Rick Perry’s Texas has some of the lowest taxes in the nation and it trails the national average in important economic indicators. But that’s not stopping Governor Perry from traveling the state promoting his new Texas Budget Compact, the center of which is an opposition to any new taxes or tax increases, which, he argues, will make the state stronger. Politically, the compact is Perry’s effort to set the terms of election year debates, influence the next legislative session (eight months from now!) and assert his role as the Lone Star State’s conservative-in-chief. In addition to opposing any new taxes, the Compact calls for: a Constitutional limit on spending tied to the growth of population and inflation; more program and agencies cuts; using the state’s Rainy Day Fund only for emergency purposes; making a temporary small business tax exemption permanent; and “truth in budgeting.”
Borrowing a page from anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist’s playbook, Perry said on Monday, “Each and every member of the Legislature or anyone aspiring to become a member of the Legislature should sign on.” And right on the Governor’s website, individuals and lawmakers can sign on to the Compact: Yes, I stand with Governor Perry and I support his Texas Budget Compact. I want my state representatives in the Texas Legislature to sign on to Governor Perry's Texas Budget Compact.
Asked specifically, however, whether or not he would be keeping track of who has signed on or not, Perry responded, “I’m not going to have a pledge for anybody to sign. People are either going to be for them or they’re not. There’s not a lot of gray area.”
Regardless of Perry’s intentions, the Compact smacks of the kind of binding pledge that ties lawmakers’ hands and restricts their ability to do the jobs they were elected to do. (Happily, more and more lawmakers who took Norquist’s pledge are abandoning it on these very grounds.)
But worse than distorting the political process, the principles Perry promotes in his Compact could wreak havoc on Texas if fully embraced.
As Texas State Rep. Mike Villarreal said in a statement released in response to the Compact:
"Governor Perry loves to talk about his principles in the abstract, but he doesn't want to discuss the disabled kids who lose health services when he won't close corporate tax loopholes, or the students crowded into full classrooms when he won't touch the Rainy Day Fund. After the deep and unnecessary education cuts that Governor Perry championed, it's no surprise that his Compact doesn't say a word about educating schoolchildren.
"The Governor doesn't seem to understand that we must educate our children if we are going to build our economy and create jobs."
News is that Rick Perry wants to run for president again in 2016. His hard line on taxes would certainly help him with his party’s base, even as it harms the state that already elected him.
Photo of Rick Perry via Gage Skidmore Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0