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TribBlog: Meet the Freshmen Liveblog

Evan Smith interviewed Larry Gonzales, Paul Workman, and Jason Isaac at this morning's TribLive event in Austin.

Larry Gonzalez, Jason Isaac and Paul Workman at a TribLive event January 2011, after being asked about the race for House speaker.

Evan Smith interviewed Larry Gonzales of Round Rock, Paul Workman of Austin, and Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs at this morning's TribLive event in Austin.


by Ross Ramsey
Evan's second question is about the race for House speaker. All three of the new guys say they support holding a vote on the speaker in the Republican caucus. Gonzales and Workman say they're for an open vote; Isaac is undecided.
by Ross Ramsey
Isaac says the Tea Party Caucus —  a new thing in the Legislature — is for listening to the Tea Party, and not necessarily for directly representing them.
by Ross Ramsey
Gonzales: Every candidate for speaker than I've talked to is perfectly capable of leading a conservative majority in the House.

All three say Straus — like the other candidates — is "sufficiently conservative" to lead the House.
by Ross Ramsey
What about the budget?

Isaac: It's going to be painful. Everybody's going to have to cut. We'll cut our own budgets.
by Ross Ramsey
Who supports new taxes?

Gonzales: Nobody I know of. ... We need to cut our expenses.
by Ross Ramsey
Gonzales makes a distinction between cuts and efficiencies, saying the latter is a planned and more orderly way to trim the size of government.

All three men say — as they did during their campaigns — that they're against any new taxes.
by Ross Ramsey
Isaac's a no on gambling. Gonzales is a no. Workman: "I am opposed to gambling."
by Ross Ramsey
Workman: It's not a moral issue. It's a practical issue. I think it preys on the poor.
by Ross Ramsey
Evan's exploring "other kinds of revenue", like, say, car tag fees.

Isaac: "We hide a lot of fees to avoid calling them taxes. I just see them as another tax." He says the Legislature should write its budget without "penalizing Texans."
by Ross Ramsey
Gonzales says Round Rock has been able to cut its general fund.

You can never have enough money, he says, but says you have to figure out what you can afford to do.
by Ross Ramsey
"It's not lost on me what it means," Gonzales says.

Workman says "we have got to invest in our infrastructure, whether it's roads or higher education."
by Ross Ramsey
But Workman refers to a friend he says worked for Motorola and has been out of a job for two years. He says he can't justify a growing government to a person in that position.
by Ross Ramsey
How about the Rainy Day Fund?

Workman would spend no more than half. Isaac says using more than that would affect our bond ratings. And, he says, the money shouldn't be used to balance the budget but to use the money to provide relief to business and other taxpayers.

Workman won't go that far.

Gonzales says "that's what it's there for." "I look at that as a source of income.... that's the point. It's raining."
by Ross Ramsey
What was the message of last November? "Why'd you get elected, if we take your looks and your charisma off the table?"

Gonzales: "I don't think there's a blanket answer." He says each rep was elected for local reasons.
by Ross Ramsey
Isaac says there was a big anti-incumbent movement. "I had support from both sides and from the middle as well. ... My wife and my two boys worked our tails off."

He says Straus' early help for his opponent, Patrick Rose, "really brought the base around for me," and says it really helped his campaign.
by Ross Ramsey
Workman says he worked hard, and says his tough primary helped with name ID and "a thicker skin." And he says there was a national element to it. "I'd be disingenuous if I acted like it was all me."
by Ross Ramsey
Evan's back to the Tea Party Caucus. "What role will the Tea Party have on this session?"

Isaac: "Our current president has done a fantastic job of getting people involved in this process." Both in his election in 2008 and in this last election.

As for Tea, "they like to be independent, but they are conservative."
by Ross Ramsey
What about the outside groups working on the speaker race and other issues?

Isaac: "I got into this to represent House District 45." Says voters will have a chance to rule on what he's done in two years.

All three say they won't be influenced by the groups, or by threats of electoral retribution for voting this way or that, and will leave their fates to voters.
by Ross Ramsey
Workman says he supports Arizona's right to "do what they did", but says he's not sure whether or not an immigration law like that state's would be appropriate in Texas.

"Until we do something to stop the free flow of immigrants ... talking about what to do with them is irrelevant.

"Until we can secure the border, I don't think we need to talk about what to do with them when they're here."
by Ross Ramsey
Evan asks about Aaron Peña's switch to the Republicans, and whether the party is in tune with Hispanics or hostile to them?

"I'm not here to preach to Hispanics about us ... Just watch us. ... It's an opportunity to have a conversation that is a little more diverse (having Hispanics in the House GOP)."

"You can be a conservative Hispanic."
by Ross Ramsey
To audience questions. For Workman: What can we do to stem the tide of illegal immigrants?

Workman says we need to focus on drug trade and the like. But he says it's a federal issue more than a state issue. He says the border fence has holes in it: "I'm not sure why we did what we did."

Isaac: "We need workers, no doubt about it." But he says they need to be documented.
by Ross Ramsey
Isaac: "We need to make sure we're not creating additional incentives" for people coming across illegally.

Gonzales: "This is part of re-prioritizing government." Says the state needs to make sure the people in Texas working on border security have the tools and resources they need.
by Ross Ramsey
Question: What do we do about people using emergency rooms as primary care?

Isaac: Talks about a clinic his church started on Fridays for poeple without health insurance. "I think we need to see some mroe of that."

He says the federal funding for those programs is messed up, "incentives for us to spend money to get our federal tax dollars back. ... we should be trying to hang onto those dollars in the first place."
by Ross Ramsey
Workman compares the state's need for Medicaid to being addicted to heroin, saying it's not practical to withdraw from Medicaid. But it needs reform.

Isaac and Gonzales also say they don't think it's practical for the state to withdraw from Medicaid.
by Ross Ramsey
The next audience question is about pension funds. The first reaction? [cricket sound here]

Gonzales: "When you have as many state government employees in your district as we do, that's something you hear about quite a bit."

Workman: "I've been told the state pension fund is funded at around 82 percent, which is generally considered safe."
by Ross Ramsey
A redistricting question. What do you see?

Workman: "I don't know if we'll pick up a seat [in Travis County], but we are overpopulated."

Gonzales says Williamson will gain a House seat because of its population growth (it and Milam County currently have two seats between them).

Isaac has three counties in his district, including Hays, which is growing quickly. He says his district will shrink in geographic size because of that growth.
by Ross Ramsey
Another redistricting question. Will you be trying to protect communities of interest or preserving the Republican majority?

Isaac says it's "important that we protect those communities."
by Ross Ramsey
Evan asks how the Republicans should treat the Democrats. "Should you be jamming it up the Democrats' noses every day just because you can?"

Workman says the state has a long tradition of leaving party labels at the door of the Capitol. "We have to do what's right for the state of Texas, and i think the Democrats think that, too."

Gonzales: "150 of us were elected."

Isaac says he gets emails saying, "just send them off to Oklahoma." ... "You can't do that ... we're going to have to work together."
by Ross Ramsey
That's it!

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Jason A. Isaac Larry Gonzales Paul Workman