Despite a more conservative Senate and statewide victories of reform-minded leaders like Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton, a crony lobbyist for corporate welfare interests says that with Joe Straus as Speaker of the Texas House it will be “business as usual.” Good luck.
That’s not what Texans voted for on Tuesday. With Patrick and Paxton both garnering more than 60 percent of the vote, coupled with a half-dozen Straus-allied incumbents losing re-election efforts this cycle, voters are expecting something different.
For Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business, that’s a scary thought. He and his organization promote the continuation of the “gross margins tax,” a grossly complicated income tax that penalizes small business. His group also actively advocates for special-favor giveaway programs, corporate welfare and other vestiges of cronyism.
While conservatives are expected to toe the line when establishment candidates win elections, Hammond is in the Austin American Statesman today bashing the GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor, Mr. Patrick, and the more conservative State Senate. He also hinted that his “business” group might well end up supporting big-government Democrats if voters keep rejecting big-government Republicans.
(When asked if his group would support Patrick in the fall, Hammond praised the Democrats liberal nominee, Leticia Van de Putte, adding, “But I just don’t think it’s time.” Time? So, Mr. Hammond, there is a good time to support an economy-crippling, government-expanding, tax-hiking Democrat? You support those things, just not at this moment?)
Republican members of the Texas House should take special note. While voters went solidly for Dan Patrick and conservative senators, Bill Hammond wants to hold the line against their free market reforms and wait for Democrat victories. And he is counting on Joe Straus’ relationship with the Democrats to ensure “business as usual” – opposing conservative reforms and initiatives.
With Patrick and the new Texas Senate promoting important reforms embraced by Governor-apparent Greg Abbott, GOP House members will have to decide if they work for Bill Hammond, or Texas voters. They need to decide if they are part of the crony establishment, or servants of their conservative electorate.
House members who keep their head buried in the sand supporting Joe Straus will be responsible for the continued obstruction of the conservative agenda.
Republican House members alone must decide how they will be thought of at the conclusion of the 2015 legislative session. Do they want to be known as “business as usual” obstructionists, or as conservatives? They cannot be both.