There have been two interesting article recently that shed some light on how GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott governs. The first is from Scott Braddock, Texas is officially sending mixed signals to business. There are many funny parts to this article. Chief among them how thin-skinned the business community is to the bloviating of Ted Cruz and Konni Burton.
General Electric delivered a blow to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s economic development efforts on Friday as Bloomberg let us know that GE “dropped the Dallas area as a site for a possible headquarters move because of concern that Texas’s political climate is unfavorable to the company’s business.” The company is apparently considering other places like Atlanta, for example.
Whether or not Texas has become unfavorable to business, likely depends on the business. I doubt anyone newcomers are unlikely to stop the flow of corporate welfare in Texas. As evidenced by this from later in the article.
Back in June, Gov. Abbott sent a letter to General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, informing him about recently-passed tax cuts as well as the state’s economic incentives programs for businesses.
“How many of my colleagues (other governors) just passed a total tax package of $3.8 billion like we did last week in Texas?” Abbott asked Immelt. “The Lone Star State already offers one of the lowest overall tax burdens in the nation, with no corporate income tax, no individual tax and no property tax at the state level – not to mention one of the most competitive deal-closing incentives programs,” Abbbott said.
Like his predecessor, Gov. Abbott is making the pitch to businesses that government should work with them to achieve the goals of job creation and investment in the communities where they are located.
That makes it seem like there’s nothing Abbott wouldn’t do to satisfy the needs of a business. It’s too bad he won’t go to such lengths for the needs of the people of Texas. Texans who need health care, a better education system, roads, and a living wage. All of which Texas is struggling with right now and make for an unfavorable business climate. Much more then the carping of Cruz and Burton.
Shortly before 1 a.m. on July 15, Gov. Greg Abbott sent an email from his personal account to his top advisers about an editorial published by the Houston Chronicle.
Its author, Ken Janda, had written that Texas’ health care safety net system for the poor and uninsured was “in serious danger of meltdown” because state leaders were refusing to expand health coverage to a million uninsured Texans living in poverty.
The governor told aides he wanted to “see the financials” of Janda’s nonprofit Community Health Choice, a health insurer affiliated with the Harris Health System, one of Texas’ largest public hospitals.
“I’m told by informed sources that most of these entities are rolling in dough,” Abbott wrote.
Abbott, who must be seen doing everything he can to oppose “Obamacare”, hasn’t been shy about attempting to hang onto another source of critical funding for Texas hospitals. The federal government provides a huge amount of money to Texas hospitals through the uncompensated care pool. For four years, the feds have reimbursed Texas’ safety-net hospitals for care they provide to people who cannot afford to pay because Texas refuses to embrace Medicaid expansion. Now that the feds are threatening to cut off this funding, Abbott is up in arms and has his administration attacking those who are arguing for Medicaid expansion.
What this shows is that Abbott is not concerned with the issues that the people of Texas are in need of the most. And that corporations and ideology are at the top of his list. If anyone was still holding out hope that Abbott would not govern like Perry, it’s time to forget about that.
Carter spoke at the Texas Association of Business Central Star Chapter luncheon Wednesday at the Wildflower Country Club. Carter answered questions posed by Bill Hammond, chief executive officer of the Texas Association of Business and members of the audience.
The first question was on the sustainability of Social Security and if it would be around when Carter’s grandchildren reached retirement age.
It won’t be without some changes, Carter said. “You have to have the courage to fix it.”
The majority of people in government don’t want to touch the subject. The most recent number indicates that Social Security disability payments will exceed retirement payments next year, Carter said.
One way to help the program remain solvent is to raise age eligibility, he said.
When the Social Security Bill was enacted in 1935, most people didn’t live to 65. Carter’s grandfathers died at age 60 and 54.
“Most of the people in this room will live into their 80s,” Carter said.
Short-term highway funding has been put in place and Hammond asked if a long-term highway bills is in the offing.
