"The HB 1 Apostates Explain Themselves" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Given the Republican supermajority in the Texas House, the outcome of Saturday night's vote on House Bill 1 — the 2012-2013 state budget — was inevitable. But the breakdown of the vote itself, apparently, was not. Five Republicans in the lower chamber of the Legislature voted against the bill, and one Democrat voted for it, resulting in a final tally of 97 for and 53 against. Over in the Texas Senate, the final vote was 20-11, with one Democrat voting for it.
That's seven apostates in all. What led them to buck their parties? Some explained themselves in press releases, which are excerpted below; others made no public statements, but the Tribune chased nearly all of them down, as it were, and their comments are reprinted here.
State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, YES:
“The budget that is passed by this Legislature in HB1 and HB4 will be widely criticized for the cuts that it makes in our schools, colleges, nursing homes, health care and many other vital areas across this state," he said in a statement emailed to the Tribune. "I believe that voting for this budget might play a significant role in defeating many of the members of the Legislature. I voted for both of these bills. "Those votes might get me beat as well. However, I had no choice except to do what I could to finish the job of helping to rebuild and secure UTMB, the biggest employer in my district.”
State Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, NO:
"I'm very disappointed," he told the Dallas Morning News. "That just adds to the frustration of not spending a penny of the Rainy Day Fund for the next biennium. Most of my colleagues would privately acknowledge we're gonna end up spending quite a bit."
State Sen Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, YES:
"As vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance," he told the Tribune, "I worked very hard to minimize the negative impact that the House budget would have on health care, education and public safety. This budget is 99 percent of what the Senate put out."
State Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburgh, NO:
"I voted my district," he texted the Tribune, then amplified his reasons in a blog post published Sunday night: "Based on the interests and circumstances of the population I serve, the education funding in the budget contained in House Bill 1 was inadequate. Education for many in my district, is the one road out of difficult circumstances. The budget additionally contains spending that could be used for other priorities like education. This budget also unwisely shifts the cost burden to local governments and school districts. In addition, the accounting manipulations used to approve the budget may lead to additional problems for the 2014-2015 budget. Lastly, and most importantly, the overwhelming majority of citizens and leaders that have communicated with me and my office have asked that I vote against the legislation."
State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, NO:
"Despite conservative boasts of cost cutting, not raising taxes, and not using the Economic Stabilization Fund or Rainy Day Fund," he wrote in a blog post, "the budget still preserves about $500 million of pork for special interests including film and music makers, video games, and commercials for Fortune 500 companies. Of course this is deemed economic development, but in reality it is a handout to concentrated special interests. These funds could be used for other priorities that promote the general welfare, such as education and care for the weak, or just cut from the budget and returned to the people. The 'conservative' budget also defers about $4 billion in payments, which is just one of several accounting gimmicks used. Another trick: the budget does not fund the whole biennium. Funds for Medicaid run out in February 2013 and the next Legislature likely will be forced to use the Economic Stabilization Fund to cover the anticipated shortfall."
State Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, NO:
Rep. Taylor's office was unable to track him down to explain his no vote, and he declined to speak to a Tribune reporter on the House floor Sunday night. If he decides to provide one, we'll update this post.
State Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, NO:
“I voted against HB 1 because voters sent me to Austin to make spending cuts that get our financial house in order and this budget fails to do that,” Torres said in a statement, also citing concerns about the constitutionality of HB 1 and the deferred funding of public and higher ed. “The accounting methods used in HB 1 appear to violate the Texas Constitution by in effect backdating expenses and forcing the next legislature to pick up the tab. Additionally, the funding contained in the budget for our public and higher education systems is inadequate and its deferment to the next legislature will only worsen the budget crisis facing Texas in the 2013-14 budget cycle.”
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