Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who's running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, agreed to a TribLive interview at the Austin Club this morning. He'll talk to Evan Smith and then answer audience questions. As always, we'll be posting video later.
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"I believe we need to change the policies in Washington because they're crippling our country."
Dewhurst says a lot of people didn't think he would get into this race. "A year ago, I would have told you I wasn't." But, he says, he's "so angry" about the direction of the country that he decided to run.
Says even in the UT/Tribune Poll, which had him at 22 points and Undecided at 50 points, he had more than twice the support of his nearest competitor.
Dewhurst says the issues pushed him into it. And he says he's a problem-solver. Evan: Do you think you solved school finance? "We solved it at the time."
It's back in court now. "We have worked on school finance the last two sessions... We realize we have to address this, and we'll be working on it during the interim... We're working on it right now."
"I happen to believe as a conservative Republican that government has a duty to help those who truly can't help themselves." Dewhurst says he spends 5 to 10 percent of every day working on health care reform.
"If we'd gone ahead and funded that, they'd spend it." Evan asks if the state will have to make up the estimated $4.8 billion that was taken off of Medicaid's price tag. Dewhrust says he doesn't think it will be that high, but says we almost always have to have supplemental appropriations in the last months of state budgets.
Asked if he's with those guys or with anti-tax activists who pushed back, Dewhurst says "I'm with the people of Texas."
He says it doesn't make sense to tell business that "we're going to tax you differently, we're going to start taxing you."
He says he and Williams have talked about the possibility, for example, of new fees to pay for highway construction.
"We are not going to turn this into a speaker race. This is a decision to be made by the senators. I would hope... that whoever is elected would have the support of the majority of Republicans — at least 16 — and some of the Democrats."
Dewhurst says there are some pieces passed by the House that he would like to see addressed in the Senate. "These are smaller bites at the apple..."
He says most of the legislation that President Obama and the then-Democratic Congress passed are things he wouldn't support.
"I haven't compromised my values. I haven't compromised who I am." He says he's worked with Democrats here, but without giving up values. He says people want to see the government work, and blames Democrats for the fact that it doesn't.
"I'm not for legalizing marijuana." He says medical marijuana "is apart from this conversation." He says the state has invested in prison treatment programs for drug and alcohol addictions.
Dewhurst says the state is looking at cutting the prescription dispensing fee from $7 to under $2, and says he's working on it so they can cut costs without driving people out of business.
"I was vocalizing my frustration, my worry, about the increase in the deficits. I've been concerned even before Bush came in."
To another part of the question, he says Medicaid spending has exploded while he's been in office — largely beyond the state's control. And he defends education and education spending. He says public education "is making slower process than I want to see and you want to see."
"States that rely the heaviest on income taxes get whipsawed the most... at least the property tax, for cities and counties, evens that out."
"Our income is derived almost exclusively — 60 percent — from sales taxes."
Dewhurst says he argued during the 2006 session that created the margins tax that it would create a structural shortfall. "That's a tax cut," he says. And he says that's why he was against spending the Rainy Day Fund when the state had a surplus in 2007.
And now? He says the gross receipts tax creates a liability for people even when they don't have income. "I would like to see it changed." But he points to the trouble of getting it through the Legislature.
"I committed already to doing at least one debate. I look forward to it."
And they're done!