My colleague Skip Hollandsworth has written a timely story for the upcoming August issue that was posted online this morning. Titled "Is This the Most Dangerous Man in Texas?" it's about UT Regent Wallace Hall, the impeachment process, and the resignation of William Powers, the president of UT-Austin.
UT president Bill Powers has been under pressure from UT regents for months, if not years, but the outcome of the debate over his future is now clear. Powers was the winner, and Rick Perry was the loser.
Powers got everything he wanted:
The list of recipients of Emerging Technology Fund grants in particular is replete with Perry's longtime friends and campaign contributors. The Dallas Morning News has reported on who received some of these grants, and have contributed large sums to his campaigns. The list includes:
•$2.75 million to Terrabon Inc., a Houston company. Its backers have included Phil Adams, a college friend of Perry's who has given his campaign at least $314,000.
I'm stunned that Rick Perry allowed himself to be drawn into a discussion of homosexuality in an appearance before the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, in the nation's most gay-friendly city. I thought he was far too seasoned a politician to make that kind of blunder. Apparently not. Here's what Perry said:
"I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that. And I look at the homosexual issue in the same way."
Perhaps this should not come as a suprise because it reflects the thinking of the Texas Republican Party at large, which recently adopted a party platform that supports the legality of gay-conversion therapy. That platform reads, "We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy."
There are three Texan Republicans who may run for president in 2016--Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul (the senator from Kentucky, who grew up in Texas and appeared at the state Republican convention this weekend). I don't think any of them could make it across the finish line. But there is a real possibility that one of them could be the vice-presidential candidate. And the envelope, please...
Yesterday the Texas Public Policy Foundation released a report on “The Real Texas Budget.” The purpose of the report, as expressed in the introduction, is to help Texans understand what our state government actually spends—a task that is more difficult than it should be because of “legislative tactics, insufficient reporting, and the complexity of the system.” The report is the result of “weeks of work,” according to TPPF’s Chuck Devore, and covers state spending trends since 2004. The first of its key findings, though, concerns state spending, a topic that has been much in the news lately: “Total Texas state government spending for 2014-15 is estimated to be $201.9 billion, a 9 percent increase over the previous biennium.”
The figure is right in line with what Texas’s most credible budget experts estimated at the end of last year. As the regular legislative session wound up, Politifact Texas asked several analysts, most of whom estimated that state spending for the 2014-15 biennium would be 8 to 9 percent greater than in the 2012-13 biennium. The Legislative Budget Board, for example, estimated that the state’s general spending in 2014-2015 would increase 8.3% from 2012-13 (PDF). Staff for Tommy Williams, the Republican from The Woodlands who chaired the Senate Finance Committee, pointed to the LBB’s estimate as a good heuristic, with the note that the LBB’s figure had not been updated to reflect a supplemental spending measure that had been passed just in the nick of time.
The growth in state spending—let’s go ahead and call it 9 percent—was significant, but not out of line given the state’s population growth, and it didn’t break the state’s constitutional spending cap, which had been set at 10.71 percent. And the budget itself wasn’t controversial in the Legislature, which is, of course, controlled by Republicans; it passed both the House and the Senate with whopping majorities, and was signed by Rick Perry to general acclaim.
Lurking on the fringes, however, were a group of conservatives clamoring that the budget actually represented a 26 percent increase in spending for 2014-15 compared to 2012-13. That figure was a blatant misrepresentation, but one that gained a fair amount of traction, especially after the Wall Street Journal published an editorial, in June, harrumphing that the 26 percent surge in state spending amounted to a California-style spending spree that would put Texas on the road to serfdom. Opposition to the budget became a litmus test among conservatives, a factor that would be heavily weighed in the report cards some of them are elected to represent.
Where did the 26 percent figure come from? Well, it came from the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The same Texas Public Policy Foundation that just released a report estimating that state spending will increase 9 percent in the next biennium.
In other words, TPPF is now disavowing its own earlier analysis. In a way, I think we should let them; if people don’t have a chance to discreetly change their tune, there’s a greater risk that they’ll double down instead of trying to recalibrate. On the other hand, the 26 percent calculation was wrong, and damagingly so—damaging to the Republican party, to the cause of fiscal conservatism, and possibly to the state—so I think we need to take a moment to look at how they arrived at that figure, and what happened as a result.
Rick Perry's presidential ambitions have run into a formidable obstacle in his home state: fellow Texan Ted Cruz. This situation has been developing for some time, ever since Cruz defeated David Dewhurst in their race for U.S. Senate. The state's outspoken junior senator has eclipsed Perry in popularity and has a much higher national profile.
Rick Perry and the House appear to be on a collision course. The chatter is increasing around the Capitol that if the Transparency Committee continues on its course to impeach Wallace Hall, the governor will call the Legislature into a series of special sessions this summer, presumably on transportation.