“We’re going to try,” Carter said.
One item that should be considered is the fuel tax, which is used to fund highway projects, he said. The mileage vehicles get continues to increase, resulting in less money for the highway trust fund.
Carter wants to stop taxing fuel and instead tax mileage.
“It’s not popular, but it could work,” he said.
First his comments on Social Security. There’s a quick easy and painless (except for the wealthy) way to fix Social Security. Currently Social Security has an earnings cap of $118,500/yr. If that cap was raised significantly or taken off altogether Social Security would have no sustainability problems as far as the eye can see.
Keep in mind that raising the eligibility age is the same as a benefit cut. Social Security is not going broke, if left unchanged, it will not be able to pay out 100% of benefits as it does today. It will still be able to pay out a significant benefit though, and that’s if nothing is done.
Of course Carter talks about the “courage” it takes to fix the problem. But the only one’s that are supposed to have courage are the future recipients. No courage required from those who exceed the cap it would seem.
As far as the gas tax goes, it simply needs to be raised at the state and federal level. It’s been over 20 years since the gas tax has been raised at the federal level and in Texas. How would your family budget be if you hadn’t had a raise 20 years? There’s no reason to try a new tax that “could” work, when we have a tax in place that can be raised that we know works.
Carter’s talk of courage falls flat when he veers off into this sort of misguided rhetoric.
Bernie has much better ideas for the middle class in America.
A spokesman for the Health and Human Services Commission has confirmed a lawmaker’s account that the Texas Medicaid program will press ahead with deep cuts to the fees it pays to providers of acute care therapy services.
The only difference in the situation from earlier in the summer is that the commission will re-start its rate-cutting process, so the lower rates won’t kick in Tuesday, as originally planned.
Commission spokesman Bryan Black wouldn’t comment but people with knowledge of the agency’s plans said the lower rates probably would take effect in early October.
In a statement, Black said commission leaders tried to work with home health agencies that sued them in state court in Travis County, seeking to block the rate reductions.
“[The commission] attempted to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs that would have required Legislative Budget Board approval,” he said. “Those attempts were rejected by the plaintiffs.”
It is expected to take about a month to re-issue the same lists of reduced rates, hold a public hearing and then issue an administrative rule.
A Democratic budget writer says a top official at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission told her Wednesday that the state still would pursue the same deep cuts to Medicaid therapy providers’ payments, despite statements to a judge earlier in the day that seemed to sound a retreat.
Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said the only alternative now to disruptions in disabled children’s care would be for the Legislative Budget Board to intervene and tell the commission it doesn’t have to meet savings goals outlined in a provision of the state budget.
Howard said a commission executive, whom she declined to name, told her Wednesday morning that the agency only was withdrawing a revised rate-cut proposal that it had submitted recently to state District Judge Amy Clark Meachum and plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the reimbursement changes. It will reissue the same rate cuts that have been discussed all summer, she said.
While the commission may hold a public hearing, the event “will not be meaningful,” she said.
“This is not the legislative intent of a good portion of the legislative body,” Howard said of the rate cuts, which would save $50 million of state funds per year in the coming two-year budget cycle. It begins Tuesday. It’s not clear exactly when the rate cuts would take effect.
The budget board, made up of 10 influential lawmakers, has to step in “so we are not depriving disabled children of the services they need and not cutting off small businesses at the knees,” Howard said.
The Legislative Budget Board (LBB) has only 2 Democrats out of 10 members on it. Which means, like everything else in Texas, the GOP broke it and they’re the only ones that can fix it. Probably not a good sign. Especially when we should be expanding Medicaid, not cutting it.
On Tuesday afternoon, the prosecutors re-filed two of the three charges Paxton faces — two counts of first-degree felony securities fraud. The third charge — accusing Paxton of acting as an investment adviser or representative without registering – remained untouched.
Paxton is accused of offering to sell two people more than $100,000 worth of stock in Servergy, a McKinney technology company, but not disclosing that the company was compensating him.
