Since I will be watching the debate on television Thursday night, I thought I might participate in spirit by suggesting some questions that my (not) fellow panelists might ask in my absence. Having participated in several pre-debate discussions at KERA, I don’t really think it matters who is on these panels, because most members of the media are conversant with the issues facing the state and will tailor their questions accordingly. Rarely is there a question that is not predictable. The basic rule about debates is that it’s not the questions (or the questioners) that are important, it’s the answers. So here are my suggestions: ROUND ONE For Governor Perry: You pride yourself on being a fiscal conservative, yet you accepted $12 billion in federal stimulus funds. You say these were used for one-time expenditures. But isn’t it true that at least one-third of the money is for new spending that will create a $4 billion hole in the next budget? Is that fiscally conservative? For Senator Hutchison: Some budget experts have estimated that the revenue shortfall in the next legislative session will be as much as $17 billion. What steps will you take to ensure that the state will be able to meet the needs of its people? In particular, would you advocate spending the rainy day fund? For Debra Medina: You have said that you would reject federal actions that infringe on states rights. What federal actions do you think are ripe to be challenged and how do you expect to be successful? ROUND TWO For Governor Perry: Before electricity deregulation, Texans’ utility bills were below the national average. They have risen 64% since you took office. Texas homeowners pay the highest insurance rates in the country. Why haven’t the regulators you appointed acted to protect Texas homeowners from higher insurance and utility bills? For Senator Hutchison: You have been critical of TxDOT, the state transportation agency. What steps would you take to reform TxDOT and how would you pay for new roads? For Debra Medina: One of your priorities is to secure the border. It is also a priority of the current administration. Is it really possible to secure the border? If so, how would you go about achieving it? ROUND THREE For Governor Perry: The Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps to disapprove apsects of Texas’s clean-air permitting program that do not meet federal Clean Air Act requirements. Do you regret your support for building new coal plants that will make compliance more difficult and expose Texas to tougher regulation by Washington? For Senator Hutchison: Texas is heading for a financial crisis. The budget has a structural deficit. Our needs are growing and our income is not. What steps would you take to eliminate this permanent budget deficit? For Debra Medina: Education and health care are the two biggest programs in state government. Texas ranks dead last among states in the percentage of its population with a high school diploma. It has the highest percentage of uninsured children of any state. What will you do to improve education and health care in Texas? ROUND FOUR For Governor Perry: You have criticized Senator Hutchison for voting for the bailout of the financial system. Isn’t it now apparent that the Troubled Asset Relief Plan will not only show a profit for the taxpayers but it also prevented a worldwide financial meltdown? For Senator Hutchison: You have said that you intend to resign your Senate seat after the primary, regardless of whether you win or lose. Don’t you owe it to the people of Texas to serve out your term and use your seniority for the benefit of your state? —Note to readers: I was a little ahead of myself on this question. As it happens, KFOX in El Paso is reporting that Hutchison has no plans to resign her seat either before or after the primary. For Debra Medina: Your support in the polls has never been as high as 10%. Do you have any realistic chance of becoming governor?