 2014 at 11 p.m.


Texans are right to be frustrated by the mess uncovered by recent audits of economic development funds overseen by Gov. Rick Perry.

But they shouldn't be surprised.

The shoddy record-keeping and potential misuse of taxpayer dollars that have been found are the sorts of trouble that follow when oversight is lacking on public expenditures at any level of government. And that was certainly the case here.

The latest revelations, from a bipartisan <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/state/audit-finds-issues-with-state-fund/article_a6ddd676-3af5-5f12-a654-f7c09f224161.html" target="_blank">audit</a> of the Texas Enterprise Fund, were that instead of distributing economic development dollars on the merit of a project's ability to create jobs or increase the tax base, the fund was used by Perry in some cases to reward friends and campaign donors.

Even more frustrating is that the audit found Attorney General Greg Abbott, the GOP nominee to succeed Perry as governor, had a hand in the situation. The audit showed his office <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/state/abbott-comes-under-fire-for-fund/article_e6605d59-79c3-5631-9603-9eabfd86048d.html" target="_blank">helped</a> Perry keep transactions secret - and he received campaign donations from some who benefited.

Overall, it was revealed that about a third of the money distributed since the fund began in 2004 went to companies that never even submitted applications. Think about that for a moment: $222 million of your money was handed over to entities that never submitted a formal application. And Perry's claims of job creation couldn't be verified because records of where taxpayer dollars were going, and for what end, weren't being kept.

Unfortunately, those who have been paying attention <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-texas-miracle-is-that-taxpayers-let-perry-play-venture/article_466ee233-38bd-5437-85cf-4c58a56ed5cb.html" target="_blank">aren't surprised</a> by the latest revelations. An earlier <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/state/review-finds-perry-s-startup-fund-not-all-it-seems/article_f172909d-21ab-5990-bb33-4f47c5273fbd.html" target="_blank">review</a> by The Associated Press of another of Perry's economic development projects, the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, found similar problems.

Texans deserve better. Politicians should never be allowed to hide information on how taxpayer dollars are being spent whether it's for economic development, travel, security or some other purpose. The public has a right to know what politicians are doing with their dollars, in their names.

Unfortunately, over Perry's long tenure as governor he's been able to set up a lot of situations to work to his own advantage or that of his friends and allies. Have some of those situations been good for Texas? Undoubtedly. Will we ever know all who may have profited? Doubtful.

The new governor and Legislature elected in November should make sure this is the last time such shenanigans are allowed. These economic development funds, if they're allowed to stay in place, must be open to public scrutiny and subject to regular audits by a third party. These are basics of good government.

It is very hard for any elected official or bureaucrat to hide ill deeds when those deeds are being exposed to the curative rays of sunlight.

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