Paxton also didn’t make clear that he hadn’t personally invested in the company, the indictments allege. He received 100,000 shares, but that was in the form of compensation, according to the indictment.
Paxton’s role in the case from 2012-2014 was not publicly reported last year during his successful campaign for attorney general. Paxton took office in January as the state’s highest legal official. He was indicted last month on three felony counts for alleged violations of securities law in an unrelated case by a Collin County grand jury.
Paxton did not respond to the Chronicle’s specific questions about his actions in the case. Through a private attorney spokesman, he said via e-mail: “This case was settled by all parties and the settlement was approved by the presiding Judge. The Houston Chronicle’s questions indicate a gross misunderstanding of this case and the settlement. General Paxton was appointed by the Court to strictly be an advocate for the children to the Court.”
Two experts, Robert Schuwerk, a retired law professor and author of the Handbook of Texas Lawyer and Judicial Ethics, and Judge Kathleen Stone, a senior district and former probate judge with 25 years’ experience, said Paxton’s actions in the Hunt probate case raised significant questions about his ethical conduct as the daughters’ court-appointed attorney ad litem – a role in which he was required to protect their interests as if he were their hired lawyer under both Texas case law and ethics rules. Both reviewed documents in the case at the request of the Houston Chronicle.
The settlement Paxton negotiated on the two small girls’ behalf was in their view clearly not in the girls’ best interest and ran counter to his legal and ethical obligations, Schuwerk and Stone said.
“I don’t think a competent lawyer for the child could do that, especially without looking into both the asserted legal basis for proposing to award the girls less than the entirety of the decedent’s estate (and trust) and without examining the underlying Hunt family trusts … in order to assess the strength of any claim they might have to those other assets,” Schuwerk said.
A majority of Texas Republican voters think Attorney General Ken Paxton should resign, a new statewide poll has found.
The poll, being released Monday by the Longview-based Texas Bipartisan Justice Committee, found 78 percent of respondents were aware of the felony fraud indictments Paxton is facing and 62 percent said he should resign because of them. More than 53 percent of those who identified themselves as tea party voters agreed the Republican should resign the job he won in November.
Dr. John Coppedge, treasurer of the committee that commissioned the poll, said that as more becomes known about Paxton’s past — including what he calls “the Mont Blanc pen story” — the drumbeat for Paxton’s resignation will grow louder.
The poll, conducted Aug. 15 by Gravis Marketing of Florida, found 18 percent of GOP voters were aware of the Mont Blanc pen story. The 2013 episode, in which Paxton walked away from a courthouse metal detector with a $1,000 pen that didn’t belong to him, was reported a few weeks after the November election.
“This story is important because everybody can understand it and the moral issues involved,” Coppedge said in an interview. “Vague securities fraud issues don’t resonate with their day-to-day lives. This does.”
Gov. Greg Abbott brushed off the idea Monday that indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton should resign, while the state GOP chairman said Texas’ chief law enforcement officer “absolutely” should stay in office while he faces the charges against him.
Innocent until proven guilty, of course. But Paxton’s problems are piling up.
Sometimes it takes great distress to reveal greatness of leadership. As the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches on August 29th, Texas Leftist reflects on the extraordinary role Houston played in the storm’s aftermath and recovery.
One longtime Texas senator and six state representatives have joined several Democrats who have called on the Health and Human Services Commission to pump the brakes on slashing Medicaid provider rates. They have sent letters to the agency’s chief, Chris Traylor, asking him to delay or reconsider the cuts.
It’s encouraging that some in the GOP may be coming to their senses on this issue. But no one should go so far as to give them credit for fixing something they broke on purpose. The lesson is don’t be cruel to being with, and then things like this won’t be necessary.
