by Weston Hicks –
A political hack job against Phil King was written by Aledo ISD Board Trustee Bobby Rigues. He managed to get things pretty close to exactly opposite of how they are.
Published in Parker County’s “Community News” publication, Rigues presented greedy insider big-spending interests as “grassroots” under the cover of “education first”, while presenting true grassroots fiscal responsibility interests, led by Phil King, as obstructionism.
There is some truth, however, to the charge that Representative Phil King and the conservatives are obstructionist, in that they obstruct the good ol’ boys from spending Texas into the kind of shape New Jersey and Illinois are in. King deserves a medal for that kind of obstructionism.
Rigues goes to bat for the Howard Amendment, a last ditch attempt in the special session to tap the Rainy Day Fund. The Howard Amendment was introduced after Governor Perry and House conservatives repeatedly established they would not allow our Texas savings account to beef up our budget going forward, because that’s not what savings are for.
Instead, said conservatives, we need to responsibly respond to our economic reality, something the states in serious trouble have refused to do. Conservatives had the clout to win on this principle this session.
Howard didn’t even put the amendment in until the day Governor Perry staffers quit Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign en masse, signaling the Governor may be distracted enough to let a sneaky RDF raid slide by. It was a trick Howard tried at the 11th hour, but it didn’t work, largely due to heroic efforts by Phil King.
In setting up his attack on Representative King, Rigues ties the Howard Amendment to the “Make Education a Priority” grassroots initiative, which is very ironic.This is because it’s conservatives like Phil King who believe most strongly in putting education spending first, and therefore making education the last place to go for cuts. Unfortunately, Phil King and the conservatives weren’t in charge of the session; Speaker Joe Straus and his moderates were.
Straus moderate cardinal Jim Pitts drew up a draft budget that didn’t raise taxes so they could say they kept their conservative campaign promises, but they put massive education cuts front and center. The strategy was to call for cuts nobody could stomach so they could raise taxes and spend up the savings. In fact, they looked for waste and cuts almost nowhere else, commissioning a special committee to find these kind of savings that never even met.
However, with the exception of some ugly budget gimmicks that will put the 83rd legislature in a hole, the conservatives didn’t allow this moderate strategy to work. The message was sent to the good ol’ boys that Texas will make tough cuts when the alternative is spending up the savings and raising taxes in a recession. After all, if even Texas can’t do the responsible thing, everyone is in trouble.
Rigues used several tricks in his op-ed. For example, he characterized budget cuts as “kicking the can down the road”, when delaying budget cuts is what everyone else in the country uses the phrase “kick the can down the road” to describe. Liberals and moderates badly wanted to kick the can down the road, but Phil King and the conservatives wouldn’t allow it.
Rigues reached again, characterizing Phil King’s successful efforts to strip the Howard Amendment as somehow wrong. But, as even Rigues’s article implies, the more people found out about the sneaky Howard Amendment, the more it lost support. See, that’s how unprincipled insider legislation behaves – it usually wilts when light is introduced. Principled, voter-driven legislation blossoms under light, which is why Phil King’s efforts got easier with publicity.
Rigues lauded Wendy Davis for her hollow support for education, which was really support for raising revenues to keep special interest dollars safe. After all, Wendy Davis never spoke out against the lack of interest in finding cuts in the Pitts draft budget, and its risky use of education budgets to try to break the Texas appetite for fiscal sanity.
Rigues isn’t a reliable guide for conservatives in Parker County. His op-ed he was as sneaky as the Texas good ol’ boys were this session in protecting special interests and demonizing the heroes of Texas voters – conservatives like Phil King.
Weston Hicks researches and writes about associations in the Texas political realm, media choices, and political strategy. Over the past year he has advised on grassroots and voter initiatives. He has a B.A. in History from the University of Texas at El Paso and a J.D. from University of Texas School of Law. He enjoys spending time with wife and three children, reading theology and political theory, and watching FC Barcelona. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Bobby Rigues’ article: Statements of Reality