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Secret recording reveals Speaker Bonnen hates local government

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Conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan released his long-rumored secret recording of a meeting with Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and former House GOP Chairman Dustin Burrows. 

The recording has led to an ongoing investigation by the Texas Rangers. 

In the recording Bonnen clearly asks Sullivan to use his war chest to launch primary attacks on 10 relatively moderate Republicans in exchange for media credentials. 

Bonnen then excused himself by saying that he “probably shouldn’t” be involved in the conversation because he didn’t want Sullivan to say he was “awful.”

Along with the quid pro quo for media credentials, the recording captured the depths of Bonnen’s and Burrows’ disdain for local government. 

“We hate cities and counties,” Burrows said to Sullivan. The Republican leaders then boasted about how they had targeted local governments in order to reduce their political and tax collecting powers. 

“Any mayor, county judge that was dumbass enough to come meet with me, I told them with great clarity, my goal is for this to be the worst session in the history of the Legislature for cities and counties,” Bonnen said.

Burrows added that he “hopes[s] the next session’s even worse.” 

Later in the recording, Burrows laid out a plan to curtail local governments’ percentage of sales tax revenue in an attempt to reduce the average property tax bill across the state. 

“Why don’t we just take the two local pennies that are being used for economic development and put those into driving down property taxes,” Burrows said. “ We don’t raise anything, it’s already a statewide average, it’s economic development dollars, we hate cities and counties.” 

Burrows then made an ambiguously worded statement regarding either economic development spending or local governments. 

“I’ll take a hard look at them in the interim on a review, to see whether or not they’ve outlived their usefulness,” he added. Burrows later reiterated his desire to hurt local governments. 

“I just want the local governments to have a worse session next session by …  stealing their two pennies, putting them toward the taxpayers,” he said. 

Later in the recording, Burrows attacked representatives for listening to cities’ concerns about SB 2 — which prohibits cities and counties from increasing property taxes more than 3.5 percent per year without a vote from the public. 

“I barely passed SB 2 … I had to whip votes day in and day out and mayors were calling and everything else,” Burrows said. “ I had people who were more interested in listening to their mayors than they are to their taxpayers.” 

Sullivan’s decision to withhold the release of the tape until now led to speculation that he was trying to influence the meeting of the Republican House Caucus, which meets this week. 

Sullivan confirmed the speculation in an interview with the news website The Texan.  

“The Republican Caucus chose Dennis Bonnen as speaker, and now it’s up to them to clean up the mess that he’s created,” Sullivan said. 

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