"I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw."
-Hamlet, Act II, Scene II
On a recent campaign mailer, Representative Diana Maldonado included this 2008 quote from the Austin American Statesman: "Maldonado has a reputation as a budget hawk." While I hardly think I need to go over the credibility problems inherent in a liberal town's liberal newspaper praising a liberal candidate, those familiar with Maldonado's work on the Round Rock School Board were baffled by the 'budget hawk' statement at the time. Since then, her actions in the 81st legislative session have proved that, like most Democrats, Representative Maldonado prefers to fly fast and free with taxpayer dollars.
During Diana Maldonado's tenure on the Round Rock ISD Board, 2003-08, voters were appalled by the proposal of a whopping $350 million bond package in 2005, one the voters soundly defeated. Even so, by 2008 RRISD debt had risen to nearly $630 million, and yet the district still failed to allocate the required 65% of funds to classroom instruction, and had to go back to taxpayers for an additional $294 million that year. Granted, the district's student population had grown by about 30%, but revenues had grown by 75% during the same period. Furthermore, under then school board president Maldonado, the superintendent's contracted salary inexplicably rose by $38,480 giving him an annual salary of $243,080.00- significantly higher compensation than any governor of any state in the country. Not sure where the 'budget hawk' was in that mess.
Maldonado's disregard for budgetary restraint continued in the Texas House, and her first legislative proposal, H.B. 282, called for state employees to have a tax-payer funded paid holiday on Election Days. Never mind that Texas enjoys anywhere from 5 to 14 days of early voting for any election. Employers with even the most rudimentary grasp of cost-benefit analysis understand that paid holidays add to the overall budget. In order for every state employee to have 2 more paid holidays each year, Texas would have to add an estimated $54 million to the budget. Happily, that rotten egg never made it out of committee.
On other votes regarding government spending and business, Maldonado continued to show a lack of fiscal restraint, and earned a 28% fiscal responsibility rating from Texans For Fiscal Responsibility/Empower Texans. The average score was 56.7%, leaving Maldonado far below the majority of her peers in the House.
On the 2010 campaign trail, Maldonado seems confused about the projected budget shortfall, and continuously refers to a multi-billion dollar deficit. What Representative Maldonado doesn't seem to understand is that we are not talking about a current deficit, but a reduction in the estimated amount of tax revenue the state will collect next year, based on current trends. In the 2011 session, Texas legislators will need to create a new budget in accordance with these projected revenues. It is disturbing that Diana Maldonado's response to the projected shortfall is to talk about 'new revenue streams' and ending 'exemptions.' Translation of government-speak for the voter: 'new revenue streams' = new taxes, and apparently the Democrat mantra this year is to call for a state income tax.
In contrast, Republican candidate Larry Gonzales is campaigning on a fiscally conservative platform and promises spending cuts. Last Saturday in front of some 40 volunteers assembled to canvass the district, he signed a Taxpayer Protection Pledge created by Empower Texans. In his comments, Gonzales reiterated his commitment to doing "what every American family has to do" in cutting spending.
With Americans already reeling under the weight of Obamanomics, the last thing the economy needs is more and/or higher taxes, which will only stifle growth. What we really need are elected officials willing to cut government spending and allow people to use more of their own earnings as they see fit. Unlike some Texas House members, I think the voters are smart enough to tell the difference between a failed 'hawk' and a candidate ready to apply a scalpel, if not a handsaw, to the budget.