“I think the Trans Texas Corridor will kill Rick Perry against Bill White."
The Graham Leader
When the Texas Legislature convenes next year, at least nine new legislators will be seated.
One of their first challenges will be dealing with an expected $15 billion budget shortfall, State Rep. Rick Hardcastle told the Young County Republican Women on Monday.
“It’s been a good year for Texas,” Hardcastle said. “We had a balanced budget. Don’t expect we’ll balance it next time. We’re expecting to have a $15 billion shortfall.”
Hardcastle said the decreased tax money is from a combination of many factors.
“The No. 1 cause is the oil and gas prices came down and leveled off,” he said. “We make millions of dollars on oil and gas. The recession is the second part. It’s a combination of everything — the economy, people quitting spending. The $15 billion is projected by what we have coming in and what we expect to come in in two years.”
When the Legislature does reconvene in 2011, one big question will be who is governor?
“Whether or not we’ll have a new governor, no one will know until March,” Hardcastle said. “If Bill White wins the Democrat primary, whoever wins the Republican primary better get their work boots on. Bill White is the most popular governor of any big city in the nation. Houston is a huge voting block.”
Hardcastle said while he supports both Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, he said he is leaning toward Hutchison for a variety of reasons.
“I think Kay can beat Bill White, and I don’t think Rick can beat Bill White,” Hardcastle said. “I think the (Trans Texas) Corridor will kill him against Bill White. I don’t want to see a Democrat governor when we have a Republican majority.”
The next Legislature will have to handle one of the hottest political battles, redistricting. One way or another, rural Texas will lose in the redistricting process, Hardcastle said.
“Redistricting is coming up,” he said. “We know for a fact North Texas will lose at least one member. We’re hoping we can maintain rural Texas. All 16 of my counties have something on the line with redistricting. They don’t want to be tacked on to the wrong population center. If you’re in Graham or Jacksboro, you don’t want to be attached to Lubbock. You don’t want Lubbock electing your state representative.”
To prove his point, Hardcastle discussed the agriculture exemption on property taxes. He said every legislative cycle, liberals or “urbanites” try to remove the exemption.
“They try every year to get rid of the ag valuation on ag land,” Hardcastle said. “They are going to open the code again this year. Will we get it like we want it? Only with the grace of God, the Farm Bureau and the cattle raisers everywhere.
“Expect it will go away in your lifetime. I only hope it doesn’t go away in my political lifetime. We went from 96 members in the rural caucus 10 years ago to 66.”
While there are difficulties facing Texas in the future, Hardcastle said the problems are nothing like those facing the federal government.
“When I give a speech at Lions Club or a Rotary Club, I usually start off by saying, ‘Folks, I didn’t vote for the bailout, I didn’t vote for health care and I don’t live in Washington D.C. part of the year,’” he said. “Right now, we’re in a big mess in Washington D.C., and we need answers. We don’t know where to turn for answers.”
Hardcastle, who was first elected in 1998, will be running for his sixth term in the state House.
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