Fiscal Responsibility Index – House

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility is pleased to present a report on performance of House members during 80th Session of the Texas Legislature.

HOUSE SCORES

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Unfortunately, the overall performance of lawmakers can only be catergorized as a failure. While the overall failings of the Session were summarized in a commentary by TFR president Michael Quinn Sullivan, the average score in the Texas House of a 52% sums up the situation all too well. By political affiliation, House Republicans (the party of the “fiscal conservatives”) earned, on average, a  score of 75; House Democrats earned a failing 32. There were bright spots: 15 members of the House scored a 90% or better, earning them the title of “Texas Taxpayer Hero.” (By contrast, no member of the Senate — Republican or Democrat — earned above an 80%.)

Methodology

Members were scored on the votes they took; absences (excused or not) were not counted against their score. Where statements were placed in the Journal regarding intention to vote upon an absence, the scorecard reflected the statement. In instances where votes may have been wrongly tallied and a statement was noted in the Journal, the scorecard reflects the “corrected” position. Sponsoring key legislation (good or bad) gave legislators additional opportunities to improve or worsen their score as an extra credit or demerit.

Explanation of House Votes

Vote 1. On preventing spending spree (HB1 rule) This rule prevented the addition of new spending without making equivalent cuts in the proposed 2008-2009 state budget. TFR supported this rule.

Vote 2. On increase spending rather than provide tax relief (Dunnam amend to HB2785, RV1157) Required that $4.4 billion in new spending take place before a $2.5 billion property tax cut could be enacted. TFR opposed this amendment.

Vote 3. On eliminating the TIF (HB735, Record Vote 135) Abolishing the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund tax. TFR supported this effort.

Vote 4. On providing transparency in state spending (HB3430, Record Vote 796) Creating an online database of all expenditures, contracts and grants, searchable and available to the public. TFR supported this effort.

Vote 5. On unraveling welfare reform (HB109, Record Vote 299) This legislation changed eligibility requirements for receiving taxpayer benefits, and essentially unraveled the 2003 welfare reforms. TFR opposed this effort.

Vote 6. On preventing expansion of welfare beyond truly needy (Motion to table the Howard amendment to HB109, Record Vote 266) An amendment to prevent the loosening of asset eligibility calculations. The amendment was tabled, meaning it will be easier for those not truly needy to qualify for taxpayer-funded assistance. TFR supported the amendment, and therefore opposed the motion to table.

Vote 7. On preventing a spending spree (rule on HB15, Record Vote 163) This rule prevented the addition of new spending without making equivalent cuts in the proposed supplemental spending legislation for the current biennium. TFR supported this rule.

Vote 8. On creating a new $3 billion ‘cancer fund’ (HB14 on passage) The creation of a new spending program that does not fall within the purview of state government responsibility, and without clear metrics for judging annual progress and success. TFR opposed this new spending.

Vote 9. On creating a new $100 million drop out program for high school students (HB2237, Record Vote 1210) A new spending program, despite the 79th Legislature having allocated $1 billion to the same purpose less than 12 months ago during a special session. TFR opposed this new spending.

Vote 10. On providing for school district spending transparency (HB2560, Record Vote 1378) Legislation to require that all school districts make their expenditures available online. TFR supported this effort.

Vote 11. On providing property relief instead of paying for a new Pre-K program (HB2, Amend 4, RV59) An amendment that would have required that property tax relief be forestalled until new programs are funded. TFR opposed this amendment.

Vote 12. On requiring 2/3rds supermajority to raise business tax(HJR44, Record Vote 1006) TFR supported this effort.

Vote 13. On levying a “granny tax” on nursing home residents (HB3778, Record Vote 1048) A new bed tax to be levied on nursing homes, that would further increase the costs to the elderly and their families. TFR opposed this new tax.

Vote 14. On an effort to expand Medicaid programs (rv1582, to SB10) An amendment by Rep. Eddie Lucio to greatly expand the Medicaid program. TFR opposed the amendment and supported the motion to table.