Kay vs Rick – Transportation sure to be hot topic in primary battle

Link to Dallas Morning News article here. Link to Express-News/Houston Chronicle article here.

Criticism for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison abounds, but if Rick Perry is so “set,” then why waste the ink? Few Texans are paying attention to anything other than scraping to make ends meet in hopes they can keep their jobs as unemployment rises. Politicians, as a lot, are considered public enemy number one these days as corporate America gets bailout after bailout while the debt and tax burden reaches unsustainable levels for the average Joe citizen and his great grandchildren who have to pay it all back. Pocketbook issues will likely carry the day, and Perry’s extremely disliked transportation policies that seek to sell Texas highways to foreign entities and that explode Texans’ cost of living will definitely come into play in the battle over who will become the next Governor of the great state of Texas.

Are Texans better off today than just a few years ago? They’re paying higher tuition, higher property taxes, DOUBLE tax tolls to get to work (if they still have a job), and new business taxes (curtailing job growth – Perry claims he cut business taxes, when in reality he raised taxes on businesses, some had 400% increases, only to reduce it slightly when businesses owed taxes even when they didn’t make a profit! Wow, thanks Guv.). Many are struggling and are tired of being taxed to death, despite Perry’s claims of being a tax cutter. Any politician with a pulse will demonstrate that Perry’s walk doesn’t match his talk.

Memo to Perry, Hutchison: Let’s hear a real debate about transportation
Michael Lindenberger/Reporter
Dallas Morning News, July 23, 2009

The Senate commerce committee voted this week to advance a plan pushed by the Obama Administration to provide emergency funds for federal highway trust fund, a move that in turn delays much bigger — and vastly more expensive — efforts to completely overhaul federal transportation policy.The latter is the preferred method of House transportation chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., but it’s going nowhere.

perry.JPGAgainst that backdrop, Gordon Dickson, the Star-Telegram’s transportation reporter, has a piece this morning that highlights the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s “reluctant” support for the extension bill. He quotes her and Gov. Rick Perry’s spokeswoman as saying they’d prefer a more comprehensive reform than a band-aid approach.

But saying you’re for reform and saying what that means, exactly, isn’t always the same thing.

For instance, Hutchison’s preference is a bill she filed that would allow states like Texas, who pay more in gas taxes than they receive in regular transportation funding, to opt out of the federal highway system altogether. Call it, if you’re smiling, a proposal for a mini-secession, if you will.

We wrote about this in April, and Dickson quotes Hutchison:

“Donor states like Texas should not be required to continue funding other states’ transportation needs for an additional 18 months at the expense of our own priorities,” she said.

She explained her views herself in an op-ed earlier this year. Trouble is, none of the ideas that are in serious contention for Congress’ time this summer include a plan to allow big states to withdraw from the federal highway program.Perry’s spokesman seized on that reality immediately, as reported by Dickson.On the other hand, Perry hasn’t done much to add his own weight to the debate over how Washington should go about funding and building highways in the future. He launched something of a revolution earlier this decade when he pushed Texas into the private toll road hunt — a lurch, now quieted, that drew national attention, and plenty of followers in other states — but since then he’s mainly kept quiet.

His surrogates haven’t been so quiet. Ned Holmes of Houston, a transportation commissioner appointed to the job by Perry, has led a national campaign aimed at shaping the debate over our transportation future, and that group’s approach has evolved over time to include a broad range of suggestions, not just toll roads. (Holmes now supports Hutchison for the governor in 2010.)

It’s probably fair for folks to start asking Perry what his ideas for transportation in the second decade of the 21st century are. Hutchison’s pull-out proposal may not have a lick of a chance at becoming law. But it is an idea, anyway.

These two politicians are going to be going at each other hard for the next several months. I’m hoping they each lay out some specific proposals for how to move people and goods around in Texas, how to pay for it, and how Texas should use its big clout to influence the same decisions in Washington.

There is a lot at stake in the 2010 race for governor, and one of biggest things is the multi-billion-dollar business of building roads and rail.

Let the policy debate begin.


Path to victory for Hutchison now a challenge

By R.G. Ratcliffe– San Antonio Express News
AUSTIN — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison began this year as “Kay the Invincible.” But as she prepares to officially launch her bid for governor later this month, that aura is gone.Hutchison entered the year with the ability to make other politicians quake. She had two re-election victories under her belt with more than 60 percent of the vote in each. Her popularity ratings in polls put her at the top among Texas politicians. And polls showed her leading Gov. Rick Perry by anywhere from 6 to 27 percentage points.Then Hutchison went silent — leaving the field of Texas politics to Perry for more than four months.

The senator “squandered her opportunity,” Republican political consultant Mark Sanders said. “She ceded the Republican base to Gov. Perry.”

Perry focused a message on conservative Republican primary voters. He railed against the federal government, against stimulus funding, against federal health care plans and for states’ rights.

Hutchison’s advantage in the polls was eliminated, and Perry took a lead of more than 10 percentage points in three polls in June.

Even as she prepares for her expected Aug. 17 announcement that she’s running for governor, Hutchison’s message continues to lack focus.

Over the past week, Hutchison has been critical of Perry for not accepting $550 million in federal stimulus money for unemployment insurance, but even that criticism contrasts with the fact that she said nothing publicly on the issue when the Legislature was in session and she could have made a difference in whether the issue passed.

Perhaps nothing so clearly showed Hutchison’s stumble than the fumbling series of interviews she gave last week about resigning from the Senate in October or November to run for governor. She gave mixed messages about having to resign only because it is a contested election, and she ended up urging Perry to drop out. He said no.

University of Texas political scientist James Henson said it looks like Hutchison’s advisers underestimated Perry and thought she could sit on her advantage until the campaign began.

“Kay was going to have the equivalent of a Rose Garden campaign,” Henson said, referring to the presidential election strategy of not leaving the White House except on official business.

Henson said momentum in the race “has clearly swung in Perry’s favor” but that the best news for Hutchison is that the vast majority of Texans are not paying attention to the race.

Last December, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said Democrats were avoiding the governor’s race because “Hutchison is such an intense brand, it’s hard to get market share on that one.”

Van de Putte now says Hutchison “has got her challenges.” She said the GOP primary may be so “bloody” that the Democrats have a shot at defeating either Hutchison or Perry in the general election.

“It’s going to be the clash of titans,” Van de Putte said.

Tom Schieffer of Fort Worth is the only Democrat officially in the race so far.

Hutchison supporter Gary Polland, a former Harris County GOP chairman, said too much emphasis is placed on where Hutchison stood early in the race, as opposed to now.

“It was an aura of invincibility. I never thought it was reality,” Polland said. “The governor is an outstanding politician.”

Polland said that when Hutchison officially launches her campaign she will be able to make the case that Perry is not the conservative leader he says he is and that the Texas economy is not as good as Perry claims. He said Hutchison spent the spring concentrating on her work in Washington, D.C.

“She’s not even really campaigning. Perry is always in campaign mode,” Polland said. “Once Sen. Hutchison engages, the race will get close.”