- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000

In recent days, the panicked Gore campaign has been firing rhetorical Scud missiles at George W. Bush's record in Texas. The latest screed from the Gore campaign blasts George W. Bush for being a fiscally reckless governor. Mr. Bush has "spent the surplus in Texas on budget busting tax cuts," charges the vice president. Mr. Gore also alleges that the one-time $6 billion budget surplus in Texas is "rolling away like tumbleweeds." He has also lambasted the Texas governor for allowing the schools to crumble in Texas due to financial neglect.

So what is the real fiscal record of George W. Bush as governor? My research indicates that Mr. Bush has racked up a solid, if not spectacular, fiscal and economic record in Texas. Although the budget has ballooned by about 40 percent to $100 billion since he became governor in 1995, this has been a pace below personal income growth in the state. The U.S. economy has done well since 1994 the Texas economy has performed even better. Under Mr. Bush the Texas economy has ranked well above average in population and income growth. So, yes, the budget has grown a lot too much, in fact but the economy has grown even faster.

The Gore campaign is right about one thing: the tax burden has come down under Gov. Bush. In 1993 Mr. Bush signed a $1 billion property tax cut instead. Then last year he impressively pushed through another $1.7 billion property and sales tax reduction the biggest in Texas history.

On the Cato Institute fiscal policy report card of the governors Gov. Bush received the grade of a B and the 4th best score of 46 governors examined. He came to Austin promising tax cuts, budget control (his predecessor Ann Richards was the biggest spending governor in Texas history), tort reform and a more pro-business regulatory climate. More or less, he kept all of those promises.

If there's a blemish on Mr. Bush's record it is his eagerness to throw money at the schools in order to pacify the education lobby. In last year's budget deal, Mr. Bush shoveled a record $2.1 billion of new money into the Texas schools, and then called himself "the education governor." Feeding the education blob is hardly education reform. Unfortunately, on the presidential campaign trail, Mr. Bush has shown the same propensity to show commitment to fixing our mediocre schools by fattening the budgets of the education blob and expanding the intrusive federal role. Both are bad ideas doomed to failure.

Mr. Bush also needs to reestablish his fiscal conservative credentials by pin-pointing federal programs that his administration would eliminate. There are hundreds of wasteful and obsolete federal programs in the $1.8 trillion federal budget. But so far the Bush team has failed to identify even a single program the governor would terminate. Mr. Bush even evicted from the 2000 Republican platform any specific mention of specific program eliminations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Legal Services Corporation and the Department of Education.

Nonetheless, from a taxpayer standpoint Mr. Bush's fiscal record is sterling compared to that of Al Gore. During his tenure in Congress Mr. Gore was ranked at or near the bottom of the National Taxpayers Union ranking every year. In 1989 and 1990 he was the biggest tax and spender in the entire United States Senate.

Mr. Gore's mudslinging at Mr. Bush for unbalancing the budget says more about the vice president's arithmetic skills than it does, the governor's fiscal record. The latest state comptroller report indicates a $1 billion-plus budget surplus in Texas, not a deficit. In fact, Mr. Bush has produced a surplus 6 years in a row.

Gov. Bush has countered Mr. Gore's attacks by warning: "Don't mess with Texas." He has also lobbed a grenade back at the Democrats: "If Al Gore suggests a state with a surplus shouldn't cut taxes, then how can the American people count on Al Gore to cut taxes when our nation has a surplus?" Good question. The big fiscal difference between Messrs. Bush and Gore is that for 8 years Bill Clinton and Al Gore have promised middle class tax cuts, while Mr. Bush has actually delivered them.

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