Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Perry-O-Meter debuts to gauge governor's promises

Gov. Rick Perry on election night. Photo by The Associated Press.
Gov. Rick Perry on election night. Photo by The Associated Press.

When Rick Perry starts his third full four-year term as governor of Texas on Tuesday, he’s bound to swear — you might say promise — to "faithfully execute" his office’s duties and to the best of his ability "preserve, protect and defend" the U.S. and Texas constitution and laws.

Fact is, Perry has made about 30 promises already, including proposals he wants the 2011 Legislature to approve or forward to voters. And now the Austin American-Statesman’s PolitiFact Texas is launching its Perry-O-Meter to track how the Republican leader’s promises fare.

Modeled on PolitiFact National’s Obameter, an online feature that monitors movement on promises by President Barack Obama, the Perry-O-Meter catalogues Perry’s promises and, over time, will be updated to reflect changes in status.

For starters, we’ve marked two Perry promises as "Kept."

In an August interview with the San Angelo Standard-Times, Perry said he would designate eminent-domain reform as an emergency for the 2011 Legislature "so it doesn’t get bogged down" late in the session.

Similarly, Perry was quoted in the Houston Chronicle in October as vowing to make the abolition of Houston’s "sanctuary city" rules an emergency item in the legislative session. At issue: The GOP charge that Houston has been relaxed about alerting the federal government when a resident is suspected of living there illegally.

At the start of the session last Tuesday, Perry declared protecting private property rights and addressing eminent domain an emergency issue. He gave the same designation to banning sanctuary cities in the state. The actions enabled lawmakers to take up proposals related to the issues in the first months of the 140-day session.

Other promises kick off as Not Yet Rated, which applies until we see evidence of progress — or evidence the promise has stalled.

Other potential ratings:

+In the Works indicates the promise has been formally proposed or is being considered.

+Stalled means there is no movement on the promise, perhaps because of limitations on money, opposition from lawmakers or a shift in priorities.

+Promise Broken means the promise has not been fulfilled. This could occur because of inaction by Perry or a clear-cut lack of support from lawmakers or others critical to the promise’s completion.

+Compromise means the promise falls short of Perry’s original goal, but there is still
significant accomplishment that is consistent with his promise.

+Promise Kept means the promise is mostly or completely fulfilled.

We compiled Perry’s promises from news accounts and by combing his campaign and office web pages, especially press releases and prepared remarks in which he spelled out proposals on issues including border security, criminal justice and tax policy. Most of the 31 promises were drawn from statements made from September 2009 through October 2010, though among them is a reaffirmed promise. Perry initially called for freezing public college tuition for four years in the 2009 legislative session.

His best-known promise may be his October 2009 pledge to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes." Also memorable: Perry told a questioner at a January 2010 debate that so he "absolutely" would serve his full new 4-year term. Making a related promise, Perry told Reuters in December: "I'm not going to run for the presidency of the United States."

Knowing Perry has expressed caution in making pledges, we were at first skeptical we’d find that many.. Asked in 2006 if he’d be offering major policy proposal in that year’s campaign, Perry replied: "I don’t think the idea is once a week you’ve got to lay out some Empire State (Building) idea. I like to lay out ideas we think (we) can accomplish, not just throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks."

Some might say that a proposal does not a promise make. Our judgment was to consider some Perry statements as promises because voters would view them that way.

For instance, Perry told a West Texas audience in August: "On the water side, I sincerely believe that the (2011) Legislature must finally execute our state’s water plan to help meet a demand that is expected to grow 18 percent over the next 50 years as our population doubles. Some might call the current price tag steep, but we must invest soon to avoid a water crisis in the not too distant future." We took his "musts" as tantamount to a promise to fund the state water plan -- though as with many promises, much depends on whether he can muster sufficient support.

It’s possible too that we’ve missed promises. As ever, we’re open to reader nudges. The Perry-O-Meter is running.