Sunday, October 29


Texas Governor Rick Perry is an idiot. And even the conservative Dallas Morning News is acknowledging it.

But it's the other half of that new Perry campaign speech that makes absolutely no sense. He says he'd like to roll back the rate on the new business tax. Yes, that would be the same tax just hammered out to help fund Texas schools. Simply unbelievable.

The ink's hardly dry on this tax, which was approved in May – after four excruciating sessions – as a way to shift about a third of the funds for schools from local property taxes to Texas businesses.

GOP Sen. Florence Shapiro put it perfectly: "I don't see how we can lower the business tax rate when we haven't even begun collecting it yet."

We won't get any hint about how much cash the tax will raise until spring. If it fails to provide enough money for the state to assume a bigger share of school spending, then legislators could face a gaping budget hole. Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst already has warned of the possibility of another wrenching set of cuts by 2009 if the tax doesn't produce.
Lawmakers spilled blood for four consecutive sessions before finally approving that new business tax to replace the old loophole-ridden franchise tax. Now the governor wants to jigger with what took forever to do?

This particularly galls us because we recommended Gov. Perry for re-election partly as a result of his helping legislators – admittedly, in the final days – solve the school funding crisis. No, he's backing away from what was a step forward.

Perry's beginning to panic as he feels Chris Bell breathing down his neck. Perry is hovering around 35% in the polls in this pack of five candidates (all with better name recognition than Bell except the Libertarian candidate), with Bell at 25-26%. I haven't spoken to a single person this season who admits to planning to vote for Perry, and I know a heck of a lot more Republicans than Democrats. With only 29% of Texans identifying themselves as Democrats and 35% as Republicans, it's possible that the independents, Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman will peel off a good deal more of the vote than polls currently indicate, and that will largely impact Perry rather than Bell. Since there'll be no runoff, at this point I think Bell has as good a chance as Perry of taking home the title.

Friday two of my best buddies at work came into my office to discuss the fundraising reception for Rick Perry they'd attended a couple of days before on behalf of our company. One noted that she found it interesting that "not once did Perry mention his predecessor, who is now president of the United States." She also mentioned that not once has the Perry campaign reached out to our company (one of the largest and most profitable companies in Texas) in its fundraising efforts "while I hear from the Schwarzenegger campaign in California at least once a week." We took that to indicate that his organization is less than stellar. My other friend remarked that Perry behaved as if "he still thinks he's the homecoming king," smirking and preening. He was put off in the extreme.

Business people I talk to are seriously considering Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the state comptroller (probably the reason Perry is talking about cutting the brand-new business tax), and it seems as if the only people favoring Perry at this point are the Christian pastors network called the "Texas Restoration Project" who support Perry's opposition to abortion and gay marraige. Perry's favorite issue, the
Trans-Texas Corridor, or the "Highway to Hell," is not finding a great deal of traction among anybody except the landowners who would profit from it.

But the evangelicals do turn out votes.

Strayhorn also enjoys support among teachers and women's groups. Kinky is garnering a lot of interest among young people and the fed-up. But right now it looks like a real race between Perry, Bell and Strayhorn. My friend the public affairs director tells me that Bell is about to launch a series of hard-hitting ads aimed at Perry. Let's hope they're as effective as she's anticipating.

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