May 17, 2006
Getting close to put up or shut up time

I'm going to return to a theme for a minute here. Take a look at this bit from Gardner Selby's piece on why the special session was good for Governor Perry, where Selby discusses the potential downside.

No matter how often Perry stresses tax cuts, he'll also be held responsible for billions of dollars in tax increases (on businesses, cigarettes and used-car sales). Critics such as Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, challenging Perry for governor, will paint him a fiscal fool.

She has ammo: Legislative advisers estimate the new taxes will raise $2.5 billion less each year than what's needed to pay for the tax cuts, leaving future lawmakers to hunt other state funds or cut from the budget - or (gulp) raise taxes again.

Selby doesn't mention who might hold Perry responsible for those new taxes, which is a bit surprising since they haven't exactly been quiet about it. Quorum Report fills in the blanks.

The efforts of Texans for No Taxes, chaired by Steven Hotze and Norman Adams, has been strongest in Houston, in no small part because of the assistance of radio-station-owner-turned-senator Dan Patrick. Last night, the Harris County Republican Partypassed a resolution that called on Perry to veto the state's new business tax, calling it "an end-run around the Texas Constitution's prohibition against a state income tax." Out of 470+ precinct chairs in Harris County, only 1 voted against the veto resolution.


Texans for No Taxes issued its own statement, threatening to take "a long hard look at other candidates" if Perry could not be swayed from the support of his tax proposal.

"Gov. Perry has stated that he does not care about the Harris County Republican Party's opposition to his business tax because he takes our support for granted. He doesn't think that we have anywhere to go," said Hotze. "The governor should take a step back and listen to his conservative base, which helped him get elected. Perry needs to remember who brought him to the dance. This vote clearly demonstrates that there will be political fallout for the governor unless he vetoes HB 3. Harris County accounts for the largest Republican voting block in the state."

Hotze also told QR that the Harris County Republican Party resolution will be circulated to all of the other county chairs in the state as well as businesses that will find themselves new taxpayers. He and his allies will seek to insert a plank in the State Republican Party Platform opposing the Margins Tax.

The state party convention will be in San Antonio in early June.

Asked to defend his decision to conservatives who might vote for another candidate, Perry said that much of it came down to communication. Once constituents contacted his office - and were fully informed by both the business tax and the tax cuts in the bill - most understood and even supported the efforts of the state.

On the one hand, 469 out of 470 signers to that document urging Perry to veto the very legislation he's championed is an impressive statement. On the other hand, to be blunt, there's a reason why Perry thinks they don't have anywhere else to go. Who exactly is Steven Hotze going to endorse in November? It won't be Chris Bell - Hotze would sooner cut off an arm than endorse a Democrat. Carole Keeton Strayhorn? Well, she supports gambling, has decided that she's now against vouchers, has regularly blasted Perry for cutting CHIP funds, and her main criticism of the new business tax is that it won't raise enough revenue to pay for the property tax cuts that Perry wants. Kinky Friedman? An even bigger supporter of gambling, and a supporter of gay marriage to boot. I have a difficult time envisioning Hotze selling out his social conservative principles to spite Rick Perry for a new business tax, and I say that as someone who thinks Steven Hotze is an opportunistic, grandstanding egomaniac. The Libertarian candidate, whoever that is? Nothing says "I am irrelevant as a political entity" quite like endorsing a candidate who has no chance whatsoever of winning. Hotze has way too much ego for that.

The one thing that Hotze could do that might have an impact is to urge his followers to not vote in November, or at least to not vote in any race that features a Republican incumbent or candidate who supported HB3. He's currently hinting at that.

Hotze said there will be "political fallout" for the governor if he doesn't veto the business tax.

He said Perry and the Republican-controlled Legislature have so alienated the conservative base of the party that many voters will stay home in November.

"I think the Republicans will be hit hard this season, and they're going to deserve every lick they get," he said.

Hotze wouldn't say whom he will vote for in the governor's race, adding, "Voters have an opportunity there to make a choice."

Saying that people may choose to stay home is not the same as urging them to do so. The former is nothing; the latter is at least a viable way to exert influence. It's also not a very satisfying way to go, especially since it all but guarantees that no one will pay any attention to you for the duration of the campaign, but at least it's something. This is why I have a very hard time taking Hotze seriously. He hasn't taken any serious steps towards doing something that really would have an impact.

In less than 20 days, Perry is going to sign HB3 into law, and at that point it's put up or shut up time for the Hotze crowd. Either endorse another candidate, overlooking all of the places where you and that candidate are a bad fit, declare definitively that you will sit this election out and let the chips fall where they may, or sit down and be quiet because your threats have no meaning. Believe me when I say that no development in politics would please me more than for one of the first two options (especially #2) to come to pass. But until I see some action, it's all just talk.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 17, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

The one thing that Hotze could do that might have an impact is to urge his followers to not vote in November, or at least to not vote in any race that features a Republican incumbent or candidate who supported HB3.

That's most likely the way it's going to go.

They've already had a test run at it, when Hendee and Patrick encouraged Republican primary voters to "Skip Dewhurst" on that ballot to make a point, so they could crank up a similar campaign against Perry. However, when I've heard Patrick recently, he's been careful not to go that far (yet)...

If Perry loses a chunk of what he calls his base, things could get interesting since it's a four-way race and his numbers weren't impressive to start.

Posted by: Kevin Whited on May 17, 2006 8:02 AM

I never thought I'd say this, but, "Kevin Whited, you took the words right out my mouth."

I had heard a little about this "Skip Dewhurst" phenomenon a few weeks ago, and it looks like the results panned out. In the Harris County GOP Primary, KBH received 73,173 votes, Perry 68,218, but Dewhurst only 50,978. I don't know who that Tom Kelly is, but when a sitting lieutenant governor underpolls the governor and a US senator by nearly 20,000 votes, you'd have to think Patrick, Hendee and Hotze's words on the air and in direct mail were having an effect on how the conservative base in Harris County voted.

Posted by: Ryan Goodland on May 17, 2006 8:35 AM

Am I to understand this to mean that Stephen Hotze, Dan Patrick, and Ed Hendee hold in their hands the outcome for the governor's race? Or the lieutenant governor's?

That prospect might actually be more horrifying than James Leininger buying the Texas Legislature.

OTOH, "Lt. Governor Alvarado" sounds as schweet to me as "Governor Bell". So I say: GO FOR IT, you right-wing freaks. Show us your juice.

Posted by: PDiddie on May 17, 2006 8:51 AM

I just about fell out of my chair when I read about "Texans for No Taxes." I thought, well they finally said what they want, something for nothing.

Turns out that's not actually the name of their group. It is Texans for No new Taxes.

Posted by: JWilson on May 17, 2006 4:48 PM