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Editorial: Legislature's 'cuts' already coming home to roost

Dec. 27, 2017 at 4 a.m.

For the past few decades, Texas legislative sessions have gone something like this: Our elected officials storm into Austin saying they will put an end to wasteful spending and cut taxes, thus relieving the suffering taxpayers of their burdens.

At the end of the session, spending has either been cut or, more likely, pushed into another budget year or accounts have been otherwise moved around to make it appear cuts were made — and taxes have been likewise manipulated in an effort to make the results appear significant when they really are not.

Legislators then end the session slapping one another on the back and congratulating themselves on how wonderful they all are.

Then, usually months later, comes the inevitable "hangover" from this political orgy. This is when taxpayers begin to realize the money saved by the Legislature is simply an expense passed along for counties, cities, colleges or school districts to absorb. This means taxes will increase at one of those levels — or local services will be cut.

This is actually the best possible outcome of this biennial grandstanding. At worst, taxpayers find out years down the road the Legislature's actions have cost them more money than necessary because of a failure to deal with a difficult situation in a timely manner.

But we are seeing immediate blowback from this year's session, which took the budget hatchet to higher education in the name of cutting "waste."

Unfortunately, it wasn't waste that got cut. Rather, it was dollars needed to provide students with an education so they will be able to work for our growing industries and otherwise compete in the world when graduation day comes.

The outcome is that now we are seeing tuition rate increases across Texas. Five of the state's six major university systems have signaled tuition hikes and UT Tyler last week announced a 10 percent increase to cover what the Legislature has done.

That rise and those at other universities also probably come with a reduction of services. Can some of those be eliminated without harming education? Probably, and it is always worthwhile to make college administrators think about what is really needed. Budgeting should not be easy, but it should not be a fiscal impossibility, either.

The burden of this legislative session's "relief" now will be passed to college students or, more likely, their parents. It will probably require some of them to get loans they will be paying off for years. Worst of all, a certain number will decide a college education just isn't going to be possible. Their dreams will be deferred.

But the impact reaches further, to our state's industries that already are struggling to find an adequately trained workforce. Having fewer graduates will have a negative impact on Texas economic growth.

College tuition is just the first of the little surprises from this year's Legislature. We undoubtedly will be experiencing more of them as the weeks go by.

It is difficult to put all the blame on legislators for this paradigm. After all, fool us once, shame on you. Fool us 10 times and, well, you know.



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