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Ever notice political “courage” is defined only as raising taxes and padding the pockets of special interests? It’s apparently cowardice to actually demand responsibility and integrity, to make hard choices rather than pave problems with patronage. That’s how Republican State Sen. John Carona of Dallas is defining things.

In a press conference yesterday, Carona chastised his fellow Republicans, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus, for not having the courage to fight for his massive tax-and-spend program disguised as transportation policy.

Carona wanted to hike taxes and fees to fund special-interest “local government” spending projects such as light rail that, while lucrative for a select few, have no discernible impact on congestion. Typical patronage deal: spend the people’s money on worthless activities all while claiming to be helping them. Dollars upon dollars.

Sure, Carona’s push was funded by taxpayer-funded lobbyists. But all those dollars, taken from the people and used against them, couldn’t undo the fundamental commitment of Texans to see their dollars wisely used.

Texans, the people paying the bills, understand that in an economic downturn, in a sour economy, the last thing you do is hike taxes. Just as families are cutting back and re-prioritizing, so they expect government to do likewise.

That Carona and his local-government allies weren’t willing to re-prioritize spoke volumes.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted “more than 800 letters to lawmakers Friday while House and Senate negotiators were deliberating” by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. Impressive number, and impressive that they noticed. But they didn’t notice the thousands of other Texans who also called their lawmakers over the last several days — urging them to stand with principles, not with political expediency.

It would have been much easier for legislators to have just hiked taxes. It would have been easier to have tossed responsibility to the wind.

Instead, the overwhelming majority of lawmakers — starting with State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving), State Rep. Carl Isett (R-Lubbock) and State Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) — decided to stand with principles and the needs of the people. They rejected the monied interests and agitated tax-spenders.

Harper-Brown knew doing the right thing would demand a high cost. She will no doubt be challenged politically by tax-and-spenders who are mad she stood with the taxpayers. She put her political career on the line to do what is right, and what the people wanted. That’s courage.

Now it’s up to us — the taxpayers, voters and activists — to put our time and money where our principles are. If we want more lawmakers who will show true courage and leadership, we need to rally around Mrs. Harper-Brown and her principled colleagues. The surest way to ensure more lawmakers stand for our principles is to stand with them when they do.

Please send Mrs. Harper-Brown a note thanking her for her service. And then on June 22, send her check made out to her re-election campaign!