This is very important to know - it started at the State. Public education schools - elementary schools, high schools, universities - are being cut everywhere because all Texas public schools get almost all of their money funneled through the State. Property taxes for public education may be collected at the county level, but that money goes to the State and the State distributes it.
So, when the State has budget problems, it directly affects our public schools. Our State has budget problems.
In 2006, the Texas Comptroller predicted a $23 Billion shortfall in 2011.
The current tax plan that we are struggling to operate within today was implemented in 2006. (Hmmm... that explains why Dallas ISD has not gotten a raise in per-student funding from the State since 2006.) The Texas Comptroller at the time, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, predicted today's 2011 budget deficit with shocking accuracy.
See her memo to Governor Perry dated May 15, 2006. So, let's do the math... The $27B Deficit = $4B Recession losses + $23B Broken Funding. So much for blaming the recession. We shot ourselves in the foot. We could have hit the recession with a surplus if we'd fixed the problem when it happened.
Why have we waited until now to deal with it?
Though Ms. Strayhorn said in her memo, "There is no economic miracle that will close the gap your plan creates," there was one. Federal stimulus funds were the unforeseen "economic miracle".
Ms. Strayhorn did not predict the massive Recession coming down the pike in 2008, nor did she predict the Federal stimulus funds the states would be given to help soften the recession's blow. Texas used its Federal stimulus funds just like so many other states did - to plug its budget shortfall. CNN explains that to us here.
Ironically, had Texas not had that structural deficit in its revenue tax structure, Texas might have used those funds to improve infrastructure - say, in education and transportation. Instead, those funds were used to plug the budget shortfall and pay for recurring expenses. "Recurring expenses" are the very kind of expenses Governor Perry said in his State of the State address that he didn't want to use the Rainy Day fund for. Perhaps that idea came from the loss of opportunity to invest the Federal stimulus funds.
For a quick sum-up on what this means to us today, see this Texas Tribune summary article, "Fix State Revenues Now or Pay Later."