During the recent gubernatorial primaries, incumbent Rick Perry enjoyed pointing out the robust economic health of Texas compared to many other states. He also tied Senator Hutchison to the federal bailout programs and our growing debt to distinguish himself from political "insiders."
Of course, he might have failed to mention that the only way that the state budget had not yet cratered was because of infusions of federal money. He might have also neglected to notice that Texas has benefitted tremendously from the economic impact of Senator Hutchison's earmarks for the state, and from recovery funds that were directed to projects around our state.
During Monday's meeting of the Mason County Commissioners' Court, it was discussed that revenue would be tight in the coming year. Sales tax collections are down around the state, and without those extra dollars, both the state and the community find less in their coffers. If the state starts coming up short, they will have to balance their budget in the only manner left to them, cutbacks in services and staff. And, if the state starts cutting back, the county and city will then feel the pressure to either fill the gaps themselves, or to make their own cuts.
Unlike what may have been said politically, Texas is not immune to economic downturns. We do tend to follow the curve rather than riding it; but, in the end, a national economic crisis (and in this case, international) can only be postponed from affecting us locally for just so long.
In a small town like Mason, many of our projects and causes depend upon the generosity of the residents. We give to Steady Steps and to the Education Foundation. We make donations to Habitat and we bake for those who are ill. There are golf tournaments, barbecues, auctions, raffles, dances and wine tastings. In the end, all of those dollars come from the same pockets - ours.
I fear that many of the funding sources that were so readily available in the recent past may soon either dwindle, or dry up entirely. The folks who have been big donors have been affected just like the smaller donors, and belt tightening is occurring. Another complication for a community such as Mason is that many of our residents are on fixed incomes, relying on investments, social security and family members to help them make ends meet. Any increase in the cost of living quickly, and adversely, affects those folks, and they are less able to handle such jarring changes in lifestyle.
One of the greatest reasons we all choose to be in Mason County, why we made the decision to be here rather than elsewhere, is that we value our ability to be self-sustaining. In the coming years, as we work to find a way back to prosperity, we will need to remember that the reason we are able to sustain ourselves is that we also go out of our way to sustain our neighbors, our friends and our family.
We may not be able to give as much as we have in the past. We may be unable to attend as many charitable functions. We may cut back on unnecessary purchases and expenditures. But, we will, as we always have, work our way through these dark times.
Most importantly, we do it not by isolating ourselves from one another or trying to hoard our richness; but, rather by giving when we can, accepting when we need to, and keeping ourselves open to the needs of the whole community.
It’s all just my opinion.