Carl Parker sez:
Unfortunately, the battle cry of conservatism in Texas is, “No new taxes!” Even more unfortunately, it was started by a Democratic Governor, Dolph Briscoe. During his tenure as governor of Texas he boasted that there were no new taxes and pledged there would be none under his administration.
Of course, nobody wants to pay more taxes, so the battle cry is very popular with everyone. As a matter of fact, taxes are so unpopular in Texas that no politician in his right mind can even discuss the matter and maintain any hope of being elected. The sad part of this is that as a result of such angst against any taxation, we never have a public discussion or discourse concerning what would be a rational, reasonable tax policy in the public interest. Farouk Shami recently admitted he would support a small increase on taxation of gasoline to help build roads in Texas. Even that will cost him votes. At least 99% of all other politicians seeking office when asked how they intend to balance the budget resort to the tired, old cliché—“we will scrub the budget and do away with waste.“
As a ten-time member of the Appropriations Conference Committee (the committee which really writes the budget of for Texas) I can tell you, “There ‘ain’t’ that much waste in Texas government.”
Republicans have had control of the Texas Legislature and most statewide offices, at least since 1995. During that period of time the “no new taxes” has gotten to be more and more a phony issue.
In the late 1960's, for example, Texas ranked in the bottom 5 states in all of the United States in charging property taxes. In less than 15 years we have gone from near the bottom in property taxes to the top 5, if not the top 1 or 2. The Republican Legislature, while beating their chests about passing no new taxes during the legislative session, have in fact mandated higher taxes on homes and small businesses because of the legislative mandates they issued without funding. To simply pass it on to somebody else may not be new taxes; it is simply passing the buck.
The sheer gall of the Republican leadership is amazing. The current governor, Rick Perry, is blasting his primary opponent, Kay Bailey Hutchison, for having voted for the bailout. According to Perry she is a big-spending liberal for having done so. Perry fails to mention the fact $12-billion of the bailout allowed him and the Legislature to balance the state budget without a tax increase at the state level.
It seems Perry hypocrisy is without limits. While accepting $400,000,000 federal funds with strings all over it for highways in Texas, the governor piously refuses to even allow Texas to compete for $400,000,000 in educational funds and turns down $200,000,000 which would have shored up our unemployment reserve fund for unemployed workers in Texas.
Perry’s “do as I say” rather than “do as I do” conduct does not end there. While piously asking agency heads to cut their budgets by 5% which will wreak havoc with programs designed to help poor people and with higher education, Perry spends thousands of dollars taking himself, his family and his whole entourage to Israel to receive some sort of award.
If you think the “no new tax” across the board budget cuts are not harmful to Texas and ultimately to you, you are quite mistaken. Because of draconian cuts in higher education, tuition continues to escalate at a record pace. The cost of higher education is at or near exceeding the ability of most middle class Americans to send their kids to college without amassing huge debt. While law and order right-wing Republicans boast about being tough on crime, their bare-bones, and stingy budget has put the Department of Public Safety in a position of being 400 troopers short on our highways and 100 investigators short in its criminal division. Instead of biting the bullet and “ponying” up adequate pay for our state police, the current administration in Austin opts to simply reduce the qualifications in hope of luring people, qualified or not, to be troopers.
Another foolish experiment growing out of Republican clichés is that if we ran government like a business, we would save millions of dollars. The Bush administration tried this by privatizing the human services division in charge of determining qualifications for food stamps. It was a disaster. It was so bad they ended up having to spend twice as much to get rid of the private company they hired in an offshore island to do the job and re-employing state employees out of retirement at hirer pay than before to do the job. Deregulation of electric rates has not saved Texans much, if any at all. In fact it has cost most Texans three times what the rate used to be.
Since the time of Christ there have been hypocrites in the world; most of the time, unfortunately, in leadership positions. While I am certain the situation was bad in that time resulting in an unjust crucifixion, I believe the hypocrites of Jesus’ day were pikers compared to the ones we have now.