On Wednesday afternoon, the House released the names of its five members who will serve on the conference committee for the state budget bill HB 1.
Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) appointed Reps. John Otto (R-Dayton), Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), and Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) to the committee. These representatives will join five Senate appointees, whose names are yet to be announced, in producing the final version of the state budget.
Members from each chamber will iron out differences between the House and Senate budgets and then submit the resulting legislation to each chamber for approval. If both chambers accept the bill, HB 1 will head to the governor’s desk. If conflicts remain, the committee will reconsider the legislation.
The Senate passed its own version of HB 1 last week. Differences from the House version include additional funds for border security, franchise tax exemptions for small businesses, the defunding of the Texas Racing Commission, and a $2 billion allotment for statewide property tax relief, among other items.
It’s important to note that none of the House appointees are fiscal conservatives. While the four Republican appointees have campaigned on fiscally conservative promises, a quick look at their records indicates otherwise. In fact, their records earned them each a score of “F” on the 2013 Fiscal Responsibility Index.
The following are specific examples of positions they’ve taken at odds with conservative Republicans:
- John Otto has opposed school choice implementation, defended corporate welfare programs, and more recently approved $800 million for education on top of what’s needed for enrollment growth. He’s also used campaign funds to finance his own personal condominium and vacation expenses—a spending record that does little to mollify Texans concerned for fiscal responsibility.
- As a member of the Lufkin Independent School District from 2007 to 2010, Trent Ashby helped increase district spending by nearly $4,000 per child. In 2013, he carried this spirit of educational bureaucracy into the Legislature by opposing school choice programs in the state budget. Ashby’s allegiance to the interests of establishment Republicans doesn’t bode well for HB 1.
- Sarah Davis’ website may describe her as a “conservative voice in Austin,” but her voting record suggests otherwise. Since her election in 2013, Davis supported corporate welfare slush funds, Medicaid expansion, mandatory insurance coverage, increases in bureaucratic power, and tax hikes for small manufacturers. Her blatant opposition to small government and conservative values renders her unfit to help determine the finances of the state of Texas.
- In 2013, Larry Gonzales vigorously defended the provision of $51 million in taxpayer money for the Texas Moving Image Incentive Program. Along with Sarah Davis, he has also violated the Taxpayer Protection Pledge by voting to increase taxes. The state budget is already characterized by a bevy of miscellaneous earmarks; with his enthusiasm for taxpayer subsidies, Gonzales should be right at home on the conference committee.
Straus’ appointments are neither encouraging nor surprising. Once the Senate announces Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s appointments sometime over the next week, the entire conference committee will set to work determining the future of HB 1 and the fate of Texans’ tax dollars.