The Great Undoing

This has been a session of furious backpedaling.

THE LEGISLATURE IS ENTERING THE HOMESTRETCH—and pulling its final high jinks. But this session seems less about the future than the past: Plagued with second thoughts about policies they enacted in previous sessions, lawmakers have been afflicted with rampant buyer’s remorse. At the top of the list? The Trans-Texas Corridor. The mammoth plan sounded visionary in 2003, until the public learned that it meant foreign-owned toll roads and secret contractual agreements. Now the Lege wants a two-year moratorium on any new private toll roads. Then there’s utility deregulation: That sounded good too, until the megadeal for TXU came along. Worried about higher electric rates, today some key lawmakers want the deal to hinge on approval by state regulators. Privatization of enrollment in Medicaid was supposed to save big bucks, but it turned into such a mess that legislators demanded that the contract with consulting firm Accenture be terminated. And while cuts in the Children’s Health Insurance Program seemed like an easy way to save money when the state was in the hole, today the battle is over how much of the cuts should be restored. More backpedaling: Some lawmakers have major regrets over tuition deregulation and would like to limit future increases (good luck convincing UT and A&M), while others worry that the new business margin tax hits small business so hard that it has to be tweaked. Do you suppose that there’s a lesson here for future legislatures? Sure. Do you think anyone will learn it? Not so sure.

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