November 14, 2008
Ahhh, fall. My favorite time of year. Now’s when football season moves into high gear. A man of my deep obsession with the game can start driving himself crazy thinking about who’s going to make the playoffs, play for the championship, or win certain awards.
Fall’s also when the heat we’re under becomes more metaphorical and less literal. And it’s when the leaves turn and pile up on the ground – a display that can only remind us of reams of legal-size paper being printed up and dumped on the good people in the office of the Secretary of the Senate.
I rolled a lot of this out in an informal talk Monday morning to a pretty wide mix of environmentally minded reformers and business leaders. The conversation laid out my outlook for the session and a lot of the priorities I’m bringing into it – including the plan for more “flagship” institutions and my climate action plan, plus funding for children’s health care and aid to small businesses.
I also talked a lot about the budget, which is always the legislature’s biggest task but will be a particularly large challenge next year.
I don’t want to bring you down this early on a Friday, but a couple of major disasters have hit Texas in the last few months – we’ll call them Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Lehman Brothers.
There’s no way that the recent hurricane and ongoing financial crisis won’t present a whole new set of challenges to budget writers this session. And that’s on top of difficulties we knew we were going to have with the new business tax, also known as the margins tax. The legislature created this device back in the summer of 2006, before I was in the Senate, as part of the tax shift that was supposed to bring down property taxes (and, yes, I’m calling that one Hurricane Margins Tax).
So that’s just the overview. And if you’re like me, you’re looking at all of these things and thinking, “Geez, Kirk, this is kind of depressing. Even Baylor football has some bright spots.”
I don’t blame you. We have a lot to think about and get right, and it’s important to take a hard look at our immediate challenges. But when we do that, it must not be in terms of how we get through a five-month session or how the state limps into its next budget crisis.
Instead, we need to take on these challenges in ways that open new opportunities for future generations. These decisions, even the hard ones, should be made in ways that shape Texas for the better for decades. We absolutely must embrace the future, with all of its challenges and opportunities, as soon as we can, however we can, regardless of our temporary circumstances.
When we look at our parents and grandparents – the Greatest Generation, as they’re rightly called – we see a greatness defined not by some specific stock market rally or corporate expansion, but by a legacy of sacrifice and hard work that left us with a vast inheritance of peace, prosperity, and unmatched opportunity to be whatever we wanted to be.