It should surprise no one that Chambers of Commerce are not always supporters of limited government. However, the Dallas Regional Chamber and Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce are coming together to explicitly endorse big government. To support their efforts, the chambers are implementing what they call the “Pro Growth Legislative Accountability Index.”
Perhaps more accurately named the “Crony Capitalist Companion,” the index calls for “appropriate adequate funding” for the maligned Texas Enterprise Fund and the equally bad Texas Emerging Technology Fund (which Governor Abbott has already introduced a plan to get rid of). Doubling down on the failure of the two statewide initiatives, the index also “strongly supports” “additional economic development programs which will provide Texas and its communities with additional competitive advantages.”
Notably absent are any calls for economic reforms that would actually benefit job creators and hard-working Texans, such as property tax cuts, repealing the onerous franchise tax, implementing the STaR plan, or other measures being discussed by pro-market reformers this session. Also missing are any recommendations on reducing regulations that cripple business and increase costs for consumers. Instead of a capitalist agenda that lessens the burden of government for everyone, the Chambers seek only to ensure that their special-interest bailout spree continues unimpeded.
In other words, the chambers are defending job-crippling taxation in order to ensure the preservation of slush funds that benefit the well-connected.
On the issue of health care, the index is operating on a thinly veiled premise to deceive. Believing voters and legislators can be tricked into supporting Washington, D.C. policies by slapping “Texas” on the label, the index calls for the implementation of the “Texas Way Program.” The name attempts to conceal what the program actually is—bringing Obamacare to Texas. Despite claims that it is “different” and “free-market based,” it’s clear that the “Texas Way” plan (endorsed by the Texas Hospital Association) is just code for Medicaid Expansion, an idea rightly condemned by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and other conservative voices.
The re-labeling effort is reminiscent of the “Texas Solution,” an illegal immigration plan rightly rejected by conservatives at the State Republican Convention. They recognized it for what it was, a rebranding of amnesty, and soundly rejected it on the floor.
For Higher Education, the index prioritizes the exponential growth of unnecessary bureaucracy. It also supports “maximum funding for the TEXAS Grant program.” TEXAS grants are almost carbon copies of Federal Pell grants with one exception—they don’t require U.S. citizenship, and are thus available to illegal aliens. Consistent with their redistributionist tendencies, it is hardly surprising that the chambers would advocate taking tax dollars from law abiding Texans only to pass them off to illegal aliens.
The index continues its hypocrisy by pushing for “a capital building program including Tuition Revenue Bonds,” which mainly fund the construction of new offices for administrators rather than classrooms for students, all while seeking “cost effective educational innovations.” The educational innovations mentioned should refer to online classrooms and other modern innovations, but instead advocate for the continuation of brick and mortar building sprees that have already made construction cranes a nearly permanent fixture on university skylines.
Assured of the belief that throwing money at issues will solve problems, the index offered by the chambers also encourages further bloat and waste on transportation. Calling for the redirection of the motor vehicle sales tax to the state highway fund and ending gas tax diversions are good ideas that enjoy widespread support, but the index still ignores the 25% diversion from the gas tax for education—which conservatives agree needs to go.
Lacking are any plans to reform a highway department infamous for its wasteful projects such as jetpacks that divert much needed resources from road construction. Also included is a request to “authorize TxDOT to enter into a comprehensive agreement for the LBJ East corridor,” which includes funding for toll roads.
The Chamber’s agenda favors indiscriminate increases in government spending directed toward the politically connected as opposed to fair, across the board tax relief. But growing government will only necessitate increasing burdens on everyone, including most of their own members, and perpetuate the culture that encourages business to seek special favors and exemptions from those in power.
As Milton Friedman famously said, being “pro-business” and “pro-free market” aren’t the same governing ideology. The chamber continues to make clear it is not a friend to the free market or to taxpayers.