Texas GOP State Senators Defend Dewhurst

by Katrina Trinko

During the debate last month, Ted Cruz specifically attacked David Dewhurst’s senate record on three issues. He charged that Dewhurst “was responsible for killing the bill that would have prohibited sanctuary cities,” that Dewhurst had “asked a liberal Democrat to round up the votes on the floor against the bill [that banned TSA groping], and he killed the bill because he didn’t want to stand and fight Obama,” and that Dewhurst had backed a payroll tax: “We have over two dozen newspaper articles that are contemporaneous, quoting the lieutenant governor supporting a payroll tax,” Cruz asserted.

But in a letter released yesterday, signed by all the Texas GOP state senators but one, state senator argue that Cruz’s attacks against Dewhurst are unfair. That full letter can be read here. Briefly, the senators argue that the state senate did pass a bill banning sanctuary cities, but the House did not pass it. They argue that the senate passed a bill banning groping by the TS, but that it ultimately could not be reconciled with the more stringent House bill banning the same. And they write that they — and Dewhurst — have been consistently opposed to a payroll tax. 

Cruz wrote a letter today to Dewhurst defending his attacks.  “It is a fact that under your leadership, the sanctuary cities bill did not pass into law,” he wrote. He noted that a 2011 Austin American-Statesman piece had reported that “[Texas state senator Dan] Patrick withdrew House Bill 1937 [the TSA groping ban] from Senate consideration late Tuesday after he lost the votes necessary to debate and pass it — a withering of support that he blamed on Dewhurst, who denied it.” (Patrick was among the senators who signed the letter defending Dewhurst.) “It is a fact that you did support and actively encourage the passage of a “payroll tax”  in 2005,” Cruz continued, linking to this 2005 press release (emphasis mine):

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst praised the Texas Senate today for its passage of a school finance plan that will dramatically improve the quality of education while reducing local school property taxes and closing loopholes in the business franchise tax. The Senate approved both HB 2, the education reform component of the package, and HB 3, the finance reform component, on Wednesday. . . .

HB 3, approved by the Senate in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, restructures the way that Texas pays for public education. Faced with a court order to increase funding for education, and a current system that relies too heavily on local school property taxes and a business franchise tax riddled with loopholes, the Senate crafted a bill that will close the Delaware and Geoffrey loopholes in the franchise tax and reduce local school property taxes by 27%. By closing loopholes, the plan broadens the franchise tax base, and extends a lower rate to all Texas businesses—effectively treating all businesses equally under state tax law. Texas businesses will have a choice of paying either a low-rate revised franchise tax or a payroll tax. To protect small businesses, the bill maintains the current $150,000 no tax due threshold and will exempt sole proprietorships.

“If you disagree, or if you believe your record as leader of the Texas Senate is what Texans want and deserve in the U.S. Senate, stop hiding behind surrogates, step forward and honor your commitment to debate these issues, and articulate your vision of how we restore the Constitution as the dominant influence over the role and scope of the federal government,” Cruz wrote in the letter.