Looks like another speaker's race
Sun November 13, 2011 5:47 pm

The appalling Michael Quinn Sullivan seems to be determined to try once more to undermine Speaker Straus. After all, he was so successful in 2010. With all of his vitriol, unprecedented in speaker's races, he managed to rouse 15 of 150 House members to vote against Straus.

The Quorum Report obtained a copy of Sullivan's questionnaire to candidates, which can be found in its "Daily Buzz" section. It contains, in bold face, this sentence:

We will not consider for endorsement any candidate who does not complete this questionnaire.

Sullivan reveals himself as a bully. He was not successful in 2010, and he will not be successful in 2012. Every returning House member who was a target of the late-night personal phone calls Sullivan's tea party allies generated during the Christmas season of 2009 are going to hold that grudge. No one is intimidated by him any more. He shot at the king and he missed the king. He is out of bullets.

The Texans for Fiscal Responsibility questionnaire is a desperate attempt by Sullivan to maintain a grip on relevance. It's not going to work. 2012 is not 2010. In an e-mail he sent out today, he says, "We were sending the questionnaire to these incumbents because Speaker Straus is committing the Republican caucus to a “new revenues” hunt in 2013. The speaker has said Texas has “no choice” and that it’s not possible to “cut your way to prosperity.” Those positions contrary are to the views of conservatives, and the official position of the GOP.

Really? Perhaps Mr. Sullivan should tell Senator Tommy Williams that his positions are contrary to the views of conservatives. Mr. Williams has proposed raising automobile registration fees from $65 to $110 in an effort to raise $15 billion for transportation projects.

Sullivan will soon find out, if he hasn't already, that the political climate has changed, that many of the first-time candidates who running this year are not tea party types; they are mayors and school board members and doctors and nurses and small business owners and parents of school children, many of who believe that the cuts made in 2010 went too deep and did real harm, and want to mitigate the damage.

Sullivan, though, keeps singing the same song of fiscal austerity. The very first question asks whether recipients agree or disagree with this statement:

To control government spending at the state and local level, Texas should reform the current constitutional spending cap. Lawmakers should be required to adopt the lower of either the sum of inflation plus population, ot the change in the gross state product.

TFR's proposed spending cap makes no sense. To use inflation as a measure at a time when there is deflation in the economy is nothing more than a starve-the-beast tactic. The current spending cap is population growth plus economic growth, which is measured by personal income. Population growth determines the demand for state services. Economic growth (personal income) measures the ability to pay for state services. The current cap works just fine.

Here's another question:

Would you support a constitutional amendment requiring [the] Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) to be used only to balance current years shortfalls so the dollars cannot be used to grow government?

So TFR wants us to sock away tax dollars and just keep them there, in the fund, so that they can only be used to pay the state's bills. This is nuts. Nobody is going to be for that after the 82nd session, when Rick Perry would not allow the fund to be used to prevent layoffs of teachers.

Then there is the issue of diversions:

Nearly 40% of the current gasoline tax is diverted to pay for uses that have nothing to do with road construction. Will you support legislation that ends diversion of gas tax dollars?

As those who are familiar with the state budget know, the biggest diversion of gasoline tax revenue is to fund the Department of Public Safety. This costs  more than $1 billion. The problem is, if you don't use the diversion to fund DPS, then how do you fund DPS? You will have to go into general revenue, reducing the money available for schools and health care and all other functions of government. If you end diversions, you just have less money for the rest of government. That is Sullivan's ultimate aim, and why he wants to get rid of diversions, the Rainy Day Fund, and anything else that allows Texas to avoid the kind of fiscal crisis that ravaged the budget in the 82nd Legislature.

The final questions on the survey reveal Sullivan's real agenda: Preventing Joe Straus from serving a third term as speaker:

1. Have you signed a pledge card or otherwise indicated support for Speaker of the House or the 82nd session, or do you plan to do so?

2. What criteria will you use in selecting the Speaker of the House for the 83rd Legislature?


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