Dewhurst’s Senate cut taxes and helped business, but is the Tea Party happy?

Posted Sunday, Jun. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
Tune in Watch David Dewhurst's interview with Bud Kennedy and host Jason Whiteley on WFAA/Channel 8 "Inside Texas Politics."

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kennedy In the What-Has-David-Dewhurst-Done-For-Us-Lately Dept., all the lieutenant governor did this session was help the Texas Senate find us more water, cancel some school tests and save tax money.

Sounds great. But was it enough for Republicans?

Facing two and maybe three prominent opponents after losing a lethargic race for U.S. Senate, the Houston energy millionaire had to reprove himself this session both as a conservative and as a winner.

To business Republicans, he guided Texas toward greater economic growth, jobs and success.

To movement conservatives, Ron Paul libertarians and the Tea Party, he spent too much money.

“We’ve just come off our most successful session in the last couple of decades,” he told local builders, real estate developers, mayors and council members Thursday at a Fort Worth banquet.

The Senate cut business taxes $1.3 billion, he said, eliminating a utility bill surcharge that cost Texans $150 million. (But that only saves each household about $1 a month.)

Don’t look at the total budget, he seemed to say — look at Washington.

“The Texas Legislature has just passed more substantive tax relief in just 140 days [the session] than the U.S. Congress has delivered in decades,” he said.

That didn’t satisfy some Republicans.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson of Pasadena and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples of Palestine were already running for the job last year before Dewhurst lost to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. State Sen. Dan Patrick, a Christian conservative talk-radio owner-host in Houston, has hinted at a run.

Dewhurst and Patrick walked in lockstep this year until Patrick’s revised school voucher plan flopped. By session’s end, Patrick had turned against Dewhurst and the budget, writing on Facebook that he voted no because “spending was too high,” then complaining about the lack of money for highways and border security.

Dewhurst told the builders’ banquet crowd that Texas badly needs more highway money, even as Patrick and another senator were in Austin working out a compromise to spend part but not all of the overflowing state “rainy day fund.”

“If we don’t do something,” Dewhurst said, “we’re going to have parking lots all around the state. And they’ll be called I-35, I-45 and I-10.”

He praised a water development plan that will go before voters in November and called for investing in power plants, based on projections showing that Texas’ population will double in 30 years.

“It’s about doing the right thing,” he said.

That’s a tough sell in Texas.

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


Twitter: @BudKennedy

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