Senator Huffines was kind enough to take forty minutes to talk about his gubernatorial race. With a race of this magnitude forty minutes is not long enough to discuss all issues, and with his plans on his web page the interview was designed to get a little more insight on his main campaign goals, and then look at some other issues facing Harris County rather than to rehash what is already publicly available.
Campaign Themes and Goals
Eliminate Property Taxation
While not the focus of the interview, we did briefly touch on the overall campaign themes and plans if elected. The biggest of these is his plan to eliminate the state property tax. Senator Huffines mentioned that the plan he is proposing is essentially the same as proposition two on the Republican primary ballot. The short version of the plan is an increase in sales tax will be used to reduce property tax over time. This could be done via expended collections as the state economy improves and generates more revenue, an increased sales tax amount, or some combination of both these items.
The element of the plan that is most striking is the effort to get public support for the plan by having the issue put to a vote. This is a substantial change to the way the state collects revenue for funding purposes. Seeking public support for such a substantial change is a welcome departure from normal operating procedure where the legislature simply acts.
It’s important to note that while the plan fundamentally alters state revenue collection the plan has built in safeguards to protect the most needy, and the democrat/progressive cry of “regressive” taxation is at least somewhat disingenuous. The revenue will come from sales taxes. Items that are not subject to sales taxes now will remain not subject to sales tax. This plan will not put people in danger of starving or losing housing. Any cry about regressive taxation is built upon the emotional argument that the poor are being disproportionately taxed to support the middle class and the rich in any consumption taxation scheme. This reasoning doesn’t consider the tax free nature of necessaries and presents a false picture of the effect of the new taxation scheme.
The new taxation plan will help those struggling to maintain their housing. He related he hears stories at all his campaign events where people tell him they are having to downsize or sell their house and starting to rent because appreciation is literally taxing them out of their houses. Not only does this create an unstable living arrangement situation it negatively impacts generational wealth.
Families are both not able to keep their homes because of property taxes, but they are also unable to maintain an inherited house. When a parent dies and the house passes on to the next generation the tax breaks the parents were receiving are no longer present and the house simply cannot be maintained because of the tax burden. His tax plan ensures that people won’t lose housing because of taxation, and helps to ensure both present and future wealth generation.
Immigration and the Border
Addressing the immigration crisis is another significant portion of his plans. His plan boils down to both building a border wall to prevent illegal immigration as well as independently acting to protecting the border until the wall is built. This includes stopping the flow of traffic from Mexico into Texas by controlling the state highways that serve the border crossing bridges. His plan also included ending in state tuition for illegal immigrants, and mandating everify for all employers. He stressed this means all employers both personal as well as businesses.
The thinking was if jobs and education are difficult to obtain then the flow of immigrants would naturally slow, or at least move to different parts of the country. This is important since illegal immigration’s negative impacts are not addressed in an equitable manner. With the presence of illegal immigration having a disparate impact on border states and a timid federal response it will take a combination of reducing the direct flow of immigrants as well as making settling into other states an easier pathway to achieve the goals illegal immigrants seek.
He noted that he would not have Texas military personnel directly enforce immigration laws. The focus is stopping the flow of illegal immigrants and immediate deportation for the apprehended illegal immigrants. He noted illegal immigrants from 147 different countries have been apprehended in Texas in the past 12 months. The world only has 195 recognized countries, so the illegal immigration is coming from approximately three quarters of the world.
As to why stop the flow of illegal immigrants he noted several issues that are related to illegal immigration. From a job opportunity standpoint he noted illegal immigration depresses wages and stifles economic mobility. Outside of job opportunities, he noted other negative economic impacts such as increased budget costs associated with illegal immigration and negative educational aspects. The children of illegal immigrants must be educated, and that consumes both monetary as well as human resources on already strained school systems. This occurs both in the form of having to implement education procedures to account for the inability to speak English and the sheer amount of immigrants children in the classrooms in some school districts.
Some of these plans are certain to draw federal litigation seeking to obtain restraining orders against the activity. How would he address this issue? First, he will file preemptive declaratory judgment litigation regarding his actions so the liberals cannot seek favorable venue in Austin for their litigation. Second, he indicated a willingness to simply ignore restraining orders from the court.
Harris County Issues
Although this is a gubernatorial race Harris County faces some significant issues that the governor can impact. We discussed two areas that have significant impact in Harris County, crime and the Texas Education Agency’s attempt to take over Houston ISD. He had solutions ready to address both issues.
With crime the issue isn’t just impacting Harris County, but Houston is the murder capitol of the United States year to date. As such, crime is a significant issue we face here in Harris County. He indicated that the governor and legislature have the tools available to make an impact on the crime in Harris County. To begin with, he noted that all political subdivisions are legislative creations, and the legislature can target specific subdivisions to address problems found within the subdivisions. This means that Harris County can be specifically targeted, either solely or as a trial run to be implemented in other large population counties at a later date, with legislative initiatives to combat crime.
