Just the Facts
I believe that a legislator's primary responsibility is to represent the values and the interests of their constituents and I am committed to serving the people of Denton County. I also believe that the most important action the legislature takes every session is approving the budget. I am proud of the work we did in 2013, and I wanted to take a moment to let you know what we accomplished.
Over the course of the last 10 years Texas has faced two major hurricanes, two major economic recessions, and a forced restructuring of school finance. During that period, the Texas legislature not only balanced our budget without raising taxes, we also cut the property tax rate by 1/3, cut taxes on small business, and reduced regulation. In fact, when you adjust our current budget for population growth and inflation and account for property tax relief, the Texas budget has decreased by 11.5% since 2002.
This commitment to keep taxes and regulation in check has served Texas well during the past 10 years. Texas is the #1 economy and the #1 job creator in the 50 states. It is also one of only four states with a AAA bond rating. It would have been easy to raise taxes during the tough times but we did not. Just as a family cuts back during tough times, the Texas legislature had to make some tough decisions and put off some needed investments.
In 2013, the legislature returned to Austin with a budget surplus. As important as it is to make the tough decisions during times of fiscal crisis, it is even more important to make wise decisions during times of fiscal surplus. The legislature could very easily have spent every dollar we had on every special interest program under the sun. We did not. The 2013 legislature invested in infrastructure, restored funding to public schools, preserved the Rainy Day Fund, balanced the budget, and lowered taxes by $1.3 billion.
Some of the highlights of this years budget include:
- $1.3 billion in tax relief
- $2 billion to fund water infrastructure (with voter approval)
- $1.2 billion increase for transportation infrastructure (with voter approval)
- $3.2 billion increase in funding for Public Schools
- 4.4% increase in general revenue funding for Higher Education
- 10% increase in salaries for DPS and Game Wardens
- $92 million for Border Security
- $263 million increase in behavioral and mental health funding
- 25% increase for CASA and Children's Advocacy Centers
Unfortunately, special interests and lobbyists were not happy with this conservative approach to investing in the future of Texas. They do not like it when legislators vote for what is best for Texas instead of voting in lock-step with certain special interests. Austin is all about power, and scorecards are just the latest way for special interest lobbyists to manipulate the truth and increase their power in order to exert undue influence over the democratic process.
For example, legislators did vote to increase the salary of district court judges who have not had a pay increase since 2005. Because legislators' pensions are tied to judicial salaries, that salary increase for judges resulted in a whopping $28.75 per month increase in a legislator's monthly pension for each year of service. Also, keep in mind that most legislators will never receive a pension because they do not serve long enough to be eligible. The average term for a State Representative is under 5 years.
Volunteer firefighters are a critical part of Texas security and in the 2013 budget increased funding for wildfire and emergency response by $38.5 million and increased grant funding for rural fire departments by $10 million. We also funded the Texas Commission for the Arts. The Texas Commission for the Arts is a vital tool for economic development throughout the state as it pays for itself many times over in economic activity and is a vital tool to bring business to Texas. The citizens of Denton County understand well the joy and the value of a vibrant arts community.
I believe that the voters of Texas deserve to know who is funding the special interest lobbyists in Texas. That is why the Texas legislature approved legislation requiring special interest groups to disclose their donors. Special interest groups call this "intimidation" but I call it open government.
The antics of “scorecard conservatives” are laughable at best, slanderous at worst, and it is quite easy to show that the "scorecards" are misleading and flawed. For example, the latest false accusation against me is that I spent 2013 “fighting for ObamaCare.” However, the very same organization that leveled the accusation gave me a perfect score on voting against ObamaCare.
If scorecards were about truth, then why did over 60% of Republicans in the Texas House receive a "failing grade" from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility when the conservative fiscal policies enacted by those same Republicans have made Texas #1 in job creation, economic growth, and earned Texas a AAA bond rating?
Scorecard Conservatives would like you to believe they are "grass roots" organizers, but the truth is they are Austin Lobbyists who have figured out that the easiest way to exert power in Austin is to use a “scorecard” to shake the nerve of legislators who put more value in that scorecard than they do in the voters back home.
I am humbled and honored to represent the great people of Denton County in Austin. I believe that you sent me to Austin to represent your values, and I look forward to visiting with you over the next few months. I remain committed to the people of District 64. It is an honor and a privilege. Please contact my office at 512-463-0582 if you have any questions.