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Inside Intelligence: About Those Spending Limits...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about spending limits, the shape of pre-K reform to come and the future of straight-ticket voting.

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We started off this week’s survey of politics and government insiders with questions about what new measures might be taken to curb state spending.

About two in five thought the Legislature would act to change the way the constitutional spending cap is formulated to curtail growth of future budgets. Another quarter believed lawmakers would endorse exempting tax relief and/or debt reduction from future spending cap calculations.

One in five insiders, meanwhile, thought lawmakers would opt for neither measure while 8 percent said they would do both.

The insiders weren't convinced that lawmakers would bust the spending cap this session. Nearly 60 percent thought it wouldn't happen, either because lawmakers decided the question on their own (34 percent) or because voters knocked them down (24 percent).

Meanwhile, 37 percent thought that lawmakers would break the cap, with 19 percent saying lawmakers would act on their own and 18 percent saying they would get voter permission.

A majority of the insiders thought lawmakers would give the OK to half-day pre-K programs as opposed to full-day programs.

Breaking down the half-day proposal, 28 percent thought lawmakers would only fund partially the initiative while 24 percent thought it would be fully funded.

Of the 28 percent who thought lawmakers would opt for a full-day program, 22 percent thought it would partially funded while 6 percent thought it would fully funded.

Another 11 percent thought a pre-K bill wouldn't pass.

And on the issue of straight-ticket voting, a bill banning the practice was heard in House committee this week. But fully half the insiders didn't think straight-ticket voting should go the way of the dodo. Another 38 percent thought straight-ticket voting should be eliminated while 10 percent thought it should be eliminated for judicial elections only.

We collected comments along the way, and a full set of those is attached. Here’s a sampling:

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Which spending limit measures will lawmakers choose?

• "Doesn't seem like the House and Senate are singing from the same page in the hymnal, but that could change by Sine Die."

• "Patrick and Bettencourt have pushed the Senate into a corner where they now have to resort to accounting gimmicks that Texans hate. I'm using the word hate."

• "Getting two-thirds of both chambers to agree to change the constitution on something this controversial and partisan? Perish the thought."

• "Limiting growth in all funds would eliminate the advantage of dedicating the motor-vehicle sales tax and whatever else to the Highway Fund. The left hand and right hand need to communicate."

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Will the Legislature bust the spending cap?

• "Not in the regular, but will have to do so in a Special that gets called after the Supreme Court rules."

• "They will adhere to the spending cap after they have removed from the cap additional revenues blessed by the voters as being constitutionally dedicated — roads, debt retirement."

• "IF they bust it, it will be based on putting something on the ballot. This Lege will never take a straight-up vote to bust the limit. Putting on the ballot allows them to look the other way and say it was the voice of the people."

• "Why even bother coming to Austin? Just let the voters decide everything. We could even do it online."

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Pre-kindergarten legislation has been signaled as a priority issue for Gov. Greg Abbott. What form of pre-K legislation will lawmakers pass?

• "Which Pre-K bill are we discussing? The one the Legislature is likely to pass or the one Governor Abbott is likely to sign?"

• "Too bad his commitment to tax cuts and a more restrictive spending limit get in the way of an alleged priority. Cake/eating issue."

• "HB4. Nothing more."

• "Only a tiny grant version with about $100 million, ensuring full-day pre-K for all schools is years away. (Can you name a recent grant that became a fully-funded program?)"

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A bill that would eliminate straight-ticket voting was up for a hearing in the House this week. Do you think straight-ticket voting should be banned?

• "I've yet to hear a good reason to do this."

• "It should be banned. But, since in practice that proposal would dilute each district's R and D numbers — thus increasing number of competitive districts and uncertainty — it won’t be passed by this Legislature."

• "Straight ticket voting is the lazy way out. Voters should actually think? What a concept!"

• "Texas Democrats wish. White only lost to Perry by 250,000 with ticket splitters, but got crushed 7-to-1 in straight tickets. The built-in straight ticket advantage has vanquished many a Democratic judge in the last 20 years."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Brandon Alderete, George Allen, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, David Cabrales, Kerry Cammack, Elna Christopher, Randy Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Jack Erskine, Jon Fisher, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Eric Glenn, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, John Greytok, Jack Gullahorn, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, John Heasley, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Deborah Ingersoll, Mark Jones, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Nick Lampson, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Leslie Lemon, Ruben Longoria, Matt Mackowiak, Matt Matthews, Jason McElvaney, Mark Miner, Steve Minick, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Todd Olsen, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Jerod Patterson, Robert Peeler, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, Grant Ruckel, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Steve Scurlock, Ben Sebree, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Mark Smith, Larry Soward, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Tom Suehs, Sherry Sylvester, Sara Tays, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, Corbin Van Arsdale, Ware Wendell, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Angelo Zottarelli

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