The Texas Tribune had a story yesterday by Ross Ramsey about Perry’s fight to stay relevant (my characterization, not Ramsey’s). From the Trib:
On Monday, he will unveil a financial pledge and challenge candidates in Texas to sign on, agreeing to oppose new taxes and tax increases, to cut “duplicative” programs and agencies in state government, and to push budget ideas that he has been touting for years, like requiring lawmakers to spend state revenue collected for specific programs on those programs, instead of diverting the money to other uses.
I don’t think anybody is going to be surprised by Perry’s attempt to emulate Grover Norquist. Perry has tried in the past to impose spending limits, and it hasn’t worked. Ending diversions sounds good, but it is really a phony issue. The main diversion, more than $1 billion, is using gasoline tax revenue to fund the Department of Public Safety. Since DPS’s job is to keep the highways safe, it makes perfect sense to us gasoline tax revenue for that purpose. If budget writers end the diversion for DPS, the money for the state’s chief law enforcement agency is going to have to come from somewhere else — and we don’t have it. So the campaign against diversions is really a campaign against spending, period. It reduces the amount of money that is available to spend. The Perry pledge is laying the groundwork for another battle over state spending, and perhaps for another race for governor, or for his ultimate ambition: to run for president in 2016. He will surely find some adherents on the right side of the political spectrum, particularly among first and second term members, but I suspect he will be a lot less successful among veteran members who are uncomfortable with the spending cuts that were made in the last budget. That Perry views this as a legacy is clear from his words: “We are approaching a 2013 legislative session that offers a very clear choice in the direction we’ll be going as a state in the years, and even decades to come.” What a grandiose notion. But what he offers is an empty vision for Texas’s future. Perry is a negative leader. He loves to tell people what they can’t do, but what they should do or what they need to do is missing altogether. What stands out about the Perry pledge is that there is nothing in it that he hasn’t said before. Nothing. Oppose new taxes. Check. Preserve the Rainy Day Fund. Check. End accounting tricks. Check. He doesn’t have even the glimmer of a new idea. There is something about this that is sad, on a human level. He has nothing to do except reflect on his rejection in the presidential race and struggle to stay relevant. Several members of his inner circle recognized that the end of the Perry era is near and found jobs in the private sector. The fear that he once generated is gone. The pledge gimmick will not find sufficient traction to make a difference. This is what happens when you stay too long at the dance.