But [Comptroller Glenn] Hegar’s estimate is comparatively rosy, actually. The comptroller’s office estimates that the state is going to pull in a little over $110 billion dollars during the next biennium, plus $7.5 billion in “surplus” revenue at the end of the current one. With $5 billion of that $110 billion being split between the state highway fund and the state’s rainy day fund, the men and women of the 84th session will have, Hegar says, about $113 billion for the next budget.
To put that into perspective, the budget for the 2014-15 biennium was about $95 billion. According to the left-leaning think tank Center for Public Policy Priorities, it would take $101 billion this session just to maintain the level of services that were provided for in the old budget—new money needed in part because of the state’s rapid population growth. But that would still leave $12 billion for legislators to play with.
On one hand, it’s not a crisis budget, and it’s not one that will require legislators to make cuts (though they might anyway.) The office of Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick released a brief statement that characterized the comptroller’s estimate as a green light for his agenda, which has included the promise of significant tax cuts: It provided “adequate revenue to secure our border, provide property and business tax relief while focusing on education and infrastructure. I intend to accomplish these goals.” [Emphasis added]
It’s estimated that just keeping up with population growth will require $6 billion to $7 billion more in state spending on services. Much of that $5 billion is already spoken for. There remains supplemental Medicaid funding needs in the current budget. The state is appealing a court ruling that might require a revamping of state school financing, a key part of the ruling having to do with how underfunded the system is. The price of oil, taxes on which contribute much to the state budget, is on a downward spiral at the moment. And existing programs need more money than any of these extra dollars can address — likely more need than can be covered even if better-than-expected economic growth pumps in more than $5 billion extra into the budget.
In other words, unmet need atop unmet need in Texas.
So, of course, tax relief is said to be a priority for the Legislature next year. Huh?
The budget leaves $6.4 billion unspent, including $2.9 billion under the state’s constitutional spending cap, which limits the growth of some state funds. Lawmakers also left untouched another $11 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which is fed by oil and gas production taxes.
The budget also includes funding to cover $3.8 billion in property tax relief and franchise tax cuts for Texas businesses.
Even though there was enough to go around to triple spending on border security, the state Legislature directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to slash Medicaid reimbursement rates for therapists who work with Texas’ most vulnerable children. Legitimate questions are percolating about the reasons for the jump in the number of Medicaid clients now served by therapists. Nevertheless, there exists a very real likelihood that the extreme cuts proposed will be catastrophic for many Texas families.
The $150 million reduction in state funding over the biennium represents nearly a quarter of the overall budget for acute care – or outpatient – therapy, and it will trigger an estimated additional loss of $200 million in federal funding over the biennium. Acute care therapy can help ensure some children who receive the services will not require state aid for the rest of their lives and instead will be able to lead self-sufficient, productive lives.
While the cuts will primarily affect children, they will also affect adults. Of the seniors who need therapy, many have experienced strokes and need to re-learn to walk or speak.[Emphasis added]
Some in the GOP “say” they regret what they did. Hopefully they do and it’s not too late to do something about it. Maybe they could ask businesses to give back some of their $3.8 billion in tax cuts?
For a time, many Houstonians considered it a point of pride that the city repealed the use of Red Light Cameras in 2010. But as Texas Leftist has recently discovered, a Houston without camera accountability has become much more dangerous for all transit users…Even deadly.
Not a trace of irony has been found to be present in the recent pronouncements of a certain Democratic so-called frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs — with an assist from the biting cartoons of Ted Rall — illustrates some of the things making Clintonites so nervous of late, none of which have anything to do with e-mail servers or sagging poll numbers.
But educators say that during the recession and its aftermath prospective teachers became wary of accumulating debt or training for jobs that might not exist. As the economy has recovered, college graduates have more employment options with better pay and a more glamorous image, like in a rebounding technology sector.
And that has led districts here — and elsewhere — to people like Jenny Cavins.
