The vote for House Speaker will be included on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, announced the president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility today.
“Joe Straus’ record as the state’s third-ranking constitutional officer leaves much to be desired for fiscal conservatives,” said Michael Quinn Sullivan. “The speaker’s committee chairs killed taxpayer protections and important tax relief measures, and there is nothing to suggest Mr. Straus and his leadership team will suddenly embrace the kind of responsible fiscal reforms Texas’ taxpayers demand and deserve.”
Sullivan noted that in addition to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rene Oliveira refusing to hold hearings on property tax relief and taxpayer protection measures, other committee chairs have in recent weeks proposed hikes on gasoline taxes and even an increase in the state’s sales tax.
“Mr. Straus could have removed those chairmen, or distanced himself from their anti-taxpayer positions, at any time during the last year but chose not to do so.”
Sullivan said TFR will negatively score a vote for Joe Straus as Speaker of the House on the 2011-2012 Fiscal Responsibility Index. TFR only includes on the Index those votes for which members are given advance notice. Additionally, TFR will positively score a vote for Ken Paxton as speaker.
In 2007, when both Mr. Straus and Mr. Paxton served in the Texas House and were rated on the Index, Rep. Straus earned a 71% rating – performing below the Republican average of 75%. Rep. Paxton earned a 100% rating on the Fiscal Responsibility Index.
In 2009, Mr. Paxton again earned a 100% rating. Meanwhile, Speaker Straus’ committee chairs – who serve as a proxy representing the Speaker’s leadership style and agenda – earned a 54% rating, underperforming the House’ 56.8% average. Even the Straus GOP chairs earned only a 75%, significantly lower than their caucus’ 82% rating.
“Mr. Straus and his leadership team clearly are less fiscally conservative than the House and the Republican caucus,” added Sullivan.
Sullivan said legislators must have confidence that their speaker will appoint fiscally responsible committee chairs, and then take responsibility for how the speaker and those committee chairs perform.
“When voting for a speaker, legislators are in effect voting for the leadership team and legislative priorities of the committee chairmen that speaker then appoints,” said Sullivan. “Each legislator bears some responsibility for the policies the speaker they vote for allows to languish in committee, buried by inaction.”
Regardless of who the speaker is this Session, Sullivan said TFR’s Index will assign additional positive and negative points to legislators based on whether or not the committee chairs appointed by the person they voted for speaker holds hearings and schedules votes on the conservative movement’s priority legislation. 
“Texas voters are demanding bold policy results based on commonsense, conservative principles this legislative session. Who lawmakers select as speaker will go a long way in determining how successful the session will be for taxpayers.”
Legislators are being notified by letters mailed today from Austin, and communicated to their offices electronically.