California journalists and political leaders recently have begun having fun at the expense of Texas. Why? Because after years of boasting about how much better it manages state finances than California, Texas now faces a state budget deficit roughly the same size as California.
The LA Times, New York Times and Sacramento Bee have all poked a little fun at Texas for this turn of events. And State Treasurer Bill Lockyer seemed to be enjoying Texas' bad news, telling the LA Times: "Someone just turned the lights on in the bar, and the sexiest state doesn't look so pretty anymore."
Lockyer should put a lid on it. If only California had Texas' budget problems.
Texas comes to its budget crisis with one big strength that California lacks: a $9 billion rainy day fund that the state could tap to cover some of its problem. California has rainy day funds on the books, but doesn't have cash in them.
And Texas doesn't have all the constitutional baggage that makes it so difficult for California to deal with its problems. Texas can make budget and tax decisions by majority vote -- California swims in a sea of two-thirds supermajorities. And Texas doesn't have California's inflexible initiative process, which this state's voters use over and over to lock in spending mandates and tax limits that make the budget process worse and worse. In fact, Texas doesn't have a statewide initiative process at all.
That's why it's a safe bet that Texas will fix its budget problems long before California does.