Joe Straus is admitting the obvious to the media that we have a budget problem in Texas. Via Zahira Torres in the El Paso Times, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus: We have to correct the deficit.
Texas lawmakers can no longer put off tackling the state’s built-in annual budget deficit, House Speaker Joe Straus said Thursday while in El Paso.
That “built-in annual budget deficit” is what many of us have been referring to as a “structural deficit” for years now. And The Lege knew about it when they voted on it. Straus goes on to talk about how in 2006 it was the “exact..right thing to do”. But acknowledging the structural deficit isn’t what’s going to cause him problems, this is.
He added that since the Rainy Day Fund, projected to have about $7 billion by January 2013, “will not be the crutch that it’s been to date,” lawmakers must act to find solutions for the underperforming Texas Franchise Tax, also known as the “margins tax.”
“We have no choice, unless we want to continue to try to grow our population and continue to shrink spending significantly,” Straus said. “I think at some point you can’t cut your way to prosperity.” [Emphasis added]
Saying that is one thing, getting that done is a whole ‘nother can of worms.
Let’s break that statement open. If we can’t “cut” our way to prosperity, does that mean that the opposite might be true, that we can spend our way to prosperity? At the least, in “GOP-speak”, that means that there will need to be new revenue added. Which sounds a lot like raising taxes, as Jason Embry points our referring to Straus’ statement, “And I think MQS’s head might have just exploded“. (MQS, for those who don’t know, is MIchael Quinn Sullivan, who runs a corporate-funded PAC that funds right-wing legislative candidates in Texas).
This will play into the theme that many on the far-right in the Texas GOP already have of Straus – that he’s a moderate. Of course in the Texas GOP there are no moderates anymore. Which points to other problems with what Straus said. To stop shirinking spending he must get a “new revenue”/tax bill through the House, through the Senate, and signed by the Governor. That means there will need to be a more moderate Texas House, a more moderate Texas Senate, and a more moderate Governor. That’s not going to happen in 2012. There may be some moderation in the House, but not in the Senate or Governor’s office.
What Straus’ motivations might be in saying this now is for others to ascertain. The political reality in Texas is that little is likely to change until the political leaders in our state change. And that will only change when the people of Texas decide to make that change. It would seem that if the Speaker is saying this then so are others inside the Texas GOP. And the proof might be that some of the more right-wing House members will be getting challenged from the left in the GOP Primary next year. And Straus may need those challengers from the left to win to keep the gavel in 2013.
The 68%: Polls Are Finding Support for a Millionaires Tax.