Earlier this month, R.G. Ratcliffe reflected almost wistfully on Gov. Bill Clements, and how he broke with principles and campaign promises to raise taxes by $5.7 billion:
I can’t help but recall the political flip of former governor Bill Clements, who won his 1986 election on a no-new-taxes pledge. During the 1987 Legislature, Clements went on a fifteen-city tour to oppose proposed tax increases to cover budget shortfalls caused by the collapse of oil prices and the savings and loan industry. It took Dallas businessmen Peter O’Donnell and Ross Perot to convince him that major budget cuts would harm the state’s future. A $5.7 billion tax increase was a bitter pill, but Clements swallowed it. “”Everybody had to do what was right, eventually,” Clements said at the time. “I think they have.”
The state is still waiting to find out what is right in 2011 (R.G. Ratcliffe, Businesses want the state spending, but how do they want to pay for it?, BurkaBlog).
Apparently, Wayne Slater took up the same theme in the Dallas Morning News this weekend. Because of the newspaper’s new paywall subscription model (which isn’t a great value proposition outside North Texas), the column isn’t freely available. But Slater offered nonsubscribers a condensed version on the Trail Blazers Blog:
Now, leading the cuts-at-all-cost approach to writing a state budget, Perry’s parted company with Bill Clements. Clements was the state’s first Republican governor in a century when he was elected in 1978. As we wrote in a weekend column , Clements was the beginning of the modern Republican Party that Perry – and the tea party – now call home. Said the state’s longest-serving Republican in the House, Tom Craddick : ” I love Bill Clements. I think he did a great job and really furthered the Republican Party of Texas. Without him taking the risk he did to run for governor and use his own dollars, we’d still be way back in a maze.”
Clements was a staunch fiscal conservative and championed lower taxes and more efficient government. In battling a huge budget shortfall 1987, Clements initially opposed new taxes but eventually compromised and signed a $5.7 billion bill to avoid damaging the state’s future. So would Clements, the father of Texas Republican conservatism, be welcome in today’s tea party. Probably not. — not in the tea party that Perry serves these days.
What is it with these senior political journos in Texas and their fascination with a former governor who broke with his principles and his campaign promises to raise taxes?
Yeah, yeah, we got it — it was “to avoid damaging the state’s future” — a variant of The Sky is Falling.
At least Slater got one part right: A pol who ran as a fiscal conservative in Texas and promised not to raise taxes — then decided to raise taxes by billions of dollars — almost certainly would not “be welcome in today’s tea party.” As much as this seems to confound Slater, we are equally confounded as to why senior political journos think abandoning principles and promises to citizens to raise taxes is somehow heroic?