Monday, July 11, 2005

The Poodle Bites, The Poodle Chews It

Perhaps Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), as quoted in The Dallas Morning News, said it best:
"In a contest of wills, the House has an iron will, and the Senate ranges anywhere from frozen butter to melted butter. But it's still butter."
Last night, Lite Gov David Dewhurst cemented his reputation as the Tony Blair of Texas politics---just another poodle with Gov. Rick Perry and Speaker Tom Craddick holding the leash. The Senate passed out its version of House Bill 3 that looks surprisingly like the version being pushed by Perry and the House. So much for the tough talk.

Gone is the business tax that Dewhurst and Senate Finance Chairman Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) have long asserted would make the tax bill fair. The tax on business partnerships they promoted was stripped out of the bill in a dramatic Tom DeLay-style vote. When it became clear the amendment would fail, Dewhurst left the vote open while it appears he convinced Sen. Mike Jackson (R-La Porte) to switch his vote, which rendered it a tie. Then Dewhurst promptly broke the tie with his first personal vote as Lite Gov.

The amendment by Sen. Kyle Janek (R-Houston) and Sen. Kim Brimer (R-Fort Worth) also sunsets the state's franchise tax on business in 2008 at a potential cost to the state of $1.8 billion a year. Like the House version, the Senate pays for the property tax reduction in HB 3 by increasing consumption and sales taxes. It also sets up a 15-member commission to look at business taxes in the interim to deal with the sunset provision. The "blue ribbon" commission has subpoena power essentially to do tax audits of businesses. This expansion of government power received nary a mention during the debate in the Republican-dominated Senate.

So basically, the Senate, led by its poodle-in-chief, defunded the government to give tax breaks to their big business buddies and wealthy suburban constituents and then left it to a future legislature to figure a way out of the mess its actions will create.