Thursday, February 22, 2018

Democrat Collier seeks to oust Patrick as lieutenant governor in November

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 13, 2018 at 12:14 a.m.

Lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier is looking beyond his Democratic primary battle to a November clash with the Republican incumbent who led his party's hard-right charge in the 2017 legislative session in Austin.

"Dan Patrick chases headlines and does things like bathroom bills," Collier said of the Republican leader of the Texas Senate. "There's enough (red meat) to influence a Republican primary, but I don't think there's enough to influence a general election."

Collier, 56, faces fellow Democrat Michael Cooper of Fort Worth in the March 6 primary. The winner will see either Patrick of Houston or Scott Milder of Rockwall in November's general election.

"The teachers recruited (Milder) to run against Patrick," Collier said. "The challenge I face is there's an awful lot of teachers that are Republicans."

The resident of Humble knows he'll need teachers to win in November regardless of his opponent. He reminded the News-Journal editorial board recently that it was cuts to education, championed by Patrick, that drew Collier into a failed bid to be Texas comptroller in 2014.

A second reason for seeking both posts lies in Collier's professional background. After starting his career at Exxon, Collier worked a decade in the audit practice at worldwide accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, becoming top aide to the company's world chairman before spending 10 years as a partner in Houston.

He said the Patrick-led Senate blocked a House bill in the last session that would have buoyed an underfunded teacher retirement system by $1.6 billion. And he recalled the headaches public school educators largely felt as Patrick championed a bill to require their students to use bathrooms corresponding to their birth gender — an issue many did not see as an issue at all.

"I would say there's three or four major distinctions between me and Dan Patrick," Collier said, naming public education first. "I don't like vouchers."

The property tax system in Texas came next. Collier criticizes the GOP establishment in Austin for pulling a fast one on property owners.

Lawmakers are requiring more of public schools, by far the largest consumer of property taxes, but sending less money from the state each biennium, he said. Patrick favors a bill capping how much schools and cities can raise taxes without voter approval.

Collier released a lengthy study last week, "The Great Texas Property Tax Swindle," laying out that taxing sleight-of-hand.

"And it's about to get much worse," Collier says in the study's introductory statement. "Lawmakers are expecting a $6.9 billion increase in property taxes in 2018-2019; they have used this expectation to slash $660 million from state's support of our public schools."

He says his third distinction from Patrick is a plan to hire an independent auditor to police spending and how well public money performs the tasks for which it's allocated.

"Not only does Dan Patrick not think in these terms, the one thing we wanted him to do was hire a state auditor, which he has failed to do," Collier said.

Fourthly, he said a Lt. Gov. Collier would not be a headline hog.

"My hope, and actually my belief, is that even though we will be still a majority of Republicans (in Texas), the problem of extremism is not with Republicans — it's with their leadership," he said. "When I think of lieutenant governor, I think of Bill Hobby for all those years (1973 to 1991). He was a pretty wonderful guy. He focused on the fiscal side."



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