Mason County News
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Belt Tightening Ahead!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 • Posted March 23, 2011

Starting in 2007, then on into 2008, we as a country watched the meltdown of the world economy. Around the world, entire countries teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. Then, our own economy began unraveling.

There are many reasons for the economic meltdown that occurred in the United States; but, sadly, greed would still have to be at the top of the list for factors that drove each successive failure and caused bank failures, foreclosures and business shutdowns.

During the many crises, the reports out of Texas seemed to indicate that we were immune to the problems occurring elsewhere in the country. We repeatedly heard that, because of its diversified economy and strong government leadership, Texas would have to show the other 49 states how to properly manage their budgets. Shortly after the 2010 election, the news out of Austin began to change.

It seems that our great state had been using stimulus funds to prop up its spending, while trying to convince everyone else that we were doing fine on our own, with no help. Numerous cities around the state, not to mention a variety of non-profits, benefitted from the infusion of money which helped them to keep aid programs funded, allowed for completion of construction projects, and made the state government look good, even though it had changed nothing in its policies to plan for the coming shortfalls.

But, Texans were losing their jobs and their homes. Businesses, feeling the loss of sales to markets around the country, were closing their doors. In our own office, we trimmed staff, cut out unnecessary expenses and sought out creative solutions when problems occurred. Car dealers that had been around for decades either merged with others, or disappeared from the landscape.

Mason County, with little industry of its own, depends upon the disposable income of others to sustain our economy. Tourists spend money in the stores. Hunters spend money with the landowners. Consumers buy our beef, pork, sheep and goats and our produce. But, tourists, hunters and consumers started feeling the pinch and became more careful about their spending.

And now, the state of Texas faces a budget shortfall that has been estimated at between $11 billion and $18 billion. There is a lot of discussion about using $3-4 billion out of the "Rainy Day Fund" to help balance the upcoming budget; but, the fact remains that Texas is about to have to deal with cutbacks in a fashion not seen in decades. And, yes, that does affect us.

If the state starts cutting jobs in the public sector, and projects, that means that less money will be spent by those former employees. If they spend less money, then the private sector will experience a drop in revenue. Meanwhile, the state, depending heavily on sales tax revenue, will see a corresponding drop in their revenue. It's a vicious cycle, and one that is not as simple as cutting fat from a budget. This budget means that real people will lose their jobs. Real families will face much tougher economic times.

The Legislature is throwing all options on the table. For the first time in many years, legalized gambling stands a very good chance of passing in Texas as the elected officials scramble for any way possible to keep things running. Though a tax increase is unlikely (all politicians shy away from this very unpopular option); but, the legislature is very creative at substituting fee increases for taxes, then bragging about how they didn't raise taxes! We citizens still bear the brunt; but, politicians sleep better knowing we can't accuse them of taxing us.

Not directly, anyway.

It’s all just my opinion.

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