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Work to do: Level heads are needed for Legislature's big jobs

By Longview News-Journal
Sept. 22, 2012 at 11 p.m.


Texas House Speaker Joe Straus was in East Texas recently speaking to a group of <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/local/speaker-straus-says-college-vital-during-marshall-stop/article_ffa4a695-e9e6-587d-adfe-0ababb413f8f.html" target="_blank">community leaders in Marshall</a> after taking a tour of Texas State Technical College.

Straus, who represents a San Antonio district, has done a good job as House Speaker, though he hasn't always pleased the more extreme factions of his party.

We see that as a distinct advantage.

And Straus will almost certainly be speaker again, though he will be opposed by some East Texas lawmakers who, on some issues, fall into what we consider the range of extremes.

But what we need in a speaker is someone without a rigid agenda to begin with, and a person who will attempt to work with all factions, including the Democrats, to move our state forward in many areas.

Indeed, without Straus' leadership in the last legislative session, the outcome for public education would have been far, far worse. Considering the disastrous mess the Legislature delivered, that may be hard to believe, but it is so.

Straus indicated in his Marshall remarks that Job One for the Legislature this year would be trying to undo some of the mess heavily impacting the budget for this year - even before the next two years' budget can be addressed.

The reason: To balance the state budget as required by our constitution, legislators in the last session used all sorts of fancy tricks - lies, really - including pretending school enrollment would not grow in Texas, which is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. That, of course, was ridiculous. We're disappointed the Legislature did it, and that Texans let lawmakers get away with it.

Straus estimated just dealing with that single problem could cost about $5 billion.

Unfortunately, that is only one part of the mess that needs attention. There also is a $2 billion payment that still must be made to the Permanent School Fund, adjustments to the Medicare fund, and probably several other problems that have not yet been reported.

Understand that legislators who voted for this did so knowing full well it was a sham, but most wanted to be able to go home and tell their constituents they had not raised taxes. If you believe this is wonderful state governance, then we probably will just have to agree to disagree.

On the other hand, if you do believe it is great management, you are in luck, as the Legislature is likely to give us a double dose of it this year, unless something miraculous happens with the economy and new revenues roll in.

Gov. Rick Perry will be more a hindrance than a help in the upcoming session. It will be up to leaders like Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to help get us out of this mess.

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