Republican lawmakers should be very concerned. Come November 2020, Texans will be showing up to vote for the greatest promise-keeping politician in modern U.S. history. Love him or hate him, President Donald Trump has been a man of his political word.
Taxes cut, regulations slashed, pro-life initiatives enacted, an embassy moved … President Trump has done what he said he would even in the face of opposition from the media, from the Democrats, and even sometimes from congressional Republicans.
As a result, Donald Trump could easily win the Lone Star State even while Republicans lose the Texas House.
This should have Republican legislators worried. After all, what big promises have they kept? What big promises kept can they point out to excite voters?
Yes, they can point to a big, bloated budget … and that’s about it.
The biggest promises Republicans have made for two decades is that they will be the party to control property taxes—reform the system and cut the burden. To date, they have not delivered.
Just check your own appraisal notice for the evidence.
In fact, that big, bloated budget unanimously adopted by Republicans and Democrats—growing state government at twice the rate of inflation and population—makes it almost impossible for them to now deliver on meaningful and lasting property tax relief.
So, instead, you’re supposed to be excited about getting higher sales taxes for theoretically lower property taxes. I write “theoretically” because there isn’t a guarantee that the Republicans won’t turn it into another grow-government boondoggle like the Texas Business Franchise Tax—which was also imposed with the promise it would lower your property taxes.
No Texas Republican has ever campaigned on the slogan “I’ll make your taxes grow slower by imposing a new tax!”
In the 2020 general election, Texans will show up excited about voting for a president who delivered on his promises. The Texas Legislature in 2017 removed the option for straight-ticket voting in 2020, which means those excited Trump voters will have to work their way down the ballot—being excited to cast an affirmative vote for each office.
So let’s think about that ballot. At the top of the ticket is the president. Check. Next comes U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. There will be some slippage, but most of those Trump voters will see the importance of keeping the Senate in Republican hands, if for no other reason than the confirmation of judges. Then it is the U.S. House and a little more slippage. Who is excited about their congressional critter these days?
Next comes the Railroad Commission, which—thanks to the inadequacy of our public schools—no one knows what it does. (Hint: It has nothing to do with trains.) Then the Texas Supreme Court—three or four of them. Then the Court of Criminal Appeals (also a Supreme Court, but for criminal cases). After that is the State Board of Education—in a third of the state, anyway—and then you get into the Texas Senate and finally the Texas House.
By this point, it’s safe to say most of that “Trump enthusiasm” will have evaporated. Of voters still looking at their ballot, many will ask, “What has this person ever done?”
And for the Texas House, what will that answer be? “I’m not as bad as a Democrat” is less motivating than it ever was before, especially given how many Republican legislators have been voting just like the Democrats on issues important to taxpayers.
Right now, it’s a goose-egg session for conservatives. Lawmakers haven’t delivered yet on substantial and lasting property tax relief. They haven’t delivered on meaningful property tax reform (indeed, the House leadership has actively gutted it). Second Amendment legislation? Nothing. School reform? Nothing yet. The list goes on and on of what hasn’t yet been accomplished.
Remember, 85 percent of Texans don’t identify as Republicans or Democrats—they skip the primaries and vote only in the general election. Reaching that 85 percent is the task of the 15 percent. If the GOP legislature won’t deliver on reforms that excite their base, who do they think will show up and do the work?
Do conservative Republicans think bragging about how much pork they grabbed for the local junior college will be enough to motivate grassroots’ door-knockers and phone-bankers to give up their fall as political volunteers? Maybe, but probably not. Do they think making even more empty promises for future performance will secure their majority? Depressing supporters and actively opposing the base is rarely a winning strategy.
There is just over a month left in the legislative session. Despite commanding majorities in both chambers, the Republicans are delivering table scraps. They must start serving up big policy wins or face the prospect of even bigger general election losses.
Texas voters want bold promise keepers, and it’s up to Republican lawmakers to deliver.