Meeting Rep. Dan Branch
On Thursday I had the opportunity to attend one of the TribLive events hosted by the Texas Tribune. TribLive is a series of interviews with Texas policy makers. The moderator was Evan Smith, who always is entertaining and thought provoking.
The victim on the podium was state representative Dan Branch, R-Dallas. He is serving his fourth term as the representative for district 108 and is chair of the house committee on higher education.
Branch is sharp. He clearly understands the subject matter of higher education and you have to be impressed with his knowledge of the subject.
The initial discussion, however, focused on the so called race for speaker of the house. Branch said that to call it a race is “generous."
The remaining discussion was on the subject of higher education. Going into the legislative session with anywhere from a $10 billion to $25 billion budget shortfall, there are lots of questions and few answers. Given that education and health/human services are the major cost contributors to the budget, cuts are likely in these areas if the budget is to be balanced. On the one hand, Branch wants the Texas university system to grow and attract research and investment, as well as provide the training for future generations of highly skilled workers. On the other hand, raising taxes to pay for this growth when there is a budget shortfall can lead to a further weakening of the economy and is a disincentive to the very investment that you are trying to attract and retain.
As sharp as Branch is, it doesn’t appear he has many answers. It is a vexing issue.
I don’t expect Branch’s answers, once he has them, will be fully to my liking He scored 34 out of 150 in the Libertarian Party’s scorecard of the last session. While that is better than most, that doesn’t make him a Libertarian.
In the past the Libertarian Party has tried to work with Branch’s office on some legislative efforts to reform some of the nuttier election laws. In the election of 2008 our candidate for district 108 withdrew with the expectation we would continue to work with Branch on these efforts. However, Branch’s office all but ignored us in the 2009 session and there was no reason not to offer the voters in his district a Libertarian choice. It was no surprise Branch easily won re-election, but offering choice is important to us.
If Branch really wants to impress Libertarians, he will propose the radical notion of selling valuable assets such as universities to private entities and get government out of the business of higher education.