Spending money we don’t have

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is a good guy, a fine lawyer and a dedicated public servant.

And that makes me wonder why he is wasting his time, and Texans’ money, on a lawsuit aimed at overturning the just-passed health care reform.

Abbott is one of about a dozen state attorneys general who have joined in this action. They don’t want the federal law foisted on the states. So they’re seeking to have it thrown out on the basis that it’s unconstitutional. The federal government has no constitutional authority to mandate health insurance for Americans, the attorneys general contend. I guess they skipped over the part of the Constitution, its preamble, that empowers the government to “promote the general Welfare.” I kind of believe that health care falls into that broad category of federal responsibility.

Well, there’s much about the health care reform that makes me nervous. It’s costly; it’s punitive; it’s an overreach; it’s likely to drive up many costs across the board, such as insurance premiums.

But the state of Texas is facing a significant budget shortfall in the next biennium. Estimates place it as much as $17 billion. Why is the state spending money it doesn’t have on a lawsuit that could turn drag on for years? If the AGs win, the feds will appeal; if the feds win, the AGs will appeal. It could find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court — eventually.

The only apparent positive element I can find in this is that Texas is in better fiscal shape than many other states. But that doesn’t mean we’re not about to feel some pain once the Legislature convenes next January.

AG Abbott can find other, more constructive cases to litigate.