11/13/2009 4:27 PM
Here’s a quick summary of comments from the statewide officials at this afternoon’s installment of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association’s Annual Meeting:
Comptroller Susan Combs discussed the current state of the Texas economy. She noted that Texas has one of the best credit rating and lowest foreclosure rate of any state. She told reporters afterward that she wants to see what happens with Christmas shopping before making too many definitive statements about whether there is a need to revise her estimates of the state’s fiscal condition heading into the 2011 regular legislative session.
Senate Education Committee chairman Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) said she has requested an Interim charge on dual credit. She noted students who start college with 12 credit hours save their families lots of money. She also added that merely throwing money at the problem is not the answer to the state’s educational problems, noting the state does not have a lot of money available in 2011. She said she looks forward to examining the state’s school finance system in the Interim, without a legal gun to the state’s head.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst discussed the state’s fiscal decision-making. He noted he angered both Republicans and Democrats when he chose to set aside money in the Economic Stabilization Fund (the “Rainy Day Fund”), amid calls from Republicans to cut taxes and Democrats to spend more. He argued that decision helped the state survive the economic downturn. Dewhurst said he expected the upturn in the investment markets means the Legislature can count on some money coming from the Permanent School Fund in 2011. He noted the 2011 session will involve some difficult choices. He said during the interim he will issue interim charges encouraging taking a look at agency budgets and trying to find additional cost savings.
Speaker Joe Straus said he wants to be careful about making major changes to the state’s revised franchise tax (commonly known as the margin tax). Straus said he supports the Texas Enterprise Fund because it creates job. He stated plainly that he supports the low-tax policies that have been the Texas hallmark since Republicans took over. He also said he plans to continue working on the house toward a more respectful, bipartisan tone where every member has a voice.
Later in the day, TTARA hosted a panel discussion, with Texas Transportation Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi, Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), and TTARA’s Bill Allaway. All the speakers recognized the state has a serious problem paying for infrastructure. Delisi said she still supports the use of Comprehensive Development Agreements, but she also supports other ideas to build transportation too. Delisi mentioned that many ideas in the sunset bill for the Texas Department of Transportation can be implemented administratively, and the agency is proceeding to do so. She identified transportation finance as the critical issue and added that the Texas Department of Transportation recognizes that mobility means more than just building roads and is opening a rail division. Carona called on legislators to “exercise leadership” and support a concrete plan for paying for additional infrastructure.
Gov. Rick Perry told the conference that Texas’s current economic state is due to the tough decisions made in 2003 and he intends to stay the course – continuing to oppose new tax increases. Afterward, speaking to reporters, he took aim at U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. He suggested that – right now – Texas needs a full-time Senator and encouraged her to do – full time – the job Texans elected her to do and questioned recent missed vote.
Hutchison’s campaign issued the following response: “Kay Bailey Hutchison is a tireless fighter for Texas who delivers results each and every day. When Rick Perry is heading out-of-state to fundraise and abdicating his responsibilities to the Lt. Governor, Kay Bailey Hutchison is fighting for Texas and fighting against ObamaCare and cap-and-trade. Tomorrow, even when Rick Perry is campaigning in Oklahoma and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is the acting governor, Kay Bailey Hutchison will still be fighting for Texas.”