I suspect when Perry reminds voters he held the line on taxes when most states raised them, his numbers will rebound. With all of the (mostly negative) publicity over redistricting, I'm surprised his numbers haven't sagged further. Very surprised, actually.
Texas taxpayers will shoulder $2.7 billion of the state budget in higher fees, charges and other out-of-pocket expenses over two years that will kick in next week, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said today.
Teachers and school employees will bear most of it with increased insurance premiums, co-payments and health care contributions, according to the analysis released this week by the comptroller's office.
During the next two years, health care costs to doctors, nurses and state employees will account for more than $596 million in fees and other costs, the report said.
"September 1, next Monday, is a red letter day because much of the legislation from the regular session of the 78th session goes into effect next Monday. Because of this, I believe that it's critical to notify Texans in advance of the changes they will face in the costs of various services state government provides to them," Strayhorn said.
I agree with Governor Perry about as often as this happens, but I have to admit he has a point here:
"Mrs. Strayhorn didn't raise any of these concerns during the session and did not offer any real alternatives for funding trauma centers, cleaner air, greater public safety and better roads," Perry said Wednesday. "However, the Legislature did agree that stiffer penalties for drunk drivers, traffic violators and polluters were far superior to Mrs. Strayhorn's last minute calls for $2 billion in higher taxes and more gambling to fund bigger government."
In April, Strayhorn proposed allowing video-lottery gambling at Texas racetracks to help pay for public education, among 42 other money-saving recommendations. She said at the time that the gambling proposal would have generated $712 million.
That said, Perry will have to contend with her and her fondness for calling him out between now and 2006. If this is an extended primary for Governor or Senator, she'll be doing whatever she can to help keep his approval ratings down.
UPDATE: That was an AP wire story. The Chron story has some more details.
"She sounds like a candidate who's running for higher office. My gut on the deal is it's lieutenant governor," said political consultant and lobbyist Bill Miller, noting "longstanding ill will" between Strayhorn and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Dewhurst also thinks something's up with Strayhorn, but he suggested she's possibly running for Gov. Rick Perry's job, not his own. "It sounds like the Republican primary started early this year," Dewhurst said about the points Strayhorn raised at her news conference.
"I think you're going to have to ask Governor Perry about that," Dewhurst added.
"As I recall, this self-styled watchdog for the taxpayer more closely resembled an attack dog when she proposed new gambling initiatives and increased taxes as a way to deal with a drastic revenue shortfall that she failed to predict," said Senate Finance Chairman Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo.
House Speaker Tom Craddick made clear he thinks Strayhorn was not only criticizing fellow Republicans but doing so unfairly.
He said her comments "continue a pattern of misguided messages that seem intended more to stir up trouble than to increase public confidence in state government."