The New York Times' Manny Fernandez greeted the opening of the biannual Texas legislative session in Austin in Wednesday's paper: "Texas Budget Surplus Proves as Contentious As a Previous Shortfall." After explaining how Texas has become flush with cash over the last two years, going from a budget deficit to surplus, Fernandez couldn't help working in a cut against the "far-right" Tea Party.
Shortly after noon inside the Capitol’s Senate chamber, Gov. Rick Perry told senators that the comptroller’s revenue estimate released the day before was good news, but cautioned them to retain the state’s fiscally conservative model. Mr. Perry has called on lawmakers to support his so-called Texas Budget Compact, a Tea Party-style pledge to oppose new taxes and to replace the current spending limit for the state budget with an even stricter formula.
Though they lost their supermajority in the House in the November elections, Republicans continue to control both chambers of the Legislature and to hold every statewide elected office. But the tone of the session will likely be set not only by numbers, but by the political dynamics at play.
The far-right agenda of grass-roots and Tea Party activists has come to dominate the Republican Party in Texas, turning moderate Republicans into an endangered species for the most part. Mainstream Republicans are likely to use the legislative session to bolster their conservative credentials, particularly after Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, defeated one of the state’s most powerful Republicans, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in a United States Senate race last year.