Ms. Cavins, 31, who once worked as a paralegal and a nanny, began a credentialing program at Sonoma State University here in Rohnert Park less than a year ago. She still has a semester to finish before she graduates. But later this month she will begin teaching third grade — in both English and Spanish — at Flowery Elementary School in Sonoma. Ms. Cavins said she would lean on mentors at her new school as well as her professors. “You are not on that island all alone,” she said.
Esmeralda Sanchez Moseley, the principal at Flowery, said she could not find a fully credentialed — let alone experienced — teacher to fill the opening. “The applicant pool was next to nothing,” she said. “It’s crazy. Six years ago, this would not have happened, but now that is the landscape we are in.”
Not only have quality and qualified teachers been driven form the profession, the profession has been so vilified, that not enough of the next generation wants to even attempt to be a teacher.
“Both recruitment and retention need to be addressed or it’s a lost cause,” Eaton says. “You have basically a leaky bucket that you keep filling, and you’ll never get it full unless you do something to address retention.”
She believes it’s important to address what she calls the substandard working conditions of teachers by increasing their salaries and benefits. But while many argue that teachers are underpaid, their salary isn’t the only issue contributing to the recent teacher shortage.
“The problem with [raising salaries] is that it’s just addressing the recruitment side, and not the retention side,” Eaton says. “Unfortunately, we’ve had sort of this perfect storm of factors that has really … put the profession in trouble.”
In recent years, there have been drastic cuts, underfunding for education both nationally and locally, rising expectations for teachers, and test-based accountability systems. In Texas specifically, there’s a student population with increasing needs – like low-income and ESL students – and a “teacher-bashing” narrative coming from many policymakers, Eaton says.
“[They] seem to want to pinpoint the issues with education squarely on the teachers,” she says. “In order to really make the profession valued, you need to … include their voices in major decisions.”
She mentioned 4 things to help fix this problem:
Not let anyone enter the profession who wants to; raise entry standards (*)
Treat it not as a trade but as a specific set of knowledge and skills
Value teachers through improved working conditions and salaries
and; include teacher’s voices in major decisions
She made a point of stating that raising entry level salaries to near what experienced teachers already earn creates a disincentive for teachers to stay in the profession. It’s not just money teachers want, just like anyone else, they want to know that they’re valued and appreciated.
And it’s easy to see why the profession is suffering the way politicians have been treating teachers. Who would want to go to college for several years, get a degree, and go in debt to be treated the way they are?
This week the national media seem to have discovered there is a shortage of teachers in many parts of the country, especially a shortage of teachers prepared to serve in low-income schools or high-need subject areas. For devotees of free-market economics, one is tempted to say the supply-and-demand solution to this problem should be blindingly obvious: higher pay. It also would make sense to minimize student debt so that would-be teachers coming out of preparation programs can afford to follow their chosen profession. (On this issue of student debt, see for example the proposals made just this week by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton: College Affordability Plan).
Employers, even if unable or unwilling to raise pay sufficiently, also can try to make the job more intrinsically rewarding by treating teachers more like adult professionals and less like indentured servants. However, another option finding favor in some quarters is to lower standards for entry into teaching jobs. As last Sunday’s New York Times headline put it, this is the “credentials optional” approach. One prominent and increasingly controversial example is the temporary hiring of college grads with a modicum of training via the Teach for America program. [Emphasis added]
While policy-makers will continue to debate the scope of teacher shortages and how to address them, teachers need to know about financial relief available right now for teaching in high-need schools and high-need subject areas. Here is the pertinent link to the Texas Education Agency’s page on various forms of loan forgiveness for teachers.
In Texas this issue is particularly hard. We’re a state that’s lead by a political party that’s doing everything it can to dismantle public education. And they’re unlikely to do anything about poverty either. It’s hard to see how the perception of the teaching profession is likely to change for the better in Texas in the near future.
Teachers are special people. Teaching is a special profession. We entrust them with the future of our country. It’s time we started treating them like we understand what that means.
(*) Corrected text after receiving clarification from Holly Eaton on what she said in the interview.