Keyword: Tax Cuts
General Flynn has flipped, though on whom is still developing. Also still developing is just how many members of the Texas Congressional delegation will not be coming back. Joe Barton opted out, but there’s bad news out today for Congressman Farenthold, too. Over on the other side of the U.S. Capitol, the Senate handling of the tax rewrite (whatever the outcome) isn’t likely to help Congress’s approval rating – probably about as much as Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly, and Mark Halperin have helped the news media’s standing. On the other hand, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s endorsement of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is likely to give him a shot in the arm after he picked up a challenger this week. Lest we think there’s no policy news, health care was in the post-Harvey spotlight this week at a Texas Tribune event, and amidst all these other weird things going on, Texas surrendered in one of the voting rights cases working its way through federal courts.
This week brought a surprising (no really) amount of news on sanctuary cities enforcement and significantly quieter news on the franchise tax and ongoing budget negotiations between the Texas House and Senate. At the federal level, with President Trump's 100th day in office closing in, many have been inexplicably surprised (including House Republicans) by the frenetic energy emanating from the West Wing.
When Comptroller Glenn Hegar assured the Senate Finance Committee that he would “much rather be in this state than the other 49 states in this nation,” Dallas Senator Royce West captured the underlying tension in the Senate’s engagement with the economy, budget prospects, and taxes when he cracked back, “I just don’t want to be in a state of denial.” The finance committee’s worry about what the budget might look like was little in evidence the next day when the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief convened in San Antonio to wave a red flag on local taxation. The Senate State Affairs Committee explored how the state is muddling through implementation of the state’s new gun laws, while over on the House side, Republicans flipped a seat in the HD118 special election, triggering Democratic dismay and some public self-loathing. A Houston grand jury propelled Texas into the national headlines after reviewing the case of the surreptitiously filmed attempt to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood and indicting the fraudulent would-be tissue peddlers rather than anyone at Planned Parenthood. Way back at the beginning of the week, Rick Perry also got back in the national news for about half a news cycle after leaking to Politico (take that, state press corps) that he would be endorsing Ted Cruz. Perry revealed that he apparently doesn’t know Cruz real well, but he former governor reported that the endorsement comes after they “spent some very appropriate time together."
It was a week in which Texas political headlines were generated by characteristically low-turnout Constitutional and local elections and the release of interim charges by the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives – which is to say, it was a week for insiders.
The era of “what, me worry?” when it comes to the effects of the oil boom came closer to the end this week with the comptroller’s downward revision of his revenue estimates, a revision based largely on the effects of the collapse in oil prices. The Lt. Governor followed with his serial interim charge announcements calling for “options to further reduce the tax burden on property owners.” On the national stage, the vacuum created by the recognition that being Speaker of the U.S. House is a one-way ticket out of electoral politics led some GOP members to launch trial balloons. Meanwhile, over in the Democratic Presidential nomination race, Hillary Clinton reminded Democratic voters that she’s the pro in the race with a mostly sharp, funny performance that also showed her shrewdness by effortlessly getting to Bernie Sanders’ left on guns. Speaking of guns, the media was buzzing – and in some cases seemingly altering their policy on language appropriate for family newspapers – with the announcement by some activists at UT-Austin of a protest against the new campus carry law that will involve the open carry of dildos.
With a new slate of statewide leaders in charge, key questions about the tenor of Texas politics loomed large as the legislative session unfolded. New polling provides some preliminary answers.