Important Prefatory Admission: I am a community college history teacher by day.

Making use of his line-item veto power, Texas governor, Rick Perry unilaterally struck from the budget over $126 million in Legislature-appropriated revenue designated for health benefits for community college employees.

Why? According to Governor Perry, community colleges falsified their appropriations requests (relevant portion of Perry's veto message here).

Sounds like a case for the Attorney General. Is this a scandal? Should we expect indictments, trials and jail sentences?

Not likely.

First Perry asserted, "institutions come to expect pork as a permanent way to support operations. They rely on pork to sustain operations above levels they can safely expect from equitable formula funding...appropriate to maintain an academic program or physical facility."

Perhaps. I suppose reasonable people might disagree on that proposition--but, then, Perry aimed his veto pen at health benefits for community college personnel (not exactly the "bridge to nowhere").

Perry, evidently, is shocked to find that "community colleges have [been] using millions of state dollars annually to pay the benefits of non-state paid employees."

Perry is reinterpreting the long-established status of community college personnel and applying a budget rider prohibiting expenditure of General Revenue funds for non-state employees. But this action completely ignores a long history of partnership between the state and the community colleges. In other words, we have all done business this way for decades. As the percentage of Texans attending community colleges continues to rise, the governor is suddenly and arbitrarily turning his back on the premise that we are all in this together.

As Representative Warren Chisum, Republican from Pampa and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee points out, "[community colleges serve] over half of the higher education enrollment and [receive] not even a third of the higher education budget."

My other beef with Perry:

This line item veto, applied after the conclusion of the legislative session, denies our duly elected representatives the opportunity to right this wrong. The Texas legislature will not be back in session until the spring of 2009. This is a cheap shot and a dirty trick, and it violates the principles of balanced government. Unfortunately Governor Perry's edict is the final word.

Moreover, I resent the accusation in the fine print. If, indeed, community colleges practiced malfeasance, Governor Perry could have asserted his charges in an open and honest way, instead of obfuscating his real purposes (whatever they may be). Let facts be submitted to a candid world. But, instead, the governor fired off a shot from his perch and then ran for cover, not returning calls or offering further comment to subsequent queries.

Again, for those of you who don't read italics (above), I am personally invested in this dispute. And for those of you who don't read between the lines, I am livid. Having said that, and admitting my emotional attachment, I am very disappointed in my Republican governor for whom I voted.

As for the bigger picture, all of this points to the problem with conservative government. We are all for cutting spending until our ox is gored. More on this greater dilemma in the days to come.