04.16.15

Tax Cuts Today = Cruel Budget Cuts Later

Posted in Around The State, Taxes, The Budget at 1:08 pm by wcnews

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Tax cuts today equal cruel budget cuts later. That’s the message from 25 groups to The Lege.  Here’s the letter from Texas Forward.

Over 25 Groups Warn Legislature Tax Plan Could Cause More School & Health Cuts

Letter Says Huge Tax Cuts Put Children and Families One Economic Slowdown Away from 2011-Style Budget Cuts

Peggy Fikac has more.

The groups recalled billions of dollars worth of cuts to public education and other programs that occurred during tough economic times in 2011, when then-state comptroller Susan Combs issued an erroneously low revenue estimate.

The group said in their letter that they are “concerned that the nearly $5 billion tax cut proposals you are currently considering would place the state on a path to the kind of deep, harmful cuts to basic services that were enacted in 2011…. Texas must be prepared for the natural ups and downs of the economy, particularly today as sales tax growth slows and oil prices remain low.”

Unless the tax cuts are temporary, or the rainy day fund is made available, “the next economic downturn will leave Texas without the revenue necessary to meet the needs of our growing state and risk another round of deep cuts to basic services,” the groups said.

Backers of the tax cuts have said Texas has enough money to meet key priorities while still reducing levies, and that it’s appropriate to return money to taxpayers in relatively flush times.

The groups backing Monday’s letter include the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Austin Voices for Education and Youth, Center for Public Policy Priorities,
Children’s Defense Fund – Texas, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Coastal Bend Center for Independent Living, Foundation Communities, Grassroots Leadership
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter.

Also signing on to the letter are North Texas Job with Justice, Pastors for Texas Children, Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, San Antonio Nonprofit Council, SEIU- Texas, Texans Care for Children, Texas AFL-CIO, Texas AFT, Texas National Nurses Organizing Committee, Texas Organizing Project, Texas Public Interest Research Group, Texas State Employees Union, Texas State Teachers Association, Voices for Children of San Antonio and Workers Defense Project.

Let’s not forget that along with Combs’ bad budget estimate, the last GOP tax scheme, which created a structural deficit, made those cuts harsher as well.

Opening Thoughts On The 2016 Presidential Race

Posted in Election 2016 at 11:29 am by wcnews

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First some context.  I supported Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008.  A main reason was that I wanted some new blood in Washington.  Then Obama selected Rahm Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff…enough said.

All of that is to say that no one we elect in 2016 is going to bring about the necessary change we need, our political system is too corrupt.  That being said, any Republican will be worse then any Democratic candidate we can elect.

The only way we will get the change we need is when the people of this country demand it.  My fear is that it will likely take a crisis worse then what we saw in 2008 to bring that about.

Hillary Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee in 2016 and is the best candidate running by far right now.  Here’s Clinton’s announcement video.

So far the message has populist tones, which is good.

While there are other candidates I would prefer none of them are electable in our current corrupt system. Elizabeth Warren can do much more in her role in the Senate then she could becoming a rival of Clinton.

Bernie Sanders on the other hand I would like to see run just to keep Clinton honest during the primary on issues important to those of us on the left.  As you’ll see in this video, Sanders will run a campaign about the issues important to the country and not a nasty campaign.  He also does a really good job of pointing out the GOP’s cruel agenda.

Much more to come in the months ahead.

04.14.15

When Cutting Is All You Know

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Taxes at 12:38 pm by wcnews

taxcuthomerimagesHere’s an analysis from Ross Ramsey on the Texas GOP’s inability to deal with the current budget situation, Analysis: Big Money, Little Ideas in Legislature.

You can make a perfectly reasonable argument for leaving the money alone, which is apparently what’s going to happen during this legislative session. But isn’t it strange that none of those statewide officials and legislators has come up with some fantastic scheme for all that cash? No big dreams? It could be a genuinely big tax cut, a transportation plan, funding for more water projects or public schools, or whatever.

The lack of such a plan is a tiny piece of evidence that none of the people serving in Texas government really wants to write a chapter in the history books. Method, motive and opportunity — all of the elements of crime and government — are present here.

I think he’s wrong. The GOP does have a “fantastic scheme for all that cash“, that at this point seems likely to pass, and will cause Texas huge problems in the future.

The problem the GOP will have in the long run with these tax cuts will far out weigh any success.  The tax cut to average, non wealthy, Texans will be negligible at best.  While the problems caused because of them will be easy for all to see.

The GOP, as it is currently run in Texas, is incapable of using the current budget conditions to set Texas on a road to long term success.  They see government as the problem and cannot fathom a way to use government to help Texans.

 

04.13.15

Williamson County Judge Tim Wright Indicted, Suspended

Posted in Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 10:35 am by wcnews

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Via KXAN, Judge Timothy Wright to be arraigned this Wednesday.

Wright faces nine federal charges. Prosecutors say he sold guns illegally, sold them to criminals and tried to help smuggle guns between June 2014 and February of this year.

According to ATF Special Agent in Charge Robert Elder, “This firearms trafficking investigation, which involves multiple firearms destined for Mexico, is another example of ATF’s relentless pursuit of individuals who attempt to utilize any means available to illegally appropriate and divert firearms for criminal purposes.”

Wright, 70, is also accused of falsifying information when he purchased firearms from gun stores in Georgetown and Copperas Cove. In the indictment, it says Wright filled out paperwork indicating he was the buyer of the firearms, but he was actually buying the firearms on behalf of another person. The document goes on to say Wright lied to ATF agents about when sales took place and to whom. It does not indicate if any of the weapons were used in commission of another crime. He does own a Federal Firearm License which allows him to sell guns as a dealer, and Senter said Wright did not know he was selling guns illegally or that they were bound for Mexico.

