It may no longer be a question of if the leadership team surrounding House Speaker Joe Straus will move to raise taxes, but when and how much. Just this weekend another Straus lieutenant announced his openness to hiking taxes this year. Hopefully Gov. Rick Perry has a veto pen ready.
Mr. Perry and 70-some members of the Texas House have all signed pledges not to raise taxes. Of course, Speaker Straus and most of his leadership team have not signed the pledge.
That might present something of a problem. Sometime today Texas Comptroller Susan Combs is expected to announce her revenue projections for the next biennium. Many expect a “gap” between revenue projections and spending desires between $15 and $25 billion.
The governor and responsible legislators have said that gap needs to be closed through spending cuts. That’s what conservatives successfully did in 2003.
I’m starting to lose track of the number of top Straus lieutenants pushing for more revenues out of the taxpayers’ pockets. Certainly the current Straus choice for the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) wants more money – especially from small businesses (he refused last session to allow permanent tax relief for small businesses, so those taxes will rise on Sept. 1 thanks to him).
And then there is Transportation Committee chairman Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), who wants to raise the gasoline tax. And State Rep. Vicki Truitt (R-Southlake) who also wants to raise gas taxes. And Rep. Garnett Coleman (D-Houston) who wants to raise the sales tax. And then there is Appropriations chairman Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) who has been saying for months he wants new revenues…
I know I’m leaving some out…
On Sunday, Rep. Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton) — another top Straus advisor — was quoted in the Dallas Morning News speaking dismissively balancing the budget through spending restraint (“gutting” he called it), noting he was open to raising taxes. (You’ll recall Mr. Solomons barely won his 2010 primary re-election over a poorly-funded tea party challenge.)
All this puts fiscal conservatives in the Texas House in something of a pickle. The state budget starts in the House this Session. With the Straus leadership team seemingly unifying around the “need” for a tax hike, it makes one wonder just how diligently they will work to cut spending in the first place.
This means the Texas Senate, and the governor, better have their A-game on. A rocky budget session may be getting a bit more taxing.