As the 83rd Legislative Session gets underway, over the weekend the GCC team saddled up, loaded the wagons and moved to its Austin base camp. Some notable events so far:
Oust Straus 2.0 – The Battle Ensues Today
The patron saint of Barbara Meeks and other moderate, opportunistic Republicans everywhere, Joe Straus finds himself under seige yet again. Straus, as you may recall, was elected Texas House Speaker in a palace coup led by 11 RINO Republicans and 65 Democrats. Challenged for control of the gavel by Ken Paxton in the 82nd Legislature, Straus was successfully protected by Larry Taylor and others who feared the loss of plum committee chairmanships. This time around, a spirited campaign was led off early by Bryan Hughes to replace Straus as speaker, as attendees to the most recent state convention will recall. Hughes later backed out and endorsed a challenge by David Simpson. Given the huge advantages of incumbency, such challenges are always a long shot but there are some indications that Simpson has a fighting chance.
Why it Matters
Straus has consolidated power such that most conservative legislation dies in committee. Zero-base budgeting? Margins Tax Reform? Real Fixes for TWIA? Sensible School Finance Proposals? Pushback Against the Feds? Forget about it. The 82nd featured a Republican super majority yet was notable for its lack of conservative successes and its budgetary gimmicks. So long as country club Republicans and Democrats control the speakership, efforts to get the good guys elected at the local level and achieve real reforms that will ensure the prosperity of Texas and stop the growth of government will continue to achieve minimal results. Did you enjoy the GLO shoving Austin-based solutions down our throats (hint: housing)?
Big Spenders Panting at New Opportunities to Grow Government
“Even a blind hog occassionally finds an acorn” is an old time maxim, indicating that good fortune at times finds some in spite of their individual efforts. So it is with the State fiscal situation. In spite of the budgetary gimmicks and massive debt kicked down the road by the 82nd Legislature, we find ourselves facing a budget surplus at the start of this session. Bloomberg has a good summary here. Some notable excerpts:
Lawmakers…in 2011 put off about $4.7 billion in future Medicaid costs and $2 billion for public schools under the current budget, and now must pay those bills. With Combs projecting an $8.8 billion surplus by Aug. 31 and a 12 percent jump in general-purpose receipts for the next two years, Democrats sense an opening.
“Given that we’re seeing an increase in revenue, let’s use this opportunity to fix those things that those in control of the budget have broken,” said state Senator Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat. “Some people clearly want to starve the necessities of our people, things like schools, health care and transportation.”
From whence cometh this newfound prosperity, you ask? Must have been all those green jobs, or the Obama stimulus – you know, all that government intervention, right?
As the taxable value of oil produced in Texas surged to $39.1 billion in 2011 from $18.4 billion in 2009, the state led the nation in employment gains, adding about 700,000 jobs, according to data compiled by Bloomberg…oil and natural-gas drilling rigs more than doubled by mid-2012 compared with two years earlier, and the industry’s workforce climbed 9.2 percent, Combs said.
Let’s keep it that way. Abolish the margins tax altogether and keep Texas strong!
More to come.