Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a declared candidate for the 2014 lieutenant governor's race, did not rule out supporting a statewide property tax to benefit public education funding, and he said that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has lost his "ability to sell" the issues.
Patterson, who made his comments Thursday during a TribLive conversation, said a statewide property tax, rather than local property taxes, “might be the answer” to the financing inequities in different counties. Such a move would require that a constitutional prohibition against that tax to be repealed.
On the 2014 race, Patterson had strong words about Dewhurst, a fellow Republican who he said has lost “his ability to lead, to inspire, to motivate." On Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who also intends to run, Patterson said that they share similar philosophies, but he has “a little more experience and a little less concern ... with the blogs.”
Enrique Marquez, a spokesman for Dewhurst, said that the lieutenant governor's record shows the effectiveness of his leadership. "As a result of conservative action from leaders like David Dewhurst, Texas rates as the best economy in the nation, and has a business climate that is the envy of the nation."
Cody McGregor, a spokesman for Staples' campaign, said that "experience shouldn't be measured on age, it should be measured on accomplishment."
Asked whether Comptroller Susan Combs, who has also been linked to the 2014 race, would be a good lieutenant governor, Patterson simply responded “no,” citing what he said were several missteps, including a data breach and the Formula One "debacle."
Representatives for Combs did not immediately return requests for comment.
Patterson was just as candid when asked about the 2014 gubernatorial race.
“In my opinion, Governor [Rick] Perry is not running for governor, and [Attorney] General [Greg] Abbott is,” Patterson said. “I don’t think Governor Perry, if he’s planning on running for president again, needs to be governor.”
Patterson, who wrote the state's concealed handgun law while a state senator, weighed in on the national conversation on gun control, saying that President Obama was sincere on not wanting to take away guns, but “a few generations down the road,” the government may try to eliminate them. “We’re talking about the slippery slope,” he said.
“We don’t have a gun problem; we have a nut job problem,” he said, but he did not propose any new funding for Texas mental health facilities.
He also attributed some gun violence to the 24-hour news cycle. “The First Amendment kills as many as the Second, or is as dangerous,” he said. “The right of the broadcast industry to continually put that shooter’s picture on TV [means] somewhere in America there’s a guy, a young, 19-year-old guy who’s got a little bit missing upstairs, who is watching that, thinks, ‘I can be somebody.’”
Patterson also stood by his support for a guest worker program, highlighting that the policy was passed by a 3-to-1 margin at the Texas Republican convention last June.
The policy would call for a program that would bring foreign nationals to the U.S. when jobs were available. Conservative activists criticize the program for taking jobs away from unemployed legal citizens.
“We have an underground economy that is not paying taxes,” he said. “We need to capture that population; we need to have them pay taxes, obey our laws, [and let them] be able to send money home.”
He echoed Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist’s stance that Republicans are not the anti-immigration party, adding that some leaders try to oversimplify a complicated issue.
“The problem with our party on immigration is that we reduce the issue to a bumper sticker, like ‘no amnesty’ or ‘build a fence,’ that everyone can identify with,” he said. “We have a long tradition of illegal immigration, but it wasn’t Hispanics initially.”