Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Today's opening of the legislative session in Austin

That's three posts in a row on SD-6, so let's talk about something else.

Before today's inaugural session, there was good news...

... State Comptroller Susan Combs (told) lawmakers they've got billions of additional dollars at their disposal.

"Robust revenue collections driven forward by a recovering Texas economy led by sales taxes will result in a budget surplus," Combs said, projecting new revenue of $96.2 billion.

And not-so-good news...

But after paying leftover bills from the current biennium and stuffing $3.6 billion in the "Rainy Day" fund, the balance left for distribution is likely to leave many disappointed, especially advocates for Texas public schools.

"We are not going to see the restoration of the $4 billion to $5 billion cut during the 2011 session," Rice University Political Science chair Mark Jones said.

Indeed, Charles made this salient point this morning about the Comptroller of Public Accounts' underestimate.

This is all well and good, but the bottom line of Combs’ misfire is that the Lege cut billions of dollars from the budget that ultimately didn’t need to be cut. We may be able to do something good with this extra money now, but we can’t go back two years and un-fire all those people who lost their jobs as a result of the Republicans’ budgetary chainsaw massacre. We can’t go back and un-shortchange all the school districts and students that took those cuts right where it hurts. It’s all so much bloodstained water beneath the bridge.

And sure enough, the governor followed through on a tax cut mantra in his welcome to newly-sworn-in legislators later in the day.

Rick Perry was defiant as ever this afternoon at the Capitol. The governor sketched out his priorities for the legislative session in a brief speech to the Texas Senate on the Legislature’s opening day and made clear his approach this session will look very familiar. If you were hoping that the state’s improved budget outlook might lead to a slight increase in spending on items like schools and health care, Perry intimated this afternoon that those items aren’t high on his priority list.

After welcoming special guest Rick Santorum—who was sitting among the senators’ family and friends in the back of the chamber—Perry said the state’s budget surplus, announced yesterday by Comptroller Susan Combs, is proof that “we put Texas on the right path.” And lawmakers need to resist the urge to spend. “There are interest groups in the state who view Monday’s revenue estimate as ringing the dinner bell.”

At that, a young woman lost consciousness, as Dave Mann at the Texas Observer observed.

Moments before Perry said those words, a young Senate staffer standing in the back of the chamber—standing right behind me, actually—fainted. She collapsed on to me and Reuters correspondent Corrie MacLaggan. The young woman’s head hit the floor hard, and she lay motionless for what seemed an eternity, though it was probably only 15-20 seconds. It was a scary moment.

The commotion stopped Perry’s speech, and Sens. Bob Deuell and Donna Campbell, both of whom are doctors, rushed to the woman’s aid. She soon regained consciousness and was helped into a side room. She appeared OK. I hope she is OK. Perry, after seeing the woman helped shakily off the floor, quipped, “I haven’t had that effect on someone in a long time.” Then he added that talk of higher taxes can literally cause “people to swoon.”

Ha. Ha. Ha. What a douchebag we have as governor.

We can console ourselves with the hope that since the calendar reads January of 2013, he's not -- at this time -- capable of being as large a douchebag as the Attorney General of Texas (or whoever writes his legal briefs). Or even, for that matter, as masterful at douchebaggery as the new US Senator from Texas.

Update: Utter dumbass, though? Hell to the yes.

"I will suggest to you that you can ride into infamy with the decisions that you will make." -- Gov. Rick Perry, comparing lawmakers of the 83rd Legislature to the doomed defenders of the Alamo at a speech (Tuesday morning) to the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Webster's defines infamy as "an extreme and publicly known criminal or evil act." The word is best connected with FDR's description of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And now it's a good summing up of what at least a few Texans might expect from their elected representatives over the next few months.

But dumbass over douchebag is small consolation. Tiny, actually. Miniscule, in fact.

At least we can hope that the Lege isn't capable of as much damage as two years ago. After reading this about the Republicans, though, I have to be skeptical. Thank goodness for Wendy Davis and Abel Herrero and Gene Wu and Harold Dutton and Senfronia Thompson and most of the other Dems. They'll make the next five months tolerable.


Update: Eye on Williamson has the short and sweet summary. 

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