No New Taxes Could Be Wishful GOP Thinking
with Costs of Modernizing Failed Power System
February 18, 2021
The killer Texas freeze has been a living testament to the principles of getting what you pay for and reaping what you sow at a state Capitol where the first major tax increase in the era of Republican rule could be all but impossible to avoid to foot the bill for an overhaul of a power system that failed its most important test.
The price could be astronomical for the maintenance and modernization of an energy infrastructure that major electric utilities created and have been allowed to run with minimal regulations or oversight by the state.
Governor Greg Abbott - one of the most prominent proponents of fossil fuels in the nation - declared the need to winterize the state's archaic power grid as an emergency issue for the Texas Legislature to tackle immediately when it returns to Austin next week after six weeks in regular session without a hearing or a vote on a piece of legislation.
Abbott designated the "necessary funding" for the weatherization of the grid as an urgent matter that needs lawmakers prompt attention when the session that they've been putting off hits the restart button on Tuesday.
But the Republican governor didn't give legislators an estimate on how much they will need to invest to bring an archaic electric system into the modern world after years of myopia, neglect and special treatment for oil and gas interests that control the Texas grid.
Lawmakers convened last month in the face of a projected revenue shortage that Comptroller Glenn Hegar estimated to be more than $1 billion as a lingering effect of the coronavirus pandemic. Abbott and legislative leaders had promised to bridge the gap with an infusion from the Rainy Day Fund without the need for new or higher taxes.
After railing against federal intrusion in state government, Abbott has been compelled to eat his words with an application for a Major Disaster Declaration in hopes of outlays from Washington D.C. where President Joe Biden and the Democrats are in full control. But the aid that Texas probably can expect from the Biden administration may not be enough to cover the interest on the massive capital investment that could be required to have Texas better prepared for the impacts of climate change that many Republicans here see as a socialist conspiracy.
Abbott and the Republicans may have to choose now between a major tax bill for infrastructure needs that will substantially more than they would have been if Texas had done a better job of running Texas up to now.
more to come ...