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Liveblog: TribLive with David Dewhurst

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.

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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.


by Ross Ramsey
They're starting. First question is about the intern on Dewhurst's campaign who tweeted about assassinating President Obama yesterday. Dewhurst says she goofed, she was kidding, and that she's "probably not" still working on his campaign.
by Ross Ramsey
Dewhurst says he has a lot of respect for the presidency and for Obama, but thinks the president "is trying to push the country down the wrong road."

"I believe we need to change the policies in Washington because they're crippling our country."
by Ross Ramsey
Why is this even a race?

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.
by Ross Ramsey
"It's still early in this campaign." He says he has higher name ID in the state than some of his predecessors. That he's traveling the state, talking about his fiscal and social conservatism. "That's what we're doing right now."

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.
by Ross Ramsey
Evan asks about the comparisons between him and Charlie Crist, about whetehr he's conservative enough to win the primary. "Evan, is that your best shot this morning?" "Governor, we have a lot of time left."
by Ross Ramsey
Dewhurst starts by talking about the staff cuts he made when he got to the General Land Office. Says he was strongly against calls for a personal income tax in 2003, when the state budget was in the ditch. He says he has either cut state spending or state taxes or both during the legislative sessions as lite guv.
by Ross Ramsey
"I've been involved in legislation 51 times that cut spending."
by Ross Ramsey
The "Roger Mudd" question: "Why are you running for U.S. Senate?"

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."
by Ross Ramsey
Name three areas of government where you'd cut federal spending. "First of all, I would file legislation to stop Obamacare." He says it would cost Texas $27 billion. Would cut Energy, Education, and EPA.
by Ross Ramsey
Says he's not sure he'd kill those agencies, but he'd cut them. And he would look at "the holy third rail of entitlements."

"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.
by Ross Ramsey
Evan asks about shorting funding for Medicaid in the state budget. "Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts." He says Senate Bill 7 included a list of reforms, that "we're seeing the economy grow... and we think our caseload growth is going to slow."

"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.
by Ross Ramsey
Next question is about House Speaker Joe Straus' comment that you can't cut your way to prosperity, and about Sen. Tommy Williams' recent comments about looking for ways — taxes or fees — to pay for highways.

Asked if he's with those guys or with anti-tax activists who pushed back, Dewhurst says "I'm with the people of Texas."
by Ross Ramsey
"We are having prosperity right now. This state is doing better than any other state."

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.
by Ross Ramsey
Dewhurst says the state didn't cut education funding last session. "Only in government is asking for $8 billion and only getting $4 billion considered a cut."
by Ross Ramsey
"It's a fact" that we put more money into education.
by Ross Ramsey
Should the Republican Caucus choose your successor if you get elected to the Senate?

"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."
by Ross Ramsey
Now we're to audience questions. What about the federal jobs act?

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.
by Ross Ramsey
Are you willing to compromise with the Democrats?

"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.

by Ross Ramsey
A question on marijuana.

"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.
by Ross Ramsey
Someone with the Texas Pharmacy Association asks "how can you help us to continue to service Medicaid patients."

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.
by Ross Ramsey
Why were you not objecting when the Bush Adminstration was running up the deficit and fighting two wars?

"I was vocalizing my frustration, my worry, about the increase in the deficits. I've been concerned even before Bush came in."
by Ross Ramsey
"Our deficits have been too high, even during the Bush administration."

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."
by Ross Ramsey
A question about taxes and tax structure.

"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."
by Ross Ramsey
Evan asks about the margins tax.

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.
by Ross Ramsey
Last question: Will you commit to debating your major opponents at least one time going forward?

"I committed already to doing at least one debate. I look forward to it."

And they're done!

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