It is clear most Texans who vote in our elections consider themselves conservative. In the past I have written about how a Texas conservative is defined. Frankly in too many instances it is my fervent belief that being a conservative politician in Texas means dancing to the tune of special interests—particularly the oil and gas industry, along with the insurance industry.
Recently Dallas Morning News published a provocative article about whether or not members of Texas Republican leadership are true conservatives. In the minds of most folks a governmental conservative or conservative politician is one who does everything possible to save taxpayers money, has a tight fiscal budget, and limits government intrusions into citizens’ everyday lives.
The article questioned whether or not our leaders were true conservatives, particularly in the field of responsible money management for our state. When Rick Perry took office our state’s bonded indebtedness was $14.8 billion. Under the fiscal leadership of Perry and our current governor, our state’s bonded indebtedness has risen to $40.8 billion. While the rallying cry for our Republican politicians has long been the accusation that all Democrats do is tax and spend, they seem to ignore the Republican style which could best be described as borrow and spend.
While ignoring the option of a small gradual increase in our motor fuel tax, or taking the option of pegging our motor fuel tax to the rising economies of national productivity, our leadership has deemed it good policy to simply issue more bonds and borrow more money to support unprofitable toll roads.
Failure to keep an eye on our ever growing obligation on retirement programs in Texas, there has been a spectacular growth far above the national average in our unfunded liabilities for retirement. Our retirement liability is growing at a rate of 13.5% per year, about twice as much as the national level, and far exceeding the economic growth of our state which is 6.5%.
Our governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general have pretty much ignored the growing debt through the borrowing they have sanctioned by simply saying that increased economic activity and population growth in Texas would more than make up for the difference and we would quickly be able to pay off our debt. Population growth in Texas has failed by several percentage points to match the projected forecast of our leaders. Texas’ population growth has slowed to where it is only about 3% per year.
It seems to me that perhaps we should re-define conservatism or demand that our statewide politicians who sell themselves as being conservatives do a better job of practicing what they preach.