If you were counting on Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry as your dark horse candidate for the 2012 presidential race, you might want to find another pony. Suddenly, the great Texas economic miracle has run into a mammoth $27 billion deficit, equal to one-third of the state’s budget.
Further, Perry’s hunting trips — as he called them — to California to lure high-tech companies to Austin and Dallas appear to have been as successful as the rest of the Texas miracle. Suddenly, the future for schools, mental health care and other social services are as bleak as the once-mighty Dallas Cowboys.
In short, he’s gone from thoroughbred to one step removed from the glue factory.
With hope falling like sheets off ice off Cowboy Stadium, the governor called his boys together. Billy Bob Rover, the chief of staff, chaired the meeting. Interestingly, all the aides were named Billy Bob or Billy Ray.
“Governor, we could raise taxes but you promised not to do that,” said Rover. “We could tap our $9 billion rainy day fund but you promised not to do that, either. We could cut funding to schools, social services and the mentally ill — and we will — but we’re still going to come up way short.
Governor Rick was not happy. You don’t get three terms by playing nice in the sandbox.
“Billy Bobs,” he said, “you haven’t told me a damn thing I don’t already know. Now who’s got the Texas-size balls to try something new?”
After a moment of silence, Billy Bob Scribner, the hot shot 27-year-old economic development director, spoke up. With six words, he went from second-tier to elite status.
“First, we double-tax all Democrats,” he grinned in a Lyndon Johnson-like grin.
The room exploded. The governor literally fell back out of his chair from laughing so hard.
“That’s the best damn idea I’ve heard all year,” he said, meaning it. “Only problem is, we don’t have many of those donkeys left in the state.”
“I know that,” said the young aide. “I just wanted to throw a rattler into the room to see if you guys were sleeping.”
“But seriously, first we impose a 25% surtax on all oil and gas production by out-of-state producers. I checked with Billy Bob Strauss of the Texas Railroad Commission, who estimated they’re good for an extra $5 billion this year if oil hits $90 a barrel. At $100, that’s $8 billion, maybe more. Gas gets us another $2 billion, easy.”
Gov. Rick picked up his bottle of Makers Mark bourbon, did a fast three fingers and flashed his boy wonder a hook ’em horns.
“But here’s where we make the big money. It’s time for us Cowboys to give back to the Indians.”
Quizzical looks all around. Scribner didn’t wait long.
“I mean casinos. Right now, all Texas has is a few mangy electronic slot machine halls that we don’t make a penny off of. We should copy the California model. Give them 25-year exclusive Class A licenses — full table gaming just like Vegas — in return for 25% gross off the top. We get the revenue and the PR bounce for helping the Indians. Heck, we could even name one of the casinos The Alamo.
“With our party’s stranglehold on the legislature, we can ram this through in 30 days, have 10 casinos up in three years and take in $15 billion annually by 2014.
For the first time since the financial crises hit, Gov. Rick’s heartburn disappeared. A presidential smile spread across his face.
It was good to be governor, again.
But he knew for sure he’d have to watch Scribner closely. The kid was more dangerous than a Brahma bull.
Bill Regardie is the founder of Regardie Magazine.