In his conversation with Texans who were able to connect with his video address, Governor Perry offered new proposals for his next campaign. Let’s say that you had been governor for the past nine years. What would your top priorities be? Here’s what I would identify: * Improve the quality of public schools; SAT scores are flat, dropouts are rising, budgets are inadequate. * Expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program so that more families would have health insurance. A generous federal match would bring in considerable funding. * Address urban congestion by raising the gasoline tax, indexing it to inflation, and issuing bonds to build free roads. * Use our fiscal strength to hire top academic minds from universities in states like California and Michigan that can’t afford to pay top salaries. Here was Perry’s list: • A constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature to increase state taxes. A terrible idea idea in a state that already has a structural budget deficit. Now, on top of that, Perry would impose a straitjacket that could make it impossible to pass a budget. A two-thirds rule for adopting the budget is one of the reasons for California’s fiscal mess. The legislature cannot agree on a budget, and the state winds up borrowing money. Supermajorities are generally bad public policy. It gives a minority the power to erect a roadblock. Perry criticizes California’s government every chance he gets. Why does he want to take Texas down a similar path? • Making permanent the recent tax cut extended to 40,000 small businesses in the last legislative session (under current law, the $1 million business margins tax exemption will expire in 2011). Rather than trying to patch the leaky tire of the margins tax, Perry should go back to the drawing boards and replace it with a tax that is sufficient to eliminate the structural deficit in the budget. • Imposing criminal penalties on employers who knowingly violate employment laws by hiring workers who are in Texas illegally. Good. I’m for it. Now, who is going to enforce the law? Do we want our state troopers and local law enforcement officials fighting violent criminals, or do we want them making immigration raids? Texas would benefit from a federal guest worker program that allowed foreign workers to work here legally for a specified length of time. • Paving the way for ongoing job growth by purging unnecessary laws and regulations that stifle Texas entrepreneurs. This sounds good, but the devil is always in the details. Which laws are unnecessary and how do they stifle Texas entrepreneurs? This is same song, tenth verse, but … none of Perry’s proposals would be on any list of the major issues facing the state. It’s all politics, all the time.
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