Last week Dan Patrick was pretty busy doing a whole lot of nothing, or spinning really.
Even though Dan Patrick is the leader of the Senate – a role that is supposed to foster productivity among its members, he’s doing a whole lot of talking and not a whole lot of walking these days in terms of leadership style points.
Dan Patrick held a press conferences as often as the Senate met last week taking credit for ideas and bills traditionally only given to the members themselves. And he’s proving to close observers of the capitol that his strength is indeed in spin, not statesmanship.
While it is clear that there are plenty of policy proposals he is publicly on the forefront of, what is not very clear is what he is doing to work with anyone outside of these press conferences to actually get these pieces of legislation passed. Lucky for him with a Republican majority in the House and Senate Dan Patrick doesn’t have to work that hard to get these policies off the ground. One thing he has been working on? A new state funded website for himself! Yay. New Media.
But instead of fostering goodwill working with members behind the scenes, he’s on the forefront of every issue quite publicly, and quickly alienating – or at least not making any new friends – within his own party. How so?
Well, for the record, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Dan Patrick is a Big Government Republican. No matter what he’s said in these press conferences, what a great majority of these proposals he’s touting will actually do is increase state spending and expense, cut off our revenue streams, and tie the hands of local city and municipal budgets. This alone is enough to alienate plenty of Republicans, and indeed the Senate tax proposals have had plenty of Republican critics. One would think that one of the top leaders in the state if they are that serious about tax relief would be privately trying to bridge these gaps before they go public.
One of the proposals that was presented in a press conference and not anywhere else last week was exempting tax cuts and debt payments from the constitutional spending cap the Legislative Budget Board sets for budget writers each session. In December, the Legislative Budget Board set the lowest possible and most conservative spending cap they could for this upcoming legislature. This in contrast to the comptroller’s much more liberal budget revenue estimate (which sets exactly how much money the legislators can actually work with) makes this cap elimination proposal even more interesting.
Essentially what these two factors mean is that lawmakers will be forced to leave about $5 billion dollars on the table, but not if Dan Patrick has his way.
Dan Patrick wants to ignore this constitutional spending cap, and spend more money to try to fix the local problem of property taxes with his statewide solution, and all in the name of conservatism (“next level” indeed). He noted in the press conference that leaving money on the table “isn’t conservative.” (By the way, money has been left of the table before in past legislative sessions in the name of conservatism when other less important priorities like education were at risk.)
I guess if Glenn Hegar’s estimate had been any lower or more traditionally conservative, Dan Patrick wouldn’t have this great opportunity to redefine his “next level” conservatism.
The most problematic thing about all of this, and as I always like to call the elephant in room takeaway, is that tax cuts cost the state money and Republicans really really hate admitting that. And selling a spending increase (which is exactly what this proposal is) as a conservative move, even for Dan Patrick spinning, is a stretch.
To close I will leave you with what House Speaker Joe Straus noted in response to Dan Patrick’s proposal (from the Texas Tribune):
“For 36 years our state spending cap has helped enforce fiscal discipline, and we should be very cautious about any attempt to weaken it,” House Speaker Joe Straus said in a statement responding to Patrick’s proposals.
Yeah. Dan Patrick seems to be fostering goodwill and making new friends everywhere he goes.