EMPOWERTEXANS – Texans for Fiscal Responsibility

From EMPOWERTEXANS, by Michael Quinn Sullivan, 02/20/2013 –

“It’s a good thing we don’t get all the government we pay for.” — Will Rogers

Michael_Quinn_Sullivan-1Which is better, Friend: legislators playing flag football, or playing with your money? Before you answer, consider that at least one Republican state senator says you need to be
paying higher taxes.

Two-Thirds Rule
First the good news… Two of the state’s Taxpayer Champions are seeking greater protections against tax hikes. Sen. Brian Birdwell of Granbury and Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola have proposed amending the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority before the legislature can create or increase state taxes.

These amendments would not change how taxes are created or increased at the local level. Texans must still keep a close eye over their local counties, school districts, municipalities and special purpose districts to ensure all levels of government are acting with taxpayers’ best interest at heart.

A Taxing Vision For Conservativism
The Birdwell-Hughes protection cannot happen fast enough. Republican Sen. Kevin Eltife of Tyler wants Texans to accept the faulty premise that raising taxes is “the conservative thing to do.” He made the comments at an Austin forum in which one panelist proposed a 25 percent hike in the gas tax.

Mr. Eltife is no stranger to fiscal irresponsibility, he has a cumulative “F” on the Fiscal Responsibility Index. (Give the senator points for irrational consistency; he’s previously voted to raise the gasoline tax.)

Predictably, the grow-government Austin audience cheered on Mr. Eltife — though one wonders what the conservative base of voters back home might think of his tax-happy plans

As tax ideas go, you don’t get much more reckless than what Mr. Eltife and his crowd were proposing. Increasing the gasoline tax means more than just raising the cost of your daily commute; nothing in the economy would be spared the deleterious effects of such a misguided effort as price rise and opportunites fall. Worse, raising the inefficient
gasoline tax to fund an inefficient transportation system is like throwing sand in the engine of the state’s economy.

Before raising taxes, let’s try spending what we have more efficiently. And before dumping more dollars into the current system, let’s explore better ways to fund transportation projects altogether. As it stands, Mr. Eltife’s gas-tax fantasy is just another way to guzzle money from your wallet.

Make sure your legislator knows that raising taxes simply isn’t an option.

Chartering Better Education
Speaking of options… For all the talk about education reform, one of the best options is found in the state’s unsung academic heroes: charter schools.  Correctly utilized, they provide meaningful opportunities for driving improvement by increasing the options available to parents, students and teachers.

While highly successful elsewhere in the country, Texas’ experience with charter schools has been limited thanks to poor decisions made two decades ago hamstringing the entities while limiting how many can exist.

Fortunately, that may be about to change. State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has made expansion of charter schools key to education reform this year. Mr. Patrick is one of our Taxpayer Champions who has long supported substantive reforms in public-ed.

His appointment to the education chairmanship by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was welcome news for the conservative movement. Some of the best work on education reform in the Lone Star State has been done by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute.

Tens of thousands of students in Texas are on waiting lists or otherwise wanting to leave their “zoned” school and attend a charter. Critics of charter expansion irrationally point to the occasional bad apple as a reason to abolish charters altogether — conveniently ignoring the traditional public schools with the same or worse problems…

Obviously, there should be better oversight of both “traditional” public schools and charter schools. But no governmental oversight trumps true competition, in which parents are empowered to place their child in the school best suited to their needs. No public education reform, though, could be as immediately powerful as one making it easier for parents to transform an unsatisfactory traditional school into a smart charter school. Such “parent trigger” options would make schools far more responsive to the needs of parents, kids and teachers.

Administrative bureaucrats are howling mad at the prospect of any academic freedom; they prefer the status-quo monopoly. But if Texans truly want teachers free to teach and kids free to learn, charter school expansion should be the top of any reform agenda.

Legislator Games
It’s a harmless tradition, Texas lawmakers taking off a few hours to play football. Yes, they do it during the work-day and on your dime. Think of it this way: that’s one day they won’t be raiding the rainy day fund, sneaking into your pocket, or regulating your business.

After making an appearance at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 26, lawmakers will load up on buses and drive two hours to College Station, where you’ll be paying them to play football at Texas A&M. (Constitutionally, legislators are paid $600 per month plus a per-diem while in Austin. The combined per-diem for House members on February 26? Approximately $22,000.)

It’s tempting to criticize lawmakers for taking off a work-day to go play a game of flag football on Kyle Field. But consider… they could instead be joining Sen. Eltife playing games with your money under the Capitol’s pink dome.

So on careful reflection, we at TFR heartily endorse a flag football league for legislators – with the caveat that games only be played during the hours when they would otherwise be legislating.

We appreciate so much the folks who have signed up as “champions” in the 1836 Campaign. This effort funds our 2013 Accountability Project, allowing us to keep citizens nformed and engaged throughout the legislative session and beyond. Thank you!

For Texas,
Michael Quinn Sullivan
& the EmpowerTexans.com Team

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