When real estate developer Don Huffines narrowly defeated John Carona, Dallas County’s long-serving state senator, in the Republican primary, he promised to take a conservative, tea party approach to issues in Austin.
Huffines, 55, is expected to represent Senate District 16 in the legislature since his only opponent in November is a little-known Libertarian.
In a wide-ranging interview with KERA, Huffines talked about his strong support for school choice and teaching creationism; how he’d pay for new highways; his opposition for new toll roads; and why he voted against creating a $2 billion state fund to help finance Texas water projects.
Huffines' philosophy and priorities
"It’s the message of a conservative Republican philosophy: of limited government, less taxes and less regulation. I tell voters that I’m not going to compromise my faith in God, my constitutional convictions or my core beliefs in liberty, freedom and the conservative philosophy of the Republican Party."
Term limits: It’s the first bill he would introduce. He has pledged to serve no longer than three terms or 12 years in the Texas Senate.
New highway construction: He would pay for it by dedicating the revenue from the motor vehicle sales tax, which he estimates at $3 billion to $3.5 billion a year to building roads.
Toll roads: “We really don’t need new tollways. It’s just really another tax on the residents.” Huffines says we should honor the state’s existing toll road contracts and commitments but that new transportation money should be committed to a road system.
Cutting taxes: Huffines wants to eliminate the business franchise tax, which is also known as the margins tax. He says it produces an estimated $4 billion in state revenue annually and getting rid of it would allow businesses to create additional jobs. He declined to say what current services, if any, would be eliminated if that revenue were lost. He says the tax could be phased out.
Paying for water and transportation with Rainy Day Fund: The Rainy Day fund should only be tapped for catastrophic emergencies, Huffines says. He opposes using it as lawmakers did last session. They asked voters to approve constitutional amendments that place Rainy Day money into funds for developing water and transportation projects. Voters approved $2 billion for a state water fund last November. They’ll be asked to approve transportation funding estimated at $1.2 billion a year in November.
Huffines says he voted against the Proposition 6 water fund because it takes money away from voters in his district and instead pay for projects in parts of the state that have not planned for their needs. He believes regions should finance their own water projects without state “subsidies.”
Huffines on education
Increased per-pupil spending for schools? Huffines says more money doesn’t equate to better education. He would emphasize school choice: “Competition is what made America great. It’s what I like to say. It lowers the price and increases the quality of everything it touches. And it’s going to do the same for the education system.”
Vouchers: He would consider supporting “certain types of vouchers.” He supports tax credits, getting rid of the cap on charter schools and “as much competition as possible in the school system.” He supports an unsuccessful measure introduced last session by State Sen. Dan Patrick, who is running for lieutenant governor. It would give businesses a state tax credit if they contributed to a fund that would provide certain students with vouchers for private schools.
Teaching creationism: “I certainly think all students should be aware of creationism," Huffines told KERA. "They should be aware of that, absolutely. Teaching it as a science, it should be taught on equal footing.”