Texans for Fiscal Responsibility released its final ratings today for members of the 81st Texas Legislature. TFR President Michael Quinn Sullivan says that while the partisan gap narrowed, the ratings of individual House and Senate members show a more fiscally conservative direction.

“Unfortunately, the session itself was highlighted by missed opportunities; too much was simply not done that should have been,” noted Sullivan. “Not only did the legislature fail to provide much-needed property tax relief, it only provided tweaks to the property tax appraisal system and the state’s business tax instead of the fundamental reforms that were needed.”

The Fiscal Responsibility Index is a measure of how lawmakers perform on size and role of government issues. It uses exemplar votes on core budget and free enterprise issues. The ratings can be found online at www.EmpowerTexans.com/index. TFR works with more than 50,000 activists around the Lone Star State, promoting sound fiscal policy, government transparency and free markets.

Sullivan said the legislators’ scores did improve on average. Lawmakers scored an average 52.1 percent in voting with Texas’ taxpayers this session, besting the 46.1 scored by lawmakers on the 2007 Index.

“But just like in school, that is still a failing mark impacting Texas’ families,” he said. “We clearly need more conscientious fiscal conservatives serving in the Texas Legislature.”

While there are fewer House Republicans than in previous year, they appear to be more practically grounded in sound fiscal policy. The House GOP average rating jumped from 75.01 in 2007 to 81.7 in 2009.  House Democrats saw a slight dip, from 31.74 in 2007 to 30.9 in 2009. (The legislators endorsed in 2008 by the Empower Texans PAC rated an 87.7.)

The Senate’s average rating rose from 38.86 in 2007 to 47.69 in 2009. Republicans in the upper chamber had an average 59.09 in 2009, compared to 48.46 in 2007. Meanwhile, the Democrats rated 29.65 in 2009, compared to 21.49 in 2007.

The highest-rated member of the Texas Senate was Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), with a 93% rating. The top rating in the House, a 100%, was shared by four members: Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco), Wayne Christian (R-Center), Jodie Laubenberg (R-Rockwall) and Ken Paxton (R-McKinney).

In all, there were 49 House members and four senators rating a “B” (80%) or better.

“Most of the success conservatives had this session was in what was stopped, rather than advanced,” Sullivan added. “We stopped the imposition of new gas taxes and transportation fees, permanent expansion of unemployment insurance, and transformation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program into a middle-class entitlement.”

Sullivan said bad legislation moved quickly through the process, while positive legislation died in committee, as a direct reflection of the House leadership.

“The committee chairs appointed by Speaker Joe Straus had an average score of 53.9, below the House average of 56.5. In 2007, the House committee chairs had a 66.21 while the body overall had a 53.4. This Session’s committee chairs pushed through legislation that had to be stopped by the body, because the body tended to be more fiscally responsible than those chairs. It’s our hope that next session, Mr. Straus will pick better chairmen who take a more taxpayer-friendly approach to governing Texas.”

The complete Index ratings and methodology is available at www.EmpowerTexans.com/index.

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