• July 23, 2014

Report gives legislators low performance ratings

Nonprofit analyzes fiscal issues

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Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 10:17 am, Mon Feb 17, 2014.

Four state representatives serving Central Texas received failing grades for fiscal responsibility in a report that aims to measure how lawmakers perform on issues involving the size and role of government.

Austin-based nonprofit Texans for Fiscal Responsibility released the 2013 Fiscal Responsibility Index data Wednesday, giving Fs to state Reps. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple; Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen; and J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville; as well as state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay.

Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of the nonprofit, said the index uses more than 70 House votes and almost 30 Senate votes, covering the regular legislative session and three special sessions, to rank representatives. He said the index uses fiscal issues and does not consider social issues.

While organizations have the right to rank legislators based on votes, Fraser, who was first elected to his District 24 seat in 1996, said Texans for Fiscal Responsibility is an exception since it only reviewed 29 votes, three of which were related to the budget.

“I feel our budget is conservative because it cuts $1.3 billion in taxes and keeps spending below the rate of population and inflation growth,” Fraser said in an emailed statement.

Fraser’s biggest issue with the report’s findings is that the nonprofit believes a vote in favor of the State Water Plan was bad public policy. Fraser disagreed, saying it’s the fiscally conservative thing to solve the state’s water needs.

“We need to fund our infrastructure so that we can keep Texas the best place in the nation to live and work,” he said. “I am a rural legislator and I vote my district. I believe my constituents benefit from and approve of the votes I take.”

Stand by decisions

Key votes the report considered for District 59 Rep. J.D. Sheffield, who was elected last year, include increasing taxes, opening the door for the state to massively increase spending by expanding Medicaid under Obamacare and supporting the creation of unconstitutional requirements on political speech while exempting labor unions from the new rules.

Sheffield said he stands by his decisions.

“When I ran for state representative, I promised to stand up to the insider bullies so I’m not surprised by this,” Sheffield said in an emailed statement. “I’m a rural, conservative Republican and I represent the people of District 59, not the Austin insiders and special interests.”

The nonprofit has been releasing the report every two years since 2007.

“Our intention is always to release the index within a week of the legislative session coming to an end,” Sullivan said. “It’s one more resource (that helps) all of us doing our jobs as citizens to hold our representatives responsible. ... There’s lots of different groups left and right that people should take into account when they’re doing their voting.”

Although Aycock, who has represented House District 54 since 2006, received an F partially due to voting for tax increases, he said the index is just one of many analysts’ voices.

“Every blogger and every politico in Austin has a different set of opinions,” Aycock said. “(Sullivan) is just one voice of many that are in the political world.”

Ralph Sheffield, who represents District 55, was traveling and did not respond to a request for comment by press time Wednesday.

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