There are a lot of scorecards grading lawmakers on how they performed in Austin. Some of them, such as TFR’s Fiscal Responsibility Index, provide an honest look at lawmakers’ voting records. We tell the public in advance our principles and priorities and which votes are subject to being included in the index. However, some imitators use their scorecards to mislead the public.
One of those is the “Pro-Growth Legislative Accountability Index” compiled by the Dallas and Fort Worth Chambers of Commerce. When it was announced before the session, we reviewed the “pro-growth” priorities that would be used on the Chamber index. Their support for Medicaid Expansion, backing of liberal education groups, and preference for taxpayer handouts over tax relief and other legitimately pro-growth policies led us to coin it the “Crony Capitalist Companion.”
With the session over and the dust settled, the “Index” has been published by the two Chambers, and a review is surely necessary. After working all session, the Chambers included a whopping eight votes on their index:
- HB 1701 would have accelerated the timeline for approval of a grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF). The bill did not pass and is not included in the Fiscal Responsibility Index.
- HB 26, legislation that passed that reformed the TEF and abolished the Emerging Technologies Fund. We scored this bill positively.
- SB 893 would have expanded performance reviews for public school teachers and linked salaries to the reviews. The bill died in the House and is not included in the TFR index.
- HB 4 expanded Pre-K with millions of dollars of additional funding. The bill was opposed by many conservative groups and was scored negatively by TFR.
- HB 100 puts the State government on the hook for billions of dollars in additional construction at public universities through Tuition Revenue Bonds. This bill was also scored negatively by TFR.
- SB 5 contained additional funding for transportation, and enabled the passage of SJR 5.
- SJR 5 if approved by Texas voters in November will dedicate more than $2.5 billion in additional money annually for transportation. Though a poor relic of the original legislation or an alternative proposed by State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), the bill nonetheless can be counted firmly in the win column for business.
- HB 13 included additional transportation changes as well and was not scored by TFR.
There were also empty slots reserved for Medicaid Expansion (which was so politically toxic it was not even introduced) and additional water funding.
It’s often said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but this “pro-growth” index is a poor substitute. While the 2015 Fiscal Responsibility Index (to be released June 22) contains nearly 90 different votes to review lawmakers’ commitment to fiscal responsibility and limited government, the Chambers’ product featured eight votes along with hopes and prayers of bigger government. The result is a terrible measure of fiscal responsibility, and an even worse tool for identifying pro-business lawmakers.
Conspicuously absent were many pro-business reforms. Tax relief for homeowners and businesses, the abolition of outdated and inefficient taxes identified by Comptroller Glenn Hegar, state contracting reform, union dues legislation, and other measures were excluded from the Chambers’ index.
The index is so broken that all but one House Democrat was awarded a perfect score. Meanwhile State Rep. Scott Turner (R-Rockwall), a “Taxpayer Champion,” was given a score of 50%. Do the Chambers really believe that the party that wants to raise the minimum wage, repeal right to work, and enact crippling regulations on Texas businesses has a better pro-growth record than the conservative wing of the GOP?
Though Big Business often tries to fool Texans with their rhetoric, we think voters will see past their smoke and mirrors.