Sen. Wendy Davis and Rep. Mark Shelton didn’t hold back Thursday night, arguing over the state budget, Davis’ ethics and the expansion of Medicaid during the third Texas Senate District 10 debate.
Davis, the Democrat incumbent, and Shelton, the Republican challenger who represents District 97 in the State House, debated before a crowd of more than 400 inside the Kelley Center Alumni ballroom at TCU.
Plenty of accusations were traded over the course of the 90-minute exchange. And the two candidates didn’t necessarily ease into them.
“My opponent used her office to enrich herself and that is just despicable, actually,” Shelton said in his opening statement.
Davis countered shortly thereafter, using a question regarding the environment to transition into criticizing Shelton’s support of the most recent state budget, a focus of the candidates’ last debate.
Davis argued that the budget, which didn’t raise taxes but cut money from schools, was not technically balanced, that legislators simply opted to defer costs in order to even it out this year.
“It was not an honest product,” Davis said. “It was not a balanced budget. This would be very similar to something we might do in our own checkbooks to make ourselves feel a little bit better to pretend like our checkbooks had balanced.”
Shelton said the budget was a product of what his constituents had requested.
“The voters in this district told me they wanted a balanced budget that didn’t raise taxes. And that’s what we did,” Shelton said. “We also put money in the rainy day fund because of the certainty of what was happening in the economy, because of the uncertainty and impact of Obamacare on the state, which is going to be substantial.”
Shelton challenged Davis’ ethics, claiming she withheld information regarding her law firm’s involvement with certain lobbyists in Austin.
“Wendy’s firm has registered lobbyists, and she failed to report this to the [Texas Ethics Commission],” said Shelton, who filed an ethics complaint Thursday with the TEC that Davis did not disclose every relationship with lobbyists.
Davis vehemently denied the accusations.
“I have complied absolutely with every ethics law in the state of Texas,” she said. “My law partner and I are very proud of the work we do. We have filed every bit of the paperwork we’re required to do.”
Davis and Shelton shared conflicting views on the expansion of Medicaid in the state. Davis immediately opposed not expanding Medicaid in Texas, arguing that the economic benefits are too viable to pass up.
“Bringing [$100 billion] into the Texas economy over a 10-year period of time creates an economic multiplier of about 250 billion dollars in terms of the money will be realized in our economy,” she said, referencing a recent report from Baylor economics professor Ray Perryman. “It also creates an opportunity for us to not have to worry about jobs as much as we are now.”
From a patient perspective, Medicaid only makes sense, Davis said.
“Texas, right now, has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country,” she said. “One out of every four person has no health insurance, and their treatment is being provided through emergency room, the most expensive care. There’s certainly no excuse that when a child has an ear infection that they would need to go to the emergency room to treat that.”
Shelton made clear his stance on the issue.
“I’m against Obamacare,” he said. “It’s already increased premiums by $1,300 per family. This is a tax, and don’t forget that tax is going to start in January.”
Shelton said Medicaid simply isn’t feasible.
“The problem with the Medicaid system is not that it needs to double, the problem is that it needs to be functional,” Shelton said. “And it’s not functional at all.”