- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 17 (UPI) — Gov. Rick Perry and two other key state leaders called for a zero-based state budget and a reexamination of all spending Friday.

In an historic move, Perry, House Speaker Tom Craddick and Lt. Gov.-elect David Dewhurst, all Republicans, called on state legislators to start from scratch in drafting the state's next budget.

Texas is facing at least a $9.9 billion shortfall going into the next two-year budget cycle and Perry has promised there will be no tax increase. The current budget totals $114 billion.

The Legislative Budget Board estimates the state will have to spend about $125 billion in the next budget to maintain current services and pay for shortfalls in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

The 2004-05 budget proposal that Perry presented to the Legislature contained only zeros.

"The current fiscal situation demands that we reexamine the core responsibilities of government and the state spending practices of the past dozen years," Perry said. "This budget starts at zero, because in tough budgetary times, every dollar spent by government must be scrutinized to determine whether it justifies consideration as a priority. We must reject the notion that government must continue to do things just because that's the way we have always done it."

Perry, Craddick and Dewhurst called on legislators to start at zero with every agency and every category of spending in drafting a new budget.

The three Republicans also called on lawmakers to make an extra effort to explain in more detail the expenditures so taxpayers understand each line item.

"We are committed to starting our budget at zero and ending within available revenue — providing Texans with more detailed information on how we spend their dollars," Craddick said.

Dewhurst said state government must live within its means just like an average family.

"We support the governor's call for increased transparency in the budget process — the public has the right to know more about state programs and how their tax dollars are being allocated," he said. "The final details will be worked out by legislators."

There was no immediate comment from Democrat legislators. Republicans have taken control of the Legislature this year for the first time in 131 years.

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