When it comes to confronting Texas’ budget challenges of 2013 and beyond, Republican House Speaker Joe Straus has an answer: no more spending cuts. Instead, Joe Straus wants to look for new revenues. That means digging deeper into your wallet and ruining Texas’ economy.

Winston Churchill once said that to think it is possible to be taxed into “into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” Mr. Straus, apparently, would make that bucket heavier by letting government live beyond the taxpayers’ means.

Mr. Straus recently told the El Paso Times: “We have no choice… you can’t cut your way to prosperity.”

It seems that Speaker Straus shares a similar economic philosophy as President Obama. This past June, President Obama told America in his weekly radio address:

Of course, there’s been a real debate about where to invest and where to cut… but we can’t simply cut our way to prosperity.

While such tripe is standard fare for Mr. Obama and his fellow liberal Democrats, it’s surprising coming from even a moderate Republican like Mr. Straus.

Of course, his legislative lieutenants, like Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, refused to address structural spending reform in the 2011 session and made precious few reforms to state government. Rather than use the super-majority to re-design education and health care spending to make more efficient — and stave off a shortfall in 2013 — Mr. Straus and his allies created a budget hole to be plugged in Medicaid by the next legislature. So much for leadership.

Mr. Straus that it would have just been “asking a lot” of a Republican super-majority to have both balanced the budget and addressed structural fiscal issues in 2011. But isn’t that what that super-majority campaigned on? Maybe they should have at least tried?

For example, legislation to tighten the state’s spending limits received only a cursory hearing on the last day of committee meetings during the legislative session. State spending has grown 300 percent from 1990 to 2010, with population and inflation going up just 150 percent. And Mr. Straus says there’s nothing to cut? Get real.

Mr. Straus’ team tried to force the state House into accepting the illusionary budget bump that some claim would come from expanding gambling, but legislators wisely refused to buy in. (Mr. Straus’ family has significant gambling holdings, and he appointed fellow
gaming investors and proponents into key leadership positions.)

Now Mr. Straus appears to be positioning the state between accepting higher, economy-killing taxes or budget-busting gambling proposals (that benefit Mr. Straus’ family business) in the 2013 legislative session.

Despite heavy opposition from grassroots voters at the start of the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers re-elected Mr. Straus as speaker mostly on a campaign attempting to burnish his conservative bona fides. Now that he is on the record calling for an end to spending cuts in 2013, and therefore the illusion that he is a fiscal conservative, it will be interesting to see how many of his legislative supporters keep standing with him.

Nearly 70 legislators have signed the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” — something Mr. Straus has never done, and neither have many of the legislators he put in leadership positions, such as the aforementioned Mr. Pitts.

Rather than continue working to reign in government spending, Mr. Straus told the El Paso paper he wants to revisit the state’s business taxes. Open your wallets and open wide, Uncle Joe can spend your money better than you can. With that attitude, he might be ready to join Occupy Wall Street’s march against entrepreneurship, but it will be at the expense of job growth. The state’s economy is growing, and has been for the last 18-plus months (slowly though faster than the higher-tax states).

The economies of California and so many other states weren’t retarded by too little government, but by too much government; their prosperity wasn’t lost by too many spending cuts, but too few. Indeed, those states recessed because men and women followed the irresponsible policies Mr. Straus is now parroting.

As voters prepare for the 2012 elections, we find the 2013 session will see liberal tax-and-spend Democrats and moderate spend-and-tax Republicans working together to separate Texans from prosperity.

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."