TCR thanks Christine DeLoma and William Lutz at The Lone Star Report (www.lonestarreport.org) for outlining the Texas Legislature key issues in their January 5, 2007 issue. TCR gives its opinion for conservative prospects on those issues.
Give The President A Chance On Iraq
- Appraisal/Revenue Caps and Property Taxes - The GOP primary voters overwhelmingly supported property appraisal and revenue caps. Prospects for lower residential property appraisal caps are not good. Too many GOP legislators carry the water for local government officials, who like unvoted for tax increases. Governor Perry seem to be in favor, but will he go to the wall to win on this issue? Without a cap, the property tax cut will disappear quickly. Revenue caps with automatic rollback elections passed the House in 2005 with a vote of 83-62, but failed in conference.
- State Budget and Spending by Government - State spending exploded in the last legislative session and with medical related spending on an explosive track without real reform. This needs to be brought under control.
- Business Tax - The Texas corporate gross receipts tax is widely unpopular with conservatives who believe it's worse than an income tax. In addition, it didn't get rid of the Robin Hood school plan nor put in needed reforms to increase efficiencies in our school districts.
- Prison and Probation System - Like the military, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice always "needs" new facilities (military aircraft, carriers, planes, tanks and more maximum security prisons) and don't talk about what it "really" costs for staff, maintenance, etc. Conservatives are intrigued by Marc Levin's work at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he advocates spending money on alternatives to prison, like house arrest, new community based mental health and drug programs and limiting revocation of probation for technical reasons. This is a budget area, along with health costs that if not reformed, basically will be the state's budget by 2020.
- State Transportation System - Toll roads/Trans-Texas Corridor - property rights advocates are upset with the Trans-Texas Corridor and its private ownership and the semi-secret contract agreement that cedes too much to the private sector. The Governor's Business Council says an eight cent increase in the gas tax, indexed for inflation could pay for major state roads in metro areas over the next 25 years and is an option. One thing is clear, privately owned toll roads never become free and can charge what they want, as they don't respond to voters, just stockholders. Conservatives want choice of roads (free vs. toll) and don't want to make free road expansion more difficult to build due to TxDOT policy or ill-advised contracts with the private sector. This whole area needs to be explored by the legislature.
- Higher Education Dilemma - With deregulation of tuition, not just in Texas but around the country fueling rapid increases in college costs has made college less affordable, but the universities claim to have increased financial aid. Deregulation has lessened pressure on the state to spend more on higher education, allowing spending on other priorities. The negative about the top 10 percent rule is students from competitive high schools can't get admitted to flagship institutions (no slots) and instead go to out of state universities and thus get zero benefit from Texas subsidies to higher education, and that not right either. The bottom line is the ten percent rule should be modified to end the discrimination against students from competitive high schools.
- Electric Deregulation - Texas was a pioneer in this area and the results are mixed. Rates are not as competitive as they should be. The original legacy firms have been evenly protected on pass-through and the market has been slow to react to lowering of natural gas prices. Some say this will get better for consumers and at the same time make Texas a hospitable place for construction of new electric capacity. Senator Troy Fraser has taken the lead here. Conservatives want to see a competitive marketplace.
- Illegal Immigration - It's now clear that the cost to Texas in illegal immigration is significant with (1) Medical costs. (2) Public school costs. (3) In-state tuition for illegals. (4) The significant number of illegals in the prison and criminal justice systems. Some conservatives want to tax out of country money transfers to help pay for their costs, which is a good idea. Another is the federal government should pay impact aid to Texas for facing the brunt of illegal immigration. Of course, the federal government could control our borders, but don't hold your breath.
Like many of you, TCR has been disappointed in our setbacks in Iraq. TCR also believes changes were needed 12-18 months ago. The President, to his credit, has now recognized the problem and has devised a new plan centered on the clearing and holding of insurgent areas and replacing the general in charge.
The Democrats and some Republicans in D.C. now truly want to cut and run and not even give the new ideas a chance. If you study military history you will find a change in strategy is often made during war because the original ideas don't always work. How many times did Lincoln change his generals or war plans in the civil war?
The ninnies in Washington need to take a deep breath and give President Bush's plan a chance and if he's right the war will end on terms favorable to the U.S., if wrong, we can always pull back.
Trashing the plan without giving it a chance demonstrates that the President's critics just don't get it and are so politically motivated that they can't see what President is trying to do, which is to succeed. TCR wishes him well and hopes he is right.
2008 Preview: The U.S. Senate
The 2008 Senate races at this point looks like another challenging cycle for the GOP with 21 seats up versus 12 for the Democrats. At this point we have three seats that seem like a lock, Alabama - Sessions, Georgia - Chambliss and Oklahoma - Inhofe.
Next, we have seats where the GOP incumbent is retiring or could be retiring: Colorado, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Virginia. Of these states, three now have a Democrat governor and one has a Democrat Senator and will be tough to hold.
