Speaking to reporters this morning, Texas Governor Rick Perry laid down a line for legislators: $1.8 billion in tax relief and no new fees for transportation, and offered an implied veto threat on the budget. House leadership may not have heard it: scheduled for a vote tomorrow is a bill by moderate legislator Drew Darby of San Angelo.

Here is what the Associated Press reported earlier today:

“It should be no surprise that if folks want to go home at the end of this legislative session, send me $1.8 billion worth of tax relief.”

“Send me a balanced budget that has no fee increases for transportation and $2 billion for infrastructure for water, and everyone can go home and enjoy their summer,” Perry added.

Let’s see…
1) Providing tax relief has proved to be elusive, despite $8 BILLION in new revenues. House members passed a paltry $666 million in tax relief last night; none has come from the Senate.
2) Legislators have thus far failed to find a way to responsibly fund water infrastructure.
3) Both chambers passed “balanced” budgets, so we’ll see what the conference committee produces.

That leaves us with the “no fee increases” statement.

Enter Drew Darby of San Angelo. Mr. Darby wants to increase vehicle registration fees by $30 a year. His vehicle for this hike is House Bill 3664.

And, yes, the lackluster House leadership has that scheduled for a vote tomorrow, which is the last day legislation can be passed out of the House. Spending limits? Nope. Elimination of subsidies to Hollywood? Nope. Zero-based budgeting? Nope.

A fee-increase that could be considered gubernatorial veto-bait? Yep, they are doing that.

A responsible path for funding transportation exists without any tax or fee hikes: dedicate the motor vehicle sales tax to road and bridge construction.

It sounds like Gov. Perry is serious. Do legislators think “no” doesn’t mean “no”? Time will tell. Lawmakers wanting to play budget-chicken ought to be prepared for a long, hot summer in Austin.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."