From ABC Texas Merit Shop Journal • October 2011 –
Senator Estes was first elected to the State Senate in a 2001 Special Election, and then re-elected in 2002, 2004 and 2008. He is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs as well as Vice Chairman on the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Senator Estes also serves as a member of the Senate Finance, Business and Commerce and Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committees.
The Senator was appointed by Governor Rick Perry to serve on the Southern States Biobased Alliance and the Western States Water Council, and by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst to serve on the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference of the Council for State Governments, and Agriculture and Energy
Committee for the National Conference for State Legislators.
He serves on the Bioenergy Policy Council, which was created through his legislative efforts to expand research and development of domestically produced alternative fuels to promote economic growth, and reduce dependence on foreign energy.
One on One with Senator Estes ~
Q: What is your view of the free enterprise system?
A: I think that the free enterprise system is the backbone of this country. It made us the greatest nation on Earth, and I think it is no accident that the farther we move away from it— the more Washington forces us to abandon it with rules and regulations, the weaker we become.
I think it is clear that Texasis doing so well compared to the rest of the country because our state government generally tries to stay out of the way. We have minimal regulation here, which reduces uncertainty and allows businesses to thrive. As a State Senator, I try to keep things that way.
Q: How do you believe the Legislature did last session in addressing our state’s needs?
A: I think it did a great job, all things considered. Last session was very difficult. We had a large budget deficit, but conservatives like me knew that the best way to destroy our economy was to fill the gap by increasing taxes. So we went through the very difficult process of trimming the fat off of a state budget that was, to be perfectly honest, already pretty lean. We got the job done, and I think we did it in such a way that essential state programs will continue to serve Texans well.
Q: You carried a bill for the construction industry this session. In fact, it was the #1 priority of ABC of Texas. In addition, you were very supportive of construction industry initiatives. How do you believe the construction industry and ABC of Texas did overall?
A: I was a proud supporter of ABC, as I always am. In a state that is growing as quickly as Texas is, we need our construction industry to be strong and healthy. I think the rest of the Legislature generally feels the same way and votes accordingly. This session was no exception. As you pointed out, I was honored to carry the Senate version of the Retainage Lien Bill, your number one priority this session. It basically sought to reduce the number of subcontractors who act in good faith but lose their rights to retained funds in construction projects. The law already provided for the owner of a construction project to retain 10% of each payment to the general contractor for the benefit of the subcontractors and suppliers working on the project. When the project is completed, these funds are released to the general contractor, who distributes them to the subcontractors and suppliers. A lot of subcontractors were losing their rights to these funds because some of the notice and filing deadlines were very tight. My bill altered the old notice and filing requirements for perfecting a lien on retained funds to make those requirements more flexible without unduly burdening the owners. We had to work with a lot of different stakeholders to produce the final product, but I think everyone involved was pleased with the result.
Q: The national economy has been faltering, what is your view of our state’s economy?
A: I don’t think it’s any accident that a lot of people have started calling our economy the “Texas Miracle.” As I said earlier, there’s a reason our national economy is faltering: the federal government is choking it to death. It seems like not a day goes by that Washington doesn’t hand down some new regulation that makes it harder to do business in this country. And when they’re not regulating us to death, they’re spending us to death.
Businessmen and investors (the people who actually create real jobs, not fake jobs funded by taxpayers) don’t just worry about regulations— they also worry about the taxes that are going to have to be levied at some point in the future to pay for all the wasteful spending that’s been going on. What’s even worse to me is the number of people who have been completely fooled into thinking that all of this is “necessary” for recovery. All you have to do is look at the history books. President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration spent eight years trying to regulate and spend the country out of the Great Depression, without any measurable success. I have no idea why we’re trying the same failed policies again. In this kind of climate, it’s no wonder that businesses (and the jobs that they create) are fleeing toTexas. We’re as stable as it gets in this country. A lot of other states have poisoned their business climates with the same types of policies the federal government is pursuing, but we’ve done the opposite. I suppose it boils down to this: we’re doing exceptionally well, all things considered. But we could be doing much, much better if the federal government would just get out of our way.
Q: What were your personal priorities last session and how did they fare?
A. My biggest priority was Senate Bill 18, the eminent domain reform bill I had tried to pass for the last few sessions. We finally got it passed and signed by the Governor last session, meaning landowners in Texas now have new protections against the abuse of eminent domain authority by corporations and governmental entities. My other priorities were the Retainage Lien Bill, which we’ve already discussed, and balancing our state budget without raising taxes. I wish balancing the budget had been as easy as the Retainage Lien Bill. I serve on the Senate Finance Committee, so I know firsthand how many competing concerns we had to reconcile. We had to fund a public education system that is growing quickly as more and more people move to Texas in search of work, we had to fund law enforcement as it struggles against the wave of crime spilling over into our state from the drug wars in Mexico, we had to fund our health services, and we had to save the majority of our Rainy Day Fund so that we will be able to meet the massive unfunded obligations that ObamaCare will impose next biennium. All things considered, I think we did an outstanding job. We managed to cut $15.2 billion in expenditures while increasing state funding for public schools by almost $4 billion, saving $6.5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, extending the small business tax exemption for 2 years, and nearly doubling budget spending on border security.