The GOP legislative leaders in Texas are boxed-in. They know what needs to be done but can’t get it done. What is a party that can no longer elect rational, or moderate, candidates to do? As they begin to face the facts, they are also beginning to wrestle with how to raise taxes without prodding their base to revolting. Here’s what state Sen. Tommy Williamson said yesterday to a pro-business, low-tax group, Budget, tax issues loom for Legislature.
Schools, highways and taxes three weighty issues that have long bedeviled Texas leaders will dominate the 2013 legislative session, veteran legislators told business leaders Tuesday.
Their challenge will be to find politically palatable solutions among legislators with little appetite for generating new revenue.
“We’ve got to start having some honest conversations with our constituents about what it takes to run state government,” Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tommy Williams , R-The Woodlands, said at a meeting of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association . [Emphasis added]
There’s quite a bit to be gleaned from that one sentence. Saying that it’s time to “start” having honest conversations would certainly lead a logical person to believe that they’ve having dishonest conversations with me in the past. And if so, for how long? But also implicit in that statement is an admission by Sen. Williams that the state is going to need more money then is currently projected to “run state government”.
The other facet to the recent change in messaging by the Texas GOP is that while they realize that taxes must be raised, essentially admitting the failure of their policies, they are afraid to admit that out loud by advocating for that policy change. Instead they’d rather force the people of Texas to make that decision, in effect, abdicating their legislative duties. Here’s what retiring state Sen. Steve Ogden is saying, (he’s been saying this for a while), Senate leader: Voters need to answer tough budget questions.
Senate Budget Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, favors less representative and more direct democracy to handle some of the state’s pressing problems.
Texas voters should be asked to weigh in on school finance, state highway funding and the business tax, Ogden told the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association annual meeting Tuesday.
“We need to let people tell us what they want,” said Ogden, who is retiring after his term ends next year.
“So let’s ask people for some help,” he said, suggesting a debt service tax much like school districts use to pay off school bond issues.
Ogden doesn’t see the Legislature tackling tough issues without getting voter buy-in.
“So we need to ask the people for help,” he said. “Whatever the answer is, we can live with – but we need an answer.”
Under this plan nothing would change until the after teh 2013 off year Constitutional Amendment election where a narrow sliver of Texans show up to vote. How in the world would that be letting the people decide? What’s clear from their words is that elected Republicans like Ogden and Williams know the only way to fix our state’s fiscal problems is to raise taxes. Their problem is political, they don’t want to raise taxes without having political cover. They know the right thing to do and choose not to do it. That makes them cowards.