Strength in numbers, cost-cutting zeal help them find niche among veterans.
By Joe Holley and Gary Scharrer
Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/House-GOP-freshmen-are-flexing-some-muscle-1317494.php#ixzz1IHxEMMcH
AUSTIN â€” â€œI don’t pay any attention to freshmen,â€� said Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, on the day he and his fellow House members began voting on proposals that would slice more than $20 billion from the current budget and the 2012-2013 spending plan.
Normally, the good-natured disdain expressed by the House veteran of two decades is universal, but not this session. Because of their numbers â€”37 new members, 31 of them Republicans â€” and because of the cost-cutting, anti-tax zeal that got so many of them elected during last fall’s GOP avalanche, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie and their fellow members are paying heed.
Pitts admitted as much last week when House Bill 1, a bill that slashes education funding and Medicare reimbursement rates in the coming biennium, cleared the Appropriations Committee.
â€œThere’s a lot of members of the House; this is as far as we can go,â€� he said. â€œThey feel like they were elected to make cuts, and they just accurately reflect what their constituents want.”
An informal survey of Republican rookies would suggest they’re holding firm as floor debate continues into the weekend, although some hint they are softening a bit on campaign promises about not dipping into the rainy day fund.
They’re holding firm despite rear-guard amendments from beleaguered House Democrats and despite concerns expressed by folks back home about teachers losing jobs, nursing homes closing and college financial aid withering. The $164.5 billion budget that passed out of Pitts’ Appropriations Committee is about $8 billion short of what’s needed to finance public education. It is about $6 billion short of what state Medicaid officials have said they need.
â€œI’m with Pitts,â€� said Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, who has emerged as something of a leader among the newcomers, in part because of his prior experience as president of the Humble school board.
â€œAren’t we big boys?â€� Huberty asked. â€œDon’t we have to make tough decisions?â€�
Rep. Dee Margo, R-El Paso, one of four GOP freshmen on the House Appropriations Committee, said no one is happy about the budget plan.
â€œWe have cut all we can cut. There’s blood all over the floor,â€� said Margo,
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