If you haven’t been following politics and government news at the state level in America, you may not know that there are budget troubles from sea to shining sea. California’s budget deficit, all $26 billion or so, gets a lot of coverage, as do problems in Wisconsin and Illinois. But the economic downturn has hurt the budgets of most states, and Texas — which managed to keep a pretense, at least, of health for a while — is suddenly the focus of much attention.
While Texas was still creating jobs in recent years, other factors — a drop in consumer spending and some spending decisions (including cuts to taxes) now has the state’s budget out of whack.
And that means the $25 million in state money to support the construction of the Circuit of the Americas might get whacked, too. From my reading of the news (keep in mind, this is bordering on my day job), it really looks grim. Here’s why:
According to KXAN TV in Austin, the USGP money cut is being pushed in Texas’ Senate, where last week a key committee approved the slash in funds. A House version maintains the money. But in general, it is the Texas House (essentially the lower body politic, akin to the House of Commons in the UK versus Lords) that is proposing the larger cuts.
In other words, during negotiations — where, typically, both sides will come to a middle-ground final number — the Senate will be having to offer more cuts while the House will have to be OKing fewer. It could become a bargaining chip: These funds would get caught in the discussion in which the Senate would move closer to the House version in order to get back some other spending cuts. But, in the end, the funding for COTA is taken out of the budget.
If the House had made the cut, I’d be feeling more optimistic. Then, theoretically, it could be a bargaining chip that would end up back in the budget.
Of course, I’m not an expert on the people involved, and KXAN says that “observers” expect the funds — at least part — to be restored. The state’s comptroller, Susan Combs — the one who went to the British Grand Prix last year, I believe it was — is a supporter. Perhaps she has some muscle here. But she’ll be fighting this sentiment from the Senate Republican who pulled the money out:
“At a time when people are stressed about their schools, stressed about their jobs, stressed about health care and nursing homes, for us to check off $25 million for race cars, I think we make people say where are their priorities,” state Sen. Dan Patrick said.
“That $25 million would pay for 500 teacher salaries. How can we explain to people we’re spending that money on race cars?”
I guess looking at it all, maybe an educated guess would be that the final figure will be more like $15 million. We’ll see.
I wonder, though, whether any cut would get F1’s attention and cause any trouble with the agreement with track owners.