After a failed session, lawmakers from the Texas House are heading home to their districts with a poor record in tow. But despite common belief that you can’t polish such things, Texas House Republicans are becoming experts at it.
Take State Rep. Cindy Burkett’s (R–Sunnyvale) recent email to constituents for example, in which she makes herself appear as though she’s a conservative champion in Austin and that she delivered on her campaign promises.
Such a record certainly sounds good, but lurking just behind the thin veneer is something rotten. Let’s turn off Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, set aside Burkett’s rose colored glasses, and take a hard look at each of her points.
First up is Burkett’s tired claim that lawmakers “balanced the budget.” That’s true, but it’s also something they’re constitutionally required to do, and therefore, not an accomplishment. Left out of Burkett’s boast is when she voted for a House budget that would have systematically underfunded public schools by punting one of 24 required monthly checks to the schools onto the next legislature.
Next: she claims that she “reduced spending by over $200 million.” Slight problem there. Texas’ 2016-2017 budget appropriates $209.4 billion and this year’s budget is $217 billion, meaning spending went up by eight billion, not down.
Burkett also says she “preserved $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund.” That’s partially true—in the same way that a home burglar who couldn’t carry your sofa out of the door by himself “preserved it” for you and your family. Nowhere does Burkett mention that she voted with all but one House Democrat in favor of raiding $2.5 billion from the fund, only to be forced to settle for $900 million thanks to Senate negotiators.
In addition, she claims to have “allocated $800 million to secure the border & hire 250 additional troopers.” True. But once again this was only after she and her House colleagues were forced to do so. Initially, Burkett backed and voted for a plan to slash border security funding by $125 million and refrain from hiring any additional troopers. In other words, she worked against it before she lost that negotiation and then voted for the final result. And now she wants credit for what she initially opposed.
In truth, Burkett’s session was anything but auspicious. Rather than stand up for taxpayers, she routinely moved to subvert them—voting to allow school districts to increase property taxes without voter approval, all while opposing efforts to cut unnecessary regulations and defund corporate welfare programs.
Unsurprisingly, Burkett even moved to punish members of her own party for standing up to Democrats and ended the session as one of the Texas House’s most liberal Republicans, according to a study published by Rice University Professor Mark Jones.
So why is she claiming to be a conservative?
Because she knows she needs to at least talk like one if she wants to have any chance of returning to Austin. Last year, conservative activist Jonathan Boos almost defeated Burkett in the Republican primary. Should he run again in 2018, it’s likely he can win.
Rumors in Austin are already swirling that Burkett is afraid she can’t win against Boos and is preparing to save face by mounting a quixotic primary challenge to conservative State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) instead. And that’s why she’s fundraising so heavily right now.
Although her email says she needs citizens’ support to beat the Democrats this November, it’s more likely than not she’ll spend that money in the Republican primary against conservatives. Last year, Burkett spent $100,000 more in her Republican primary campaign against Boos than she did against the Democrat in the general election.
Combined her spending totaled approximately $720,000, more than enough to buy the polish necessary to shine up just about anything.
Whether Burkett decides to run for re-election or take a gamble and run for the Texas Senate, she’ll have a tough time no matter how much she spends—as will the majority of her Republican colleagues who came back to their districts with spin and half-truths, instead of results.