While Texas’ governor and lieutenant governor have been talking about cutting taxes this session, one of the House Speaker’s key lieutenants is throwing cold water on the idea. He says lawmakers should be focused more on spending the state’s newfound revenues.
This is in sharp contrast to what others are saying. Earlier this week, Comptroller Susan Combs reported that the state would end the current budget with $8 billion left over, and see a 12 percent growth in available monies for the new two-year budget cycle. Gov. Rick Perry responded on the first day of the legislative session by calling for tax relief.
That doesn’t sit well with State Rep. Dan Branch (R-Highland Park). He was quoted by a liberal Austin political-gossip blog as saying he wants to “look at the math” before committing to any tax relief. It’s not that Mr. Branch thinks the money isn’t there, it’s that he and others on Joe Straus’ leadership team want the state to spend more of your money.
He said “at some point you could have a state that has light regulation and low taxation but [you] can’t turn the lights on.” Despite the scare tactic he is trying to employ, Mr. Branch knows better. The state is nowhere near, and no one is calling for, such nonsense.
Curiously unmentioned by Mr. Branch are the billions he and his allies have frivolously handed out to Formula One and other corporate cronies. Clearly, Mr. Branch doesn’t see cutting taxes nearly as much fun as handing out goodies.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation has shown that state spending over the last two decades has wildly exceeded population growth and inflation—meaning there is still a lot of room for strict spending reform.
Mr. Branch, who is rumored to have statewide political ambitions, is one of House Speaker Joe Straus’ closest allies in the Legislature.
A year ago Mr. Straus told the El Paso Times that “you can’t cut your way to prosperity”—the same line being used at the time by President Barack Obama. The speaker has doubled down this week, issuing calls for more spending programs while he and his team pooh-pooh talk of tax cuts.
A fight might be brewing in the House. State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran of Kerville, who currently chairs the House Ways & Means Committee (though for how much longer?) said the budget should be written to allow for “very substantial tax relief for all Texas taxpayers”.
In the senate, Craig Estes of Wichita Falls has proposed eliminating the state’s cumbersome and inefficient tax on business. (Obviously, Mr. Branch’s buddies don’t like that idea.)
At the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s must-attend Policy Orientation on Thursday, Gov. Perry reiterated his call for tax cuts. “The best use of the people’s money is to leave it in their hands.”
Mr. Branch has other thoughts, saying the state’s current taxes are low enough: “I just think we ought to claim victory and say that’s a good thing.”
Do you disagree with Mr. Branch? Make sure your legislator knows it! Tell your lawmakers that you think cutting taxes must come first.