He’s back! As Peggy Fikac of the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reported, during a speech Rick Perry gave in Houston Monday, the governor unveiled a “Texas Budget Compact,” reminiscent of Grover Norquist’s infamous anti-tax pledge.
As Fikac wrote:
The principles of the pledge he’s promoting include restraining spending, opposing new taxes or tax increases; limiting government by cutting duplicative programs and agencies; and making budgeting more truthful by using funds for the purposes for which they are collected, rather than diverting them to help balance the general budget.
But what does it really mean?
1. Rick Perry will be a force during the May 29 primary
“The ideas aren’t new for Perry, but his hands-on involvement so early in the 2013 budget process is unusual,” Kate Alexander of the Austin American-Statesman wrote. “Laying out the governor’s terms for next year’s budget now allows it to become an issue in the May 29 primary elections, said state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.”
Even Michael Grazcyk of the Associated Press called the speech a “campaign-style appearance.”
2. And he’ll wield influence over the Eighty-third Legislature
Prior to the speech, the governor granted an interview with the Texas Tribune‘s Ross Ramsey in which he tied the compact to the tea party and his book Fed Up!, while calling himself “the senior statesman, so to speak.”
“Imagine how it might work for someone with the power of public office,” Ramsey wrote of the compact. “Perry can support or oppose Republicans in elections — a strong card to play with just six weeks left before the primaries. After the general election, lawmakers will walk into a legislative session where the guy with the pledges has veto power over their bills.”
“I wanted to get it into the groundwater,” Perry told Ramsey. “It isn’t just the primary. I want candidates and voters thinking about this going into the next legislative session.”
Longtime Austin lobbyist Bill Miller told Alexander and Chuck Lindell of the Statesman that Perry’s potential 2014 relection campaign is the “short term view.
But, Miller said, “I think a truer motive might be the long-term view. I believe he wants his legacy to be a bona fide no-tax guy.”
3. Naturally, the Democrats are unimpressed, but what about Joe Straus?
The Democratic Party’s response to Perry’s speech included calling the proposal, as the Tribune‘s Jay Root reported, “Rick Perry’s Shameful Compact,” arguing that Perry is “leading Texas into a race for the bottom” by permanently underfunding education and essential services.
But most eyes shot over to Republican Speaker of the House Joe Straus, who released what TEXAS MONTHLY‘s Paul Burka termed “a carefully worded statement.” It began by saying “Speaker Straus not only agrees with the principles outlined in Governor Perry’s compact but also has delivered results on them,” but also concluded “Speaker Straus has a long-standing policy of not signing pledges; his pledge is to keep his commitments to and provide quality representation for the constituents of District 121 and the people of Texas.”
By contrast, as Root reported, Straus’ primary opponent Matt Beebe “said he would sign the pledge if asked.”
4. It’s not really a compact
But if Straus doesn’t want to then he doesn’t have to. As Root reported:
After unveiling the compact, Perry told reporters that he would not be taking written promises or keeping up with who has signed it and who has not.
“I’m not going to have a pledge for anybody to sign,” Perry said. “People are either going to be for them or they’re not. There’s not a lot of gray area.” The governor told reporters that other groups might try keep track of written pledges, but he said “it won’t be coming out of my office or from me.”
Translation? Back to you, Empower Texans, which already has its own Taxpayer Pledge that Perry, Patrick, Beebe and many others have already signed.
5. If offers “an empty vision for Texas’s future.”
Or so says Burka. “Perry is a negative leader,” he continued. “He loves to tell people what they can’t do, but what they should do or what they need to do is missing altogether.”
[The governor] 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.
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.