June 05, 2006
Evidence of actual dissension found

On Saturday at Kuff's World, I noted that an effort to insert a plank in the State GOP's platform calling for the repeal of the new business tax failed by a 28-3 vote. That was not the end of the fight over the new tax, however.

Republican grass-roots anger with Perry and the Legislature was on display Saturday, though, as Houston delegates pressed for a platform plank to repeal the business tax.

The effort was led by Steve and Bruce Hotze and Norman Adams.

Steve Hotze told the convention that the party since 1991 has had a plank calling for the repeal of the state franchise tax that many think is an income tax. He said the new business tax just made matters worse by taxing companies whether or not they are profitable.

"Even the federal government doesn't do that," Hotze said.

Adams likened the expanded business tax to spreading fire ants from one yard to another.

When state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, tried to explain the new tax to delegates, many tried to boo him down.

Williams said all the revenue from the new tax is dedicated to lowering property taxes.

Former state Republican Chairman Tom Pauken told the convention that the new tax goes a long way toward ending the so-called Robin Hood school finance system that redistributes money from property-rich districts to property-poor ones.

The convention first voted on the amendment with a standing vote, but it appeared so close that a roll call vote was held, and the measure failed.

The platform adopted by the convention called for a "timely review" of the new business tax.

The Morning News has more.

Throughout the week, Perry forces had characterized the tax opposition as small, and the governor sought to turn a convention-floor scare into an asset.

"The Texas Legislature had a vigorous debate and passed historic property tax relief and meaningful school finance reform with bipartisan support," Mr. Perry said. "The Republican Party has now had a vigorous debate and formally endorsed the Legislature's actions. I am honored to have the continued trust and support of grass-roots Republicans."

Houston talk-radio host and state Senate candidate Dan Patrick, a critic of the tax, interpreted the vote differently.

"If you're the governor in a contested, four-way race coming out of the convention with only a 55-45 victory over the centerpiece of your campaign, that's a very shallow victory," he said.

Mr. Patrick and other conservative activists, mainly from Houston, predicted a tax backlash by small-business owners and disillusionment among precinct workers.

Delegate Charlotte Lampe of Houston said Mr. Perry had slighted grassroots activists in the state's biggest urban area.

She noted that Platform Committee Chairman Kirk Overbey of Austin had called them a "small, disgruntled group."

"How could the second largest county in the nation be a 'small, disgruntled group,' " said Ms. Lampe, 52, an interior decorator. "No Republican has won statewide office without carrying Harris County. How does Rick Perry figure?"

That's a much more impressive showing by the Hotze-ites - I'd go so far as to say it's their first really impressive show of force against Governor Perry. What it isn't, however, is any kind of clear indication that Rick Perry and/or any other Republican incumbent who supported HB3 will suffer an actual loss of support at the polls in November, up to and including a sufficient loss of support to threaten his or her re-election.

I mean, look. As long as anti-business tax ringleader Norman Adams is saying stuff like this, I can't take the his group's threats seriously.

Even Norman Adams, a GOP activist from Houston who wants the party platform to include language condemning the new business tax, said, "I don't want anybody but Perry being re-elected. But I want to scare the pants off of him."

It's very simple. When a politician you support does something that you absolutely cannot abide, there are a few things you can do to try to either get him to change his ways or punish him for the transgression:

1. Figure out a way to abide what he did and give him the same support as always.

2. Withhold support (endorsements, donations, volunteerism, etc) but still vote for the guy in the end.

3. Support another candidate.

Adams appears to be somewhere between #1 and #2 - perhaps he has specifically ruled out doing anything for Rick Perry beyond voting for him, but if so I haven't read about it. Steven Hotze is (so far at least) keeping option #3 open, but as you know I have my doubts about that - I suspect he'll wind up wherever Adams lands. Sure, if this is still an issue in 2010 and Rick Perry wants to be on the ticket somewhere in Texas then, they can throw their support behind some other Republican in a primary as payback. That sound you hear is Rick Perry quaking in his tassled loafers at the prospect.

The point here is that if you decide against sucking it up and figuring out how to love the bastard that just betrayed you, you have to be willing to see him lose. You can do that passively, by choosing option #2 and hoping that the donation/elbow grease/endorsement you didn't give makes a difference, or you can do it actively by stumping for a replacement. Even if Adams really does ultimately withhold all forms of support for Perry other than his trip to the voting booth, how can you believe he's willing to see Perry lose? There's no risk involved in what he's doing, and without it, there's no power to what he says. What exactly does Rick Perry have to fear from him?

You may say well, if there were still a GOP primary to be run this year, Adams and Hotze could really go all out against Perry. Since it's just the general, their only other candidate choices are worse for them in other regards. Too bad. One way or another, their principles are going to take a blow. They just get to pick which ones.

Convention delegate Lee Roy Petersen, a retired computer systems designer from Plantersville, near Houston, said he wanted the Legislature to lower property taxes with a sales tax expansion instead of an expanded business tax. He said he plans to vote for Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, running as an independent for governor, who says she would repeal the new business tax.

"I'm trying to send a message to these people that betrayed our platform," Petersen said. "If they don't want to abide by our Republican Party platform, they need to go."

There's someone who's willing to put principle ahead of party. Call me back when Adams, Hotze, and Patrick are ready to do that. I'll be more than ready to hear about it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 05, 2006 to Show Business for Ugly People | TrackBack