Last week, I wrote about Rick Perry’s budget suicide pact and how it was endorsed by the Greater Houston Partnership in a credibility-killing move. Turns out, according to Patti Hart, Perry didn’t exactly tell them what it was they were endorsing.
Through statements vetted by committee, the GHP has supported increasing the cigarette tax, saying the state needs to “create new revenue streams to address the state budget shortfall.” It has opposed budget cuts to Texas colleges and universities. Citing research showing the importance of early childhood education, the pro-business group has supported funding for pre-kindergarten programs.
The resolutions go on and on: Spend more money to educate more Texas doctors and nurses to expand our inadequate healthcare workforce. Make sure Texas Medicaid healthcare providers are adequately reimbursed for their services. Tweak the margins tax to make it fairer, and resist the urge to exempt all small businesses.
So it was shocking to see the GHP’s CEO, Jeff Moseley, standing next to Gov. Rick Perry on Monday when Perry unveiled his “compact” promising no new taxes next legislative session. Perry’s plan not only flies in the face of all of the GHP resolutions, but would make it impossible for the Legislature to provide any funding for highway construction or water resources outlined in our drought-stricken state’s water plan.
How could Moseley support a “compact” in light of these resolutions?
“You are exactly right,” Moseley confessed, when I caught him a few days after his appearance with Perry. “The specifics (of the Perry plan) have not been approved by our board. We’ve got positions that go in another direction.”
Moseley’s explanation can be boiled down to what I’ll call the Cool Hand Luke defense: What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.
It seems that the governor’s people informed Moseley’s people that Perry was coming to town to talk about the state budget. Would Moseley provide an endorsement of the pro-business principles that Perry advances?
Sounded reasonable at the time, but before Moseley knew it, his generic words were being offered as approval of a specific plan that he had not seen.
“We support his pro-business agenda, his principles,” Moseley said. “I didn’t know the detail of his plan – the five points. I didn’t know it was a compact.”
Let this be a lesson to you, Jeff Moseley. You can’t trust Rick Perry. He only has his own interests at heart. He’s happy to use you when you can be helpful to him, but you won’t get anything out of it that you weren’t always going to get. The fact that Rick Perry occasionally does things that you support should not distract you from the fact that he opposes things you support far more often, and by going along to get along you harm yourself and your members’ interests.
Which is the larger point Hart wanted to make:
In a bygone era, governors sought the counsel of the Texas business community. Its leaders not only identified problems, but sought solutions, and held our elected officials accountable. Remember Ross Perot’s commission on public education?
Now it seems our business leaders are only interested in lining their own pockets. They don’t stand up to Perry, because they want his environmental board to clear the path for a radioactive waste facility (billionaire Harold Simmons) or they have their hand out for a grant from the governor’s Enterprise Fund.
Passing resolutions is better than doing nothing but what’s really needed is a Texas business leader willing to speak up – loudly – and challenge the governor. It’s hard to think of a recent example of a Texas business leader accomplishing a public-spirited goal.
This is a theme I’ve hit on over and over again with the Texas Association of Business, which has claimed for some time now to want to stop the demonization of immigrants but who keep on supporting the demonizers like Leo Berman and Debbie Riddle. Long as they get their tax breaks and crony appointments, it’s all good. It would be a lot easier to achieve some of the goals they say they support if they weren’t actively opposing them at the same time. Burka and EoW have more.