Issues 2000: Party leaders debate Bush's record as Texas governor

Question from Democrats: How does George W. Bush expect to run a country when he struggles to manage his own state?

Joe Andrew, Democratic national chairman: We are living in an era of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. Under the fiscal leadership of the Clinton-Gore administration and the Democratic Party, we have seen over 22 million jobs created, unemployment rates drop to near record lows and a budget surplus projected to be over $1.4 trillion.

George W. Bush's Texas, unfortunately, has not fared so well. Bush called for irresponsible tax cuts - many of which he was warned not to make - nd now Texas faces a budget shortfall of up to $750 million. And Bush readily admits that he doesn't want to be in Texas ''to have to deal with'' his budget mishap.

Is this really the man we want running our country?

While these tax cuts are great for the rich and special interests in Texas, the shortfall makes it unlikely that the state will address the unmet needs of working families. Bush's budget left neither funding for the 600,000 uninsured children eligible for state Medicaid nor funding for the 95 percent of families eligible but not receiving child care.

Not to mention, in 1999, the first bill Bush signed into law was a $45 million oil industry tax break he considered an ''emergency.'' Bush prioritized the special interest tax break while simultaneously shortchanging Texas' Children's Health Insurance Program.

On the campaign trail, George W. Bush has proposed a nearly $2 trillion tax cut that will benefit the richest one percent of Americans and benefit working families very little. Bush's tax scheme is so expensive it could slash program funding, drain the available budget surplus and threaten the viability of Social Security and Medicare.

Like his Texas budget, these national figures just don't add up.

America does not need this kind of leadership. America needs proven leaders that will guide our nation into continued prosperity. Vice President Al Gore and the Democrats, through fiscally responsible plans like targeted tax cuts for working families, will continue the economic growth of the last eight years.

Jim Nicholson, Republican national chairman: Let's put one canard to rest immediately: ''Al Gore is dead wrong to claim there is a budget shortfall in Texas,'' said Texas House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Junell last week. He went on to say that Gore's attack on the bipartisan budget is ''shameful.'' Oh, yes, one more thing - Junell is a DEMOCRAT.

The facts speak for themselves. Today, under Gov. Bush's leadership, Texas leads the nation in education reform, with minority children in particular improving their test scores dramatically. The governor has reduced crime rates, passed the largest tax cuts in Texas history, curbed frivolous lawsuits, and moved people from welfare to work. He has built a bipartisan consensus to achieve what is best for Texas and intends to do the same for this country.

With sound fiscal policies, Gov. Bush has helped create more than one million new jobs and almost 48,000 new businesses; unemployment is at its lowest rate in 20 years. Texas remains one of the few states without an income tax, and Gov. Bush fulfilled his promise to cut the growth of state government. And during his tenure, Gov. Bush and the Texas Legislature delivered tax cuts totaling nearly $3 billion to Texas families.

Gov. Bush was reelected by a landslide in 1998, marking the first time an incumbent has retained that office in nearly 25 years. (And Bush is only the second Republican governor of Texas since the end of the Civil War.) Bush's promotion of ''compassionate conservatism'' resonated strongly with nontraditional Republican supporters - he worn 49 percent of the Hispanic vote, and 21 percent of the African-American vote.

By freeing individuals to achieve their highest potential, Gov. Bush has inspired people to pursue their dreams and shared his confidence in them to succeed. He has successfully accomplished this in Texas, and now plans to share his vision and leadership with the country at large.

(Jim Nicholson is chairman of the Republican national committee. Joe Andrew is national chairman of the Democratic national committee.)



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