Page 22


fourth of it, fortunately, goes to public education. So you pick up some money that the Legislature has to appropriate it to public education And you know, only 32 percent of our highways pass national standards which means 68 percent of our highways are below. The Austin paper had an article the Sunday before last that said that six thousand and something of our bridges were in a state of ill repair and unsafe. We used to have the best or the second best highway system in the United States. Now, what we are spending on highways ranks forty-seventh in the United States. And a gasoline tax, sure, is regressive. But most forms of taxation are regressive. A gasoline tax is a fair thing because the people who are driving the miles are paying the taxes. Now the people who are poorer, maybe we can get them back some of that tax. Maybe spread it out and amortize it on trucks and airplanes. And do something through some type of program where they’re not taxed as heavy and spread their taxes out over a graduated period. You could take the poor person who’s making under $35,000 a year and find out what they are spending on gasoline and give them back all their gasoline taxes. It wouldn’t have a big impact on the revenue from the gasoline tax. People would have to sit down and look at the regressive nature of taxes, and see how to accommodate the poor. I want to raise this money to spend more on health care and education for the poor. There’s no reason to make them pay it. How often have reporters asked you about George Bush on these issues? Oh, every time. But I’ve got to say this, and I’ve said it in my speech. The Democrats were there. Governor Richards was there. There have been other Democrats. George Bush didn’t walk into the Capitol and all of a sudden there start being a 50 percent dropout rate in a lot of the counties in South Texas. George Bush didn’t walk into the Capitol and cause the kids to be hungry. George Bush didn’t walk into the Capitol and cause our public education system to be thirtyseventh in the United States. George Bush didn’t walk into the Capitol and cause California to spend twice as much money on higher education as we do. I’m not saying that George Bush is to blame for this. It’s taken a long time for Texas get into this kind of shape. He is the first Governor to have two backto-back budget surpluses. Well, probably since the seventies. Probably since OPEC. Dolph Briscoe had huge surpluses in the seventies. They did put some money in a rainy day fund, which they didn’t spend. Last session the rainy day fund was zeroed out. You have to admit that Governor Bush used the tax refunds for political purposes. I’m not going to say that. I’ll leave that for people to decide. I’m trying very hard not to let anyone make this personal toward Governor Bush. If this looks like it’s a Bush-Barnes thing, I’m going to be a lot less effective talking about the issues. I said in the speech that this is bipartisan criticism. But I want to go back. John Connally appointed twenty-five leading businessmen and women around Texas to come back and recommend the money for higher educa tion. And they came back and recommended it, and we passed a tax bill. If you go back and look at the votes in the House of Representatives when we were spending a great deal more money on education and other programs I was getting 120 and 130 votes for those tax bills. They weren’t seventy-six to seventy-four. That’s because the public saw the need. And those legislators thought that they could go vote for those tax bills and go back home and run. The fight then was between Tory Democrats and more progressive Democrats. Now it’s partisan. Yes. But it was the conservative Democrats who ultimately passed the tax bills. The liberal Democrats got mad and put amendments on income taxes and things. And they had a reason to vote against them. Someone recently asked me about the difference between the conservative Democrats and Republicans, because I was in office at a time when the state was all Democrat. I think the main difference is that conservative Democrats would vote for tax bills to fund government. Republicans don’t seem to want to do that. But again, the Reagan Revolution came along. Now Republicans feel like the nonew-taxes argument is their philosophy and platform for garnering support around the country. You know, Texas Monthly is going to write an article about Bush. And they are calling to see if my quotes were correct. They asked me, if George Bush loses, why do you think he’s going to lose? I think if he loses, it will be because he wants to take all the sur plus, or most of the surplus, and give it back to the people as op posed to funding some programs and paying down the federal deficit. And funding Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. I think if you give the public the choice to pay down the deficit or get a tax cut of $118 60 or 70 percent of them will say that they want to pay down the deficit. But I want to focus on Texas. On the 2001 legislative session. We don’t have to be the highest-tax state in the United States and do these things. We can be in the bottom 10 percent in tax per capita and still do many of the things I’m talking about. 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 23, 2000