Then there are states in solid blue America where the GOP could be challenged: Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Oregon. In nine other seats the GOP has the edge, but will possibly have challenging races. In addition, one of the leading candidates for President, John McCain, if successful, will be replaced by a Democrat governor's appointment in Arizona.
Since the GOP is down 51-49, we need a net pickup of two seats plus any seats lost among the seven tougher states.
The Democrats face a much simpler problem - lock seats for re-election are in Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and probably Michigan. That leaves only four seats that "might" be in play. The best prospect is Louisiana where the migration of "Katrina" Democratic voters could propel the GOP to victory. Iowa always has potential, as does South Dakota (where the incumbent probably isn't running again) and Montana, where Max Baucus may retire after a zillion years in the Senate and maybe a seat in Arkansas.
In conclusion, GOP prospects for regaining a majority are not good in 2008. The problem is like 2006, we have too many open or vulnerable seats compared to our prospects for takeaways.
The GOP needs to recruit well and target GOP spending on winnable races, unlike 2006 where Burns (Montana) and other races were starved for national funds and Chafee (Rhode Island) was fully funded, only to lose them and the Senate.
TCR Praises State RNC
Leaders For Standing Tall
TCR says hats off to Texas National Committeewoman Denise McNamara, National Committeeman Bill Crocker and State Chair Tina Benkiser, who all voted no in the election of Senator Mel Martinez as General Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
They correctly recognize that the RNC at this point should pick its own leaders and not be toadies for the White House. Senator Martinez has a full time job and should keep to it.
As Denise McNamara said, "My purpose in speaking out at the RNC is to communicate to the leadership the unprecedented level of discontent that I am hearing from the voters in Texas. Morale is definitely low among our conservative base."
Many think the Martinez selection reflects the view by the President and RNC leadership that a recommitment to conservative principles does not include immigration reform and border control!
2008 Presidential Race Is On In Earnest
Before you know it, the 2008 presidential race will be engaged and narrowed down. At this point, it appears four states will hold caucuses and primaries by January 2008 and California, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, and New Jersey should be done by mid February. In other words, the race could be over quicker than we thought, maybe before the Texas primary next March, which may be moved up.
- Senator John McCain
- Mayor Rudy Giuliani
- Governor Mitt Romney
- Senator Sam Brownback
- Representative Ron Paul
- Representative Tom Tancredo
- Senator Chuck Hagel (maybe)
- Representative Duncan Hunter
- Governor Tommy Thompson
- Governor Mike Huckabee
- Governor Jim Gilmore
- Senator Hillary Clinton
- Senator John Edwards
- Governor Tom Vilsack
- Senator Barack Obama
- Representative Chris Dodd
- Senator Joe Biden
- Governor Bill Richardson
- Representative Dennis Kucinich
For conservatives, the GOP field has potential candidates that have some good and some not so good. At this point, no modern Ronald Reagan has emerged, is there one out there?
David Hartman's Interesting Ideas
As the rhetoric on illegal immigration and reform heats up, a rational, common sense conservative voice has emerged. David A. Hartman, Lone Star Foundation head and long-time GOP leader and fundraiser.
In the January 19, 2007, The Lone Star Report (www.lonestarreport.org) published his ideas, which TCR wants to share in summary fashion:
- Limit automatic U.S. citizenship for children born to U.S. citizens or naturalized citizens. By the way no other major nation allows the chance of birth to determine citizenship.
- Make English the official language of the U.S. government, which "would end …. bilingual schools (replaced where necessary by English immersion). Accelerate absorption of immigrants and help eliminate illegal voting and welfare."
- Establish formal programs for temporary alien workers.
- Defend U.S. borders.
- Naturalization to citizenship should be based on skills, character and limited to next of kin with valid asylum seekers and refugees getting temporary visas. For citizenship, candidates must be functional in English reading and writing.
- Limited amnesty for illegal immigrants "illegals…should be deported, but given the opportunity to register and to apply for a temporary worker program." But not if they have a criminal record or received welfare illegally.
- Embracement of employer sanctions after given an opportunity to apply for temporary workers.
- Immigration should be in the best interest of the U.S.
- The government has no right to depress the nation's workers' incomes by opening the border to excessive immigration or to dissipate the cohesion of the U.S. by letting immigrants spurn our common language and culture.
TCR Comment: David Hartman is an innovative, brilliant, veteran conservative who has outlined an immigration reform plan that makes a lot of sense. What do you think? We will run the most interesting comments in our next edition.
Molly Ivins R.I.P.
Liberal columnist and interesting character Molly Ivins lost her long battle with cancer. She was an amusing, caustic and principled left-winger that brought excitement and interest to the political debate. She will be missed.
COMING (Friday, February 9, 2007 at 8 pm) on Channel 8 PBS in Houston, Texas - The Connection - Red, White & Blue, featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal commentator David Jones with special guests Edd Hendee, KSEV 700AM talk radio personality and James Campbell, Houston Chronicle Ombudsman. Coming soon: Houston Mayor Bill White, and 2008 presidential candidates.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who recently completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his tenth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last five years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.