As the dust clears from the Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, one thing is clear: the legislative leadership spent a lot of your money. Wildly. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board wrote this weekend the budget makes Texas look too much like California. Meanwhile, moderate legislative leadership is targeting those who had the audacity to vote responsibly.
Governor Rick Perry has been traveling the nation with the “we’re open for business” talking point, showing how the state has been a low-tax, low-regulation haven for entrepreneurs. Job-creators are flocking here in record numbers. He can’t do that for much longer if the Legislature’s budget stands.
The legislature’s spend-it-all mindset is no different than the one which ruined the once-vibrant economies of Michigan and California.
Call it the downside of prosperity: The Texas growth spurt has produced a near $20 billion gusher of new tax revenue, and the Republican-dominated legislature, with the support of seemingly every lobby in Austin, wants to spread the bounty. The biennial general-fund budget that awaits the Governor’s signature is $102 billion compared with $84 billion two years ago.
Those numbers understate the blowout because $4 billion more was snatched from the state’s rainy day fund.
The editorial board is especially exasperated with that last point: “This may be the first time in history that a state experienced a rush of new tax collections and lowered its reserve fund.”
And they closed with this:
The danger is that Texas will repeat the fiscal mistake that California has made repeatedly: spend during the glory days and, once the economy slows, raise taxes to cover the deficit. The Texas oil patch is riding high on $95 a barrel oil and a doubling in production in four years. But Texans shouldn’t forget the lesson of the 1980s and late 1990s that oil prices are volatile and a decline can be painful and prolonged.
Mr. Perry … can fix the reckless Texas budget by vetoing all or most of it and insisting on deeper business tax cuts. He should not want people to start comparing him unfavorably to Jerry Brown.
That’s probably not the legacy Mr. Perry wants…
Nor is it the kind of “history” conservatives expected a Republican-dominated legislature to make. But that’s the point: the legislature is Republican-dominated but moderate-led. Since senior conservative-talking legislators chose not to fight the re-coronation of moderate Joe Straus as House Speaker.
There were 32 conservatives in the House (and four in the Senate) who opposed the monstrous budget. And for their trouble, the Dallas Morning News reports that Speaker Straus and his leadership team have “had discussions” about “what to do with them.” (Any guesses? We know conservative freshmen State Reps. Jonathan Stickland and Matt Schaefer are at the top of their target list.)
Meanwhile, moderate GOP Sen. Tommy Williams of The Woodlands – who is mulling a statewide campaign for Comptroller – has been revealed by the DMN to have been trying to “spank” conservative Sen. Dan Patrick for voting against the budget. Specifically: Williams wants Patrick’s chairmanship taken away.
Lawmakers who hiked spending — and those legislative leaders defending it — are giving Texans a lesson in recklessness. They might as well have renamed the state “Texafornia” and handed the Capitol over to the Democrats.
Rather than fight for the values and principles that have made Texas strong, they are fighting against those who have the integrity to govern right.
If it does nothing else, the WSJ editorial should be a wake-up call for whatever campaign-conservatives voted for this monstrosity: their actions are at odds with their words. And with what is best for Texas.