Decisive Indecisiveness

Here’s the breakdown of how Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) has voted throughout the course of the latest debate on auto-spending the Economic Stabilization Fund. It’s a case of legislative votes not meshing with political words.

Last Friday, Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) attempted to strip an amendment by Rep. Donna Howard (R-Austin) that would automatically spend the “Rainy Day Fund,” even though the money is not currently available. Rep. Gonzales was shown voting responsibly. A majority of the House (79 to 65) actually followed Mr. King’s lead, but not the two-thirds necessary to strip out the irresponsible language.

After the vote, Rep. Gonzales placed a statement in the House Journal (the official record of votes), stating that despite being shown voting to protect the Rainy Day Fund, but he actually intended to side with the losing liberals to automatically spend more of it.

Rep. Phil King made another go at getting the language removed yesterday (Thursday, June 16) in a successful vote instructing members of the House/Senate conference committee to strip the amendment out when they meet with the Senate in conference. They adopted that instruction by a vote of 87 to 59.

Rep. Gonzales was again originally recorded as voting with the victorious House conservatives, but has now since issued another statement in the Journal indicating he actually intended to vote with the defeated Democrats and raid more of the Rainy Day Fund.

Judging by the House Journal’s record of his other votes on the days in question, it appears his desk’s voting machine was not suffering from a malfunction or otherwise misreporting votes.

It seems strange that on this particular issue, Rep. Gonzales has been unable to cast the vote he ultimately intended to. It could be that he simply wants it both ways: have a vote recorded as a conservative, and a statement siding with the irresponsible spenders. Either way, such indecisiveness (actual votes versus political statements) serves no one very well as constituents seek to measure the performance of their legislator.

Such activity muddles the record for voters concerned about the state’s budget. Be for raiding the fund and vote that way… or be for protecting it and vote that way. Trying to have it both ways simply doesn’t cut it.

Protecting the Rainy Day Fund from misuse has been a top priority for conservatives throughout the 2011 legislative session. Voters are anxious to see the state budget balanced, and critical priorities funded, within the means of available revenues. So far, that job has been done. Spending down the state’s rainy day fund would not only leave Texas vulnerable — as Gov. Rick Perry has noted — to budget-busting catastrophes between now and 2013, but would also set the stage for tax increases in 2013.

Andrew Kerr is the Executive Director of Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility

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