The conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation today wrapped up its annual legislative primer, which has become a must-attend for state Republican leaders.
The event's agenda told the story, with multiple sessions on education spending, infrastructure and what to do about rising health care costs — all tied to impending budget shortfalls.
Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News
"Right now we know there are going to be serious fiscal issues that are going to affect the state budget in 2013,” said the foundation’s Joshua Treviño. “We know that Medicaid itself is essentially a time bomb that threatens to blow up the budget. I think that 2013 has the potential, by virtue of federal pressure and economic pressure, to make 2011 look like the easier session."
The group’s two-day event was aimed at informing conservative state leaders what the foundation sees as the best way to attack the coming problems. The group did the same thing during the 2011 legislative session, releasing a series of web videos calling on lawmakers to balance the state budget without raising taxes.
"Our Legislature faces tough choices,” former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm said in one of the videos. “Do they raise taxes and make phony budget assumptions that simply make the problem worse in the future? Or do they set priorities and make hard choices?"
While the group would like to see specific policies enacted, Treviño said that as a nonprofit, the foundation may not advocate for particular candidates.
"But what we do do, and what we do all the time, whether or not it's an election season, is we try to affect the debate on policy issues that we work with,” he said. “And so inasmuch as we play any role in a campaign season, it's going to be affecting that debate and the things that candidates and people that are interested talk about."
Candidate endorsements will be left up to other groups, like the conservative Empower Texans. Not only does it endorse candidates, but a bad score on its fiscal responsibility index can make it hard for some lawmakers to win re-election.