It’s all over, folks. Rick Perry, who so confidently muscled his way into the GOP frontrunners’ pack this summer, is bowing out. But while Perry’s overhyped, underperforming presidential campaign may be over, his third term as Texas governor doesn’t end until 2014. What can we expect when Perry returns to Austin?
A study of Perry’s past budget maneuvers provides some insight. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Texas is in the midst of a $9 billion shortfall for its current two-year budget period—only slightly less than the state’s projected shortfall in 2004/2005. Back then, a 2004 study notes, Perry sent state legislators a message by submitting a budget “that contained nothing but zeros.” That gesture was intended to underscore Perry’s intent to, as he put it at the time, “re-examine the core responsibilities of government and state spending practices.” For some areas of spending, that statement proved a reliable forecast. To save about $800 million, the state slashed Medicaid and SCHIP funding (which provides health insurance for low-income children)—meaning that about 18,000 adults and 167,000 children lost coverage. The study cautions against reading these cuts as draconian, at least in the context of Texas politics: It reports that many legislators walked away from the budget thinking they had “restored reason to a health and human service system that ‘got out of hand’ during a time of economic strength.” If Texas keeps facing budget shortfalls (in this term or the next one, if Perry runs again), look to history to predict what might come next.