Friday, September 26, 2008

"Act ethically and can the special-interest garbage...Governing isn’t an entitlement. "

Will the Republicans discuss issues that matter?


by William Lutz

Volume 13 Issue 8
The Lone Star Report
Copyright 2008

Why should anyone vote Republican for Texas Legislature this cycle?

That’s not meant as an attack, but rather a serious question. If the people of Texas continue to elect Republicans, what will they do?

While the GOP base has reengaged to some extent as a result of the naming of Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential nominee, when I ask the above questions among Republicans, a long pause is the usual answer.

That’s the problem with power. There are hundreds of nice people who are paid good money to visit legislative offices and talk about industry issues that, while they are important, the average person on the street hasn’t bothered to understand and probably doesn’t care about. Spend too much time at the Capitol, and any human will think those are the defining issues of the day.

Some of these issues are indeed important to the state’s economy and deserve thoughtful consideration. The problem arises when the technical lobby squabbles consume the legislature to the exclusion of core matters of principle.

Let me give a few examples.
  • How come low-level nuclear waste dumps, tax abatements, corporate subsidies, and permitting bills get on the front burner, while controlling taxes for everyone and protecting private property rights stays on the back burner?
  • Why did a telecommunications bill make it to the governor’s desk in the 2005 special sessions but not the school finance bills?
  • How come tort reform, rather than taxes, has become the defining issue that differentiates the main factions in the Texas Legislature?
The voters in suburbia are growing weary of poll-tested sound-bites and other slick political gimmicks. That’s, in part, why the Democrats are making inroads in places like Arlington and North Dallas and the suburbs of Austin. The disengaged voter can’t tell the difference between the parties.

Here’s what the GOP needs to do to fix this mess:

Do something about taxes. When Republicans cut taxes, they win. Some in the GOP are so afraid that their local mayor or county judge might run against them that they’ve thrown conservatism out the window. Given the way property taxes have gone up recently, it might be the mayors and county judges that get thrown out the window if they continue to waste taxpayer dollars in Austin lobbying for unlimited tax increases. The people of Texas deserve a record vote on taxpayer protections, so they can hold tax-increasers accountable.

Protect private property rights. For the first time in decades, the Democrats have put the words “private property rights” in their platform. During the mid-1990s, the GOP pummeled Democrats on this issue, which is one of the primary reasons rural America flipped from Democrat to GOP. The legislature was right to send a private property rights protection bill to the governor’s desk, and it should be the first order of business in 2009. They correctly figured out that protecting farms and ranches from unjustified use of eminent domain is more important than letting a few foreign companies and Wall Street middlemen make a buck they didn’t earn through the Trans-Texas Corridor scheme. Voters really do care about private property rights, and the GOP will pay dearly if this issue is abandoned to Democrats.

Remember middle –class pocketbook issues. Real people want their kids in schools that work, low taxes, tuition that’s affordable so their kids don’t have to become indentured servants, crime controlled, and transportation policies that work without taking the public to the cleaners. The last three sessions, middle class families were an afterthought.

Act ethically and can the special-interest garbage. The voters of Texas can’t cite chapter and verse like I can, but they know something is amiss in this area, both in Austin and Washington DC. It has cost Republicans seats.

Yes, some in the press invent a few scandals to suit their own ideological purposes. But some of the fouls the press calls are real. The number of blatantly special-interest laws that have cleared the legislature in the last three regular sessions are too numerous to mention here. If it continues, the consequences will become more severe over time.

Simply stated, GOP legislative candidates need an agenda. They need to remind people why the Republican Party is different.

In other words, governing isn’t an entitlement. In the last days of the campaign, it’s time for the Republican leadership to earn people’s votes by promising real action on issues that matter to Texans.

© 2008 The Lone Star

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