Well folks, welcome back to the show. We hope the long weekend has replenished your spirits. In case you missed the sea of chairs and white tents on the south lawn of the Capitol, the 2011 inauguration is set to kick off at 11 a.m. today. The sold-out event will be done on a budget, but not to worry! It’ll still have that good ol’ Texas style, a little swearing (in), a lot of brisket, and T-shirts. But while there’s plenty of excitement happening outside the Capitol—there are a lot of eyes turned toward Washington these days. Speculation on which, and how many, Republicans will run for Kay Bailey’s U.S. Senate seat in 2012 is running high, with a few new players making their intentions clear.
1. 3:10 to Washington
The train has left for Washington, and along with it charismatic conservative Republican Michael Williams, who will be resigning from his position as a railroad commissioner to focus on his campaign for Hutchinson’s U.S. Senate seat. There is some suspicion, however, that Williams’ resignation also has to do with a growing conflict between Williams and his co-commissioners over pipeline and natural gas issues. According the Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka, the other two railroad commissioners may well have dumped Williams as chairman of the commission. This news follows after Hutchinson announced Thursday that she would not run for another term in the U.S. Senate. Of course Williams has long been known for coveting a Senate seat—for that, and bowties. [Texas Tribune][Texas Monthly]
2. Read My Lips
Another Williams running for the KBH Senate seat—former Secretary of State Roger Williams—already has an endorsement from former President George H.W. Bush. Another Republican Railroad Commissioner, Elizabeth Ames Jones, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Attorney Gen. Gregg Abbott and Comptroller Susan Combs all look to be contenders for the seat. And that’s only the top of the list. Oh, and don’t forget the Democrats—well, Democrat. Former Comptroller John Sharp is the only donkey running thus far. With up-and-coming Republicans eager to fill openings, there will surely be quite some political hokey-pokey going on this session. Which leaves one to wonder, when will they have time to take care of the budget? [Texas Tribune]
3. The Budget is Coming!
Do you feel that slight tremor? The budget, it approaches. Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is expected to release the first version of the budget sometime late today, and explain it to the House tomorrow. This draft will be $15 billion smaller than last biennium’s. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst estimated as many as 8,000 cuts in state jobs, and thousands more in the private sector. Since this budget assumes no new revenue and no using money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, a $9 billion piggy bank, the cuts will be drastic. After months of waiting, we’ll all get our first look at just how screwed we really are. [Houston Chronicle]
4. The King’s Speech
Political analysts will be listening carefully to Gov. Rick Perry’s inaugural speech this afternoon for any signs of a possible push for President in 2012. As if there isn’t enough to talk about, Perry is expected to go beyond just Texas issues in his speech in an attempt bolster his national persona. He’ll also probably try to downplay the budget problem, like he did in his opening remarks last Tuesday when he introduced two emergency issues—eminent domain rights and sanctuary cities. Although Perry still denies any presidential aspirations, The National Review reports of Perry’s campaign team “quietly polling voters outside of the Lone Star State to gauge his chances on the national stage.” Perry’s camp denies, as usual. [The National Review][Dallas Morning News]
5. Inaugural Sausage Party
According to KVUE radio’s Martin Bartlett, so much sausage has been ordered for the 2011 Inauguration BBQ that, laid in a line, the chain of sausages would stretch from the south steps of the Capitol to the Ann Richards’ Bridge. Gross. To feed the 10,000 expected to attend, the committee has also ordered 600 briskets, 360 gallons of potato salad, and 1,500 buttermilk pies from Eddie Deen’s Ranch in Dallas. The celebration will cost just 2 million dollars this year, down from 2.4 million spent on Rick Perry’s last inauguration, a reminder that we must all tighten our belts during these tough fiscal times. The Congress Avenue parade has been cut and even Anita Perry is making sacrifices, wearing a repurposed dress for the occasion. Ceremonies begin at 11 a.m. with Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst taking their oaths of office. The feasting will begin shortly after, but—sorry—that’s only for those with tickets. [Texas Observer][Dallas Morning News]