Let heads and hearts collide

Microsoft popularized the slogan, “Where do you want to go today?” while advertising its Windows operating system in 1995. Sixteen years later the question remains relevant for Republicans in Austin.

When the 82nd Texas Legislature convenes Tuesday, our party will more securely control more levers of state government than ever before. The stakes are high with a paradox at play: You have a nice view from the top; you’re also a more exposed target.

Pride comes before a fall, not a rise, remember. May we tread boldly but cautiously.

Twice in the last decade Texas has faced a budget shortfall in the double digit billions. Each time voters have selected Republicans to lead the reconciliation efforts. Coincidence? Do woodchucks chuck wood?

Eight years ago, Republicans captured a majority in the Texas House for the first time since the 1870s. 2003 was also the year a sluggish, post-9/11 economy left a $12 billion gap between state spending and state tax revenues. The legislature reduced spending rather than raising taxes.

Texans must have been pleased. Republicans have remained in power ever since, this year with a “super-majority” in the Texas House as the state faces an even bigger revenue shortfall. (The Comptroller hasn’t release her estimate yet, but it’s likely to be $20 billion or more.)

Texans want a repeat of how the 2003 budget deficit was handled. They want the budget hole filled by less spending reductions, not tax additions.

They want a government that is lean and efficient. They want resources left largely in the hands of the people who can create the most good: the entrepreneurs, the inventors, the problem-solvers.

They want collective resources primarily invested to catalyze economic vitality. They want state spending focused more on assets, education and infrastructure and less on services and entitlements.

With that said, it will take the wisdom of Solomon to determine what stays and what goes, as it did in 2003. God bless those decisions.

May the state protect well the most vulnerable citizens among us, the children, the disabled, the elderly, while admitting that there is no equal substitute for competent and caring families and friends. We need fresh insights into how to accomplish such goals.

Texas’ Child Protective Services has traditionally utilized gold-hearted, fresh-from-college social workers, most of them females, to rescue kids from hellacious habitats.

Turnover in those jobs is often high and efficacy is often low, due in large part to the dangerous environments into which workers must go.

Unrefined idea: Send kindhearted retired military officers in to retrieve innocent and needy children from domestic battle zones. Many such retirees are relatively young and would be thrilled to forego one golf game a week for a meaningful service. Salutary social workers could then apply their nurturing once victims are removed.

We have pressing budget and social needs. It’s time to get creative about solutions for balancing both within our means. Let heads and hearts collide! That’s where I want to go today.

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