Perrymandering a Rainy Day Fund

Texas capitol

Change the boundaries of an electoral district and you get the person you want heading into office. Ah, the power of Gerrymandering. Change the rules for cashing in a Rainy Day Fund and suddenly you have found money for favorite/pet/essential projects. It’s a maybe in Texas these days with even Governor Rick Perry backing off his “hands off” stance.

It would seem to have been inevitable that funds squirreled away for emergencies would get used for everyday expenses in various parts of the country. After all, funds are scarce, costs are immense and this is politics.

And Texas isn’t the first state to consider such raiding.

In Texas, the raided funds would go to infrastructure, so that could be considered good news. But raiding funds is one of those precedential acts that just shouts, “law of unintended consequences” or something very much like it.

Transportation infrastructure needs a dedicated supply of funds, not the occasional bailout. Because over time those bailouts shake the dedicated fund concept to its foundations and could leave us open to a move toward a system where funding can be a non-stop guessing game–not good for government, not good for the people who build the roads.

Transportation infrastructure takes a long while to plan, design and build, and then there are years of expensive maintenance and repair. Everyone needs to know that funding is in place years ahead.

Two strikes, you’ve got to be careful, as Steve Harvey would say.

Raiding that fund for one purpose (even one as essential as transportation infrastructure) is bound to have other purposes lining up. And it could well empower opponents of dedicated highway funding, many of whom see those dedicated funds as just as raidable as rainy day funds.