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After posting a rebuttal to Sen. Hutchison’s claim Texas should have taken mandate-heavy stimulus money, her campaign asked if we’d post a response, designed to expound on her points and explain her position. I happily agreed. What was submitted follows here; you’ll see that her camp continues to avoid actually explaining her position.

It’s Time To Expand Conservative Support in Texas
By Hans Kligler
Communications Director, Texans for Kay
(Download as a PDF document.)

A few hours after Michael Quinn Sullivan posted his commentary Monday on Kay Bailey Hutchison’s summary unemployment fund statement, the Austin American-Statesman published an op-ed written by the Senator giving her views in detail. I am grateful to Michael today for providing a link to that op-ed – so his readers can see for themselves what she believes – and for allowing me the opportunity to comment a bit more.

Michael errs right off the bat in asserting that Sen. Hutchison “wants federal mandates.” In fact, she strongly supports the 10th amendment and constantly battles to reduce federal strings on states. As Michael notes, she voted against the unemployment stimulus bill, in part because of onerous federal mandates.

But we live in a democracy. Democrats are in charge now in Washington. You never win every inning. What we’re talking about here is how you handle the ones you don’t. Pick up the ball and go home? Or find a productive way to win in the end?

Make no mistake. As small business people know, Kay Bailey Hutchison is a solid and proud conservative. Her Texas roots run deep: she was advocating Republican principles when Rick Perry was running Al Gore’s presidential campaign here. She is determined to protect those principles – small government, low taxes, strong individual liberty – that have made Texas a job-producing state.

But her underlying motivation has always been what is good for Texas and its people; Rick Perry is seen as largely motivated by what is good for him and his political fortunes. That’s a major reason why enthusiasm for Republicans is ebbing in Texas today.

Michael makes a particularly unfair complaint – that Kay Bailey Hutchison was quiet during the legislative session and “notably absent” during the debate over federal stimulus fund use. In fact, she took the responsible course. She did her best to avoid injecting gubernatorial politics into the session, believing it would be detrimental to Texas, and to its elected representatives and the job they were in Austin to do. It is a shame that Rick Perry did not have the same scruples.

Kay worked quietly behind the scenes to find a way to avoid a $555 million hit on Texas employers. In fact, she produced it. (In his own op-ed, Rick Perry states flatly there was no way to reverse the federally-required changes later. He is wrong, and he should know he’s wrong.) Michael lists two choices available on these funds, but there actually was a third: take our share of federal funds now, save our job creators an extra $500 million hit, and then make certain we reverse the unwanted strings after the current crisis is over.

I’m well aware that various association executives were heavily pressured by Perry’s office to support the Governor’s personal political agenda. The Governor’s office is known for such pressure. All I can say is I would hate to be in those executives’ shoes later this year, trying to explain to their membership why Texas businesses are getting a $500 million bill to pay for Gov. Perry’s political statement.

A gloomy pessimism pervades Michael’s commentary. He believes the legislature would never undo an added social benefit once it has been granted. Sadly, with Rick Perry as governor, Michael is probably right. Perry has so politicized Austin that his ability to do anything is limited. Is anyone curious why Gov. Bush had great success with a Democratic legislature, and Perry can’t get his agenda through a Republican legislature?

The answer is that on Rick Perry’s watch, conservatives and Republicans are losing influence steadily in Texas. He is steadily narrowing our base. We’ve lost House seats in three consecutive elections, and are starting to lose Senate seats as well. In the last session, Perry couldn’t even get a Voter ID bill – a 70 percent issue in our favor – to his desk. There is ample cause, given this record, why conservatives like Michael are pessimistic.

But although he may not realize it yet, Michael should be upbeat. A new era of effective conservative governance is on the way, via Governor Hutchison. As a Senator, she has respected, and worked with, Representatives of both parties to do the best job possible for their districts, and Texas. This is a huge and diverse state, and she typically rolls up her sleeves and does the hard work of bringing people together to fashion a way forward. She is persistent, she works hard, and she’s effective. She does not take a swipe at it and head for the television cameras.

If you talk frankly to political people across the state, this is what you’ll hear. With Rick Perry at the top of the ticket in November 2010, Republican control of the state house is in jeopardy. The trend towards a narrower Republican base would continue, and conservative control in Austin would be at risk. With Governor-candidate Hutchison leading the ticket, the opposite is true. Republican voters will have a real choice next March.

As I noted, this response was proposed to us as offering a deeper understanding of her position that Texas should have accepted the UI funds and the attendant mandates. Sadly, neither Mr. Klinger nor Sen. Hutchison has even yet explained how Texas could have escaped the clutches of the small-business-strangling mandates.

Most Mr. Klingler’s “response” offers nothing new, no policy prescriptions or recommendations. It is merely more campaign platitudes and rhetoric. That’s fine; but don’t confuse it with a blueprint for public policy.

One section was particularly revealing, and will be rather insulting to the conservative movement and business community. Despite Klinger’s flippant accusation, no one “pressured” the conservative movement to oppose liberal mandates attached to federal funding; that is part and parcel of the conservative philosophy and free-market thinking. Perhaps that is new to them, but it shouldn’t be.

For example, take the National Federation of Independent Business, one of the first Texas organizations to come out against taking the UI funds. They have 50 state chapters composed of tens of thousands of member businesses; all but one state chapter came out loudly and early. One might want to pretend Perry is all-powerful in Texas, but his influence over 48 groups in other states demands a conspiracy of global proportions.

Meanwhile, as every conservative group and common-sense legislator was decrying the cost of the mandates, Sen. Hutchison was, indeed, silent in Texas about any “solution.” As the Democrats and editorial boards were firing their venom at us, Sen. Hutchison was… Well, in her Statesman op-ed she says she was working to help Louisiana.

Yet throughout the Senator’s weekend comments, op-ed and now this response, the magic “third-way” of taking the funds while artfully dodging the mandates is never explained legislatively. We’re told to just trust that it could be done; that she alone could convince enough Texas liberal legislators to undo the mandates. Of course she wasn’t able to stop their original imposition in DC.

Indeed, one must ask, “How many federal programs or benefits has Sen. Hutchison repealed in her 16 years in Washington?” The answer explains our weariness in accepting new ones.

The Hutchison camp response betrays a shocking lack of understanding of the Session, and the legislative process, as it relates to Voter ID. Apparently the Senator and her staff didn’t watch the Democratic chubbing designed to kill the bill. Maybe they missed moderate Republican Todd Smith of Euless holding it up in his committee. Democrats and moderate House Republicans killed Voter ID.

Back on point, taking the UI funds was clearly the wrong thing, economically and ideologically, for Texas. That neither Sen. Hutchison nor her communications director are able to articulate the precise mechanism for taking funds without mandates merely reinforces the correct position staked out by the conservative movement, common-sense lawmakers and Gov. Perry. Telling voters and taxpayers to trust in someone’s future political goodwill is asking a stretch too much.