Meanwhile, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct has suspended Wright. A Williamson County spokesperson said the county and its commissioners do not have the authority to remove the judge from the bench or keep him from hearing cases.

Wright’s attorney told KXAN that his client is innocent of any charges. Dallas-based criminal defense attorney Jeff Senter says Wright retained him after the raid.

“The judge is obviously innocent of any charges to be brought against him. We look forward to learning the facts about the case,” Senter told KXAN Investigator Robert Maxwell.

In other news Williamson County DA Jana Duty wants her day in court.

Ken Paxton, Texas AG, An Admitted Criminal That Hasn’t Been Prosecuted

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Corruption at 10:04 am by wcnews

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I didn’t vote for Ken Paxton, and won’t vote for him in the future. Mainly because he’s a clone of Greg Abbott and only cares about suing the federal government. But the fact that he’s an admitted criminal, who hasn’t be prosecuted for his crime, just adds to the reasons not to vote for him.

The question seems to be, is he being let off the hook because he’s the Attorney General? Via the DMN, The big stall in Collin County on criminal probe of Attorney General Paxton.

Amazingly, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office insists that the state’s top law enforcer broke no laws when he solicited investment clients without being registered to do so in 2004, 2005 and 2012 for a McKinney business. What’s amazing is that Paxton admitted in a signed statement on May 2 that he violated state securities law. The Texas State Securities Board assessed him a $1,000 fee for the administrative portion of this violation. The criminal portion was never addressed — and certainly never resolved.

How do you admit to violating the law, then have your spokesman tell the news media repeatedly that no laws were broken? Here is the full text of Paxton’s admission, which is posted on Ty Clevenger’s Lawflog.com blog. Paxton’s notarized signature appears at the bottom. Under the section title CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, Paxton acknowledges three paragraphs that explicitly state, repeatedly, that he violated state law.

Nothing in this document states or implies that the criminal aspects of his violation were resolved simply because he paid the $1,000 administrative fine. State securities law is very clear that failure to properly register while soliciting investment clients and collecting commissions fees is a third-degree felony, punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and 10 years’ imprisonment. You can read the language yourself by clicking here.

There’s an important section of the law that outlines a statute of limitations: three years from the last violation. Paxton decided to abide by the law in 2013 and register properly. The statute of limitations for his 2012 violations expires this year, which means every ticking minute brings him closer to getting off without criminal punishment for what he admits was a violation of the law.

This might help explain why his good friend and former business partner, Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis, appears to be in no hurry to launch a criminal investigation of Paxton. Prosecution of this case falls squarely under Willis’ jurisdiction since Paxton maintained his office and performed his securities business in Collin County at the time the violations occurred.

At the time of the violations, Paxton was an attorney and a Republican state representative. Perhaps he just goofed and simply didn’t know that he was supposed register. Those things happen. But would our now-attorney general and his friend, the Colllin County district attorney, dare to suggest that ignorance of the law is a valid excuse for breaking the law? If so, Texas could find itself at the frontier of a new breakthrough legal doctrine: the Homer Simpson D’oh legal defense to prosecution.

[…]

The best way for our attorney general to uphold the duties of his office is to stop having his spokesman deny that the law was violated or that this matter was somehow resolved. Paxton should acknowledge publicly what he did in writing: that he violated the law. The attorney general should call for a special prosecutor to handle the criminal side of his violations.

The Collin County district attorney, also being conflicted, also should defer to a special prosecutor in this case. But by stalling and talking about bringing in the Texas Rangers, Willis only adds the stink of protectionism, power and influence to these proceedings.

Please, as sworn officers of the court and professionals duty-bound to uphold the law, stop standing in the way of justice.

Everything that’s being done looks like Paxton and his buddy Willis are trying to run out the clock on this one.

It says something about the GOP Primary process in Texas that Paxton was the best candidate they could nominate.  And it says something about the state of the political process in Texas that Democrats couldn’t beat an admitted criminal.  But if he’s able to get away with committing a crime without punishment it says something about all of us.

TPA Blog Round Up (April 13, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 7:43 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance revels in the start of another baseball season as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the case to pass a state law that would enable “rideshare” services like Uber and Lyft to operate in Texas cities.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos cautions Latino voters to beware slowly starving Republican wolves that are dressed in sheep’s clothing. GOP Woos Latino Voters While Punishing Immigrants.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. As GOP Texas House passes it’s budget, taxes take center stage, The Texas Way – The More You Make The Less You Pay, The Less You Make The More You Pay.

SocraticGadfly thinks that creating a national Appomattox Day could be part of dealing with all the political problems that unreconstructed Southerners have caused for America.

To quote Emperor Palpatine: “It is inevitable.” To quote the Borg: “Resistance is futile.” And to quote Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” PDiddie at Brains and Eggs dissects the ‘inexorable’ meme that surrounds Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

Nonsequiteuse says it is time to wear orange and head to Austin (or the internet) to rally against HB 723 as the Texas House of Representatives Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence committee considers little word with constitutional consequences for minors who need access to safe, legal abortion services.

Neil at All People Have Value said that the Houston/Galveston National Weather Service offers useful instruction about life. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Juanita coins a new word for our culture war-infused times.

Dwight Silverman answers your burning questions about cable cord-cutting.

The Lunch Tray explores the ethics of sneaking vegetables into school food.

Better Texas Blog calls for raising the minimum wage.

Texas Clean Air Matters points out that promoting the use of clean energy is a great strategy for conserving water.

The Texas Election Law Blog decries “indignities and tyrannies” in local elections.

04.06.15

The Texas Way – The More You Make The Less You Pay, The Less You Make The More You Pay

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Inequality, Taxes, The Budget at 11:26 am by wcnews

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Last week the Texas House passed their version