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Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, 1982 Dallas would have to increase its property tax by 31 percent, Fort Worth by 39 percent, San Antonio by 27 percent, Houston by 33 percent, and Midland by 26 percent. It would mean the funding buck would end up at the local level, just as has happened with the bills for many former federal services. The odds are that, since massive local increases are felt more immediately, they would not be approved, and Texas schooling would sink into oblivion. Responding to the budget crisis by simply cutting the budget “might be easier,” said Hobby, “but I don’t think it’s the responsible thing to do.” What Bill Hobby is offering the state, and particularly the business establishment, is an opportunity to act responsibly, to maintain state government as the enterprise of “reasonable” people, not of doctrinaire reactionaries, such as Rep. Bill Ceverha, R-Dallas, and probably not of advocates of state income taxes. It is a government dedicated to the maintenance of the infrastructure to benefit business investment, that promotes economic development as its primary effort to increase employment, that responds to problems of social welfare in increments just large enough to forestall full-scale disaster. What Bill Hobby is telling his peers is that, without some kind of tax, things will fall apart, the center will not hold. CREATING CONSENSUS ND SO WE HAD, two days before the special session began. a carefully orchestrated display of business support for the Hobby proposal by leaders of the Texas business community. It was arranged by Jess Hay chairman of the UT Board of Regents, director of EXXON, confidant of Mark White to enlist the support of prominent donors and supporters of the University of Texas System in fighting any cuts in higher education funding. But the implications of the meeting were far greater than merely higher education funding. It was the invisible government in heat. The Bill Hobby proposal was to protect the order of things, and so they stepped into the spotlight, became visible in order to exert their influence on a legislature that perhaps did not understand the depth of their concern or had to be reminded of the importance of their support. The guest list included the Armstrongs of South Texas, Ed Clark, a Moody, a McAllister of San Antonio, Nelly Connally, Liz Carpenter. Lady Bird Johnson was there. When Ben Barnes entered the filled Thompson Conference Center auditorium, a man jumped up from a seat, presenting it to Barnes. Speaking to the group were Hay, UT Chancellor Hans Mark, UT-Austin President William Cunningham, UT benefactor Peter O’Donnell, and Bobby Ray Inman of Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation consensus on the Hobby proposal, a practice at which a number of those present were particularly skilled. A secondary objective never voiced, but there, nonetheless was to persuade these business leaders of the notion that those officeholders who backed tax increases would have to be supported in November, including Mark White. In the old days, this would have been a strictly Democratic crowd, and such things would not have to be insinuated into otherwise polite conversation. But in 1986, in this oligarchic roomful you needed a scorecard to tell the Republicans from the Democrats, and so Jess Hay, Shannon Ratliff \(both White to be said. Said Inman: “I think we have to make it understandably clear that this is a nonpartisan issue,” adding that any position other than support for higher education and taxes, as in the Hobby plan, was irresponsible. Said Ratliff: “It requires a commitment that we stand up for and back up” the officeholders who do vote for a tax increase. Said Hay: “Doing the right thing if it’s done courageously and the right way normally represents also the very best political courage. Let them know we’ll be there to support them. in November if they’re irrationally under attack by demagogues. . . .” This is Mark White’s biggest fear: that the business leaders who urge a tax increase on him in August will be the biggest supporters of Governor Bill Clements in November, who undoubtedly will spend the intervening months attacking any increase. No less happened when Dallas business leaders pushed White on the funding of the highway tax in 1984 only to turn up as principal backers of Republican gubernatorial opponents who made that tax increase an issue in 1986. But this was secondary. The primary purpose was to serve notice to legislators, other business leaders, and newspaper editors that, as Jess Hay told the audience, ” . . in no uncertain terms . . . if we have to choose between that [mediocrity] or higher taxes, we’ll choose higher taxes.” “We stand prepared to take the tax consequences as opposed to the education slash consequences,” said Lockheed-Austin president Larry Jenkins from the floor. It was Peter O’Donnell’s task to outline the relationship of continued higher education funding to “an enhanced economic future.” His argument was of the “we must build a high tech industrial base and attract federal funds for research and development” variety. The example O’Donnell provided to show the importance of higher education funding was that old political anathema Massachusetts, home of Tip O’Neill, Teddy Kennedy, and all the other big spenders. “Massachusetts is a successful example,” said O’Donnell. Pho to by Alan Pog ue 4 AUGUST 15, 1986