Crime, he said, is the result of leftist policies, both as a consequence of losing the social war as well as policies directly related to the criminal justice system. He already has plans to create an election integrity office and system. This endeavor could be a model to use to address crime issues in counties where the judges seem to be unwilling to put appropriate weighting to the public safety prong of the factors to consider when assessing bond. Creating special courts, special prosecution teams, bringing in outside help to assist with the investigation and case closure were all options he is willing to exercise.
With the recent Fifth Circuit case regarding bail crime truly has become a political will issue, and as Governor he would be ready, willing, and able to push measures to address crime in Harris County. With Harris County’s local government unwilling to take significant measures to address the surging crime it will take the state acting to help reign in criminal activity. He indicated that when he was having caucus meetings as a state Senator the goal was not upsetting the democrats. He doesn’t believe that’s a good philosophy, and that the reason “we don’t attack these issues is the Governor doesn’t want to do it.” He was very clear he would attack the problem head on using his power as Governor.
Although the Texas Education Agency attempt to take over Houston ISD has been unsuccessful on procedural grounds so far the litigation continues. With significant Board of Trustee turnover the improper conduct regarding the superintendent is not longer a legitimate ground for Texas Education Agency to attempt to take over HISD. The only area left where the TEA could support the ongoing litigation regarding the takeover attempt is the state of the special education services within the district.
To address the problems with special education in HISD Senator Huffines plan takes a business approach and relies on competition and school choice. He wants to make sure that the money follows the student and believes that parental control of the money follows the student will create competition and improve special education services overall.
His interest in this area seemed especially sincere as he indicated that the issue was important enough to call a special session to address. In addition to money follows the student he wants to make sure the money can be used to make a switch between school districts rather than limiting the choice to between public and private schools. He also wants to see open enrollment so that parents are able to enroll their students into different educational settings as necessary.
Message to Voters Regarding Covid Shutdown and Accomplishments
With Covid being such a large part of the election and why Governor Abbott has primary opponents this is an area I felt compelled to cover. Abbott’s response to Covid and the harm and fundamental injustices that flow from his actions are the reason he has a spirited primary challenge. My personal example is a great example of the harm and injustice. I couldn’t get into Texas Children’s Hospital to see Kenshin, but at the very same time Abbott came to Houston to honor George Floyd and a 60,000 strong crowd was allowed to gather.
Rather than get into the merits on Abbott’s actions I asked what message does Senator Huffines have for those impacted by Abbott’s actions. He stated this is one of the reasons I decided to run. Abbott listened to that “lying Fauci.” Over 3 million Texans applied for unemployment as a result of the shutdown. I would have never done that, it’s more than the authority issue. Our liberties come from God not the government. This was a violation of our God given rights.
He also noted he is for vaccine choice not for vaccine mandates, and held that position before the current pandemic.
Proudest Accomplishments as a State Senator
When asked what was his proudest accomplishment at a state Senator he responded with two answers. First, he said he was proud to be ranked as one of the top three most conservative state Senators of all time. The second accomplishment he discussed at length was shutting down the Dallas County Schools (the Dallas County version of the Harris County Department of Education) for the illegal activity that he uncovered.
He seemed especially proud of the action he took to shut down Dallas County Schools, and noted how he was on an island and having to pursue the activity without help. He indicated that as a result of his actions not only did the agency get shut down, but all their assets were liquidated. Not only that, but because of the illegal activity that was occurring “six people [were] put in jail as a result.” He noted that Dallas County Schools had 3,000 employees and over a $100,000,000 budget. He was happy not only that this stopped the taxation from the taxing district supporting Dallas County Schools, but that it ended the public financed lobbying that they conducted.
Lastly I asked him what he would like to say as a final message to primary voters. He responded that he is running because “the job is not getting done” and that he has a record to back up his proposals. He continued that he wanted term limits, and when he was a state Senator “I took no money from the government, and will not do so when elected governor.” While not his campaign slogan, the last comment he made before concluding the interview captures why he is running, “I’m not running for the position, but to implement the solutions.”
My take away
Overall I found Senator Huffines to be sincere and running because he is greatly troubled both by the actions Governor Abbott took regarding Covid, but also a concern regarding the conditions present in the state as a whole.
Although his answer regarding HISD’s special education woes is unlikely to satisfy the TEA, especially in light of the September 29, 2020 letter they sent to the Board of Trustees, his plans would bring improvement in special education services. It’s just a matter of other governmental intervention would be needed to maintain local control given the overt hostility that has developed within the TEA towards HISD.
Other than his answer to the special education issue he brings solutions that are workable and would improve life for everyday Texans. More importantly his plans are a good mix of common sense measures such as e-verify for all employers – not just businesses – as well as bold measures such as creating special prosecution and courts to address criminal justice issues if necessary.
His desire – and ability – to achieve results through his plans, as well as his desire to put his tax plan to a vote so there is public support for the plan stood out as someone who is willing to make hard decisions, but do so in a way that is uniting rather than the division that has plagued state politics the last cycle. His preexisting wealth and belief in term limits, even if self imposed, reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interests.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is he presents as someone who is genuinely concerned about Texans and making Texas better, and not as someone who views the position as a stepping stone for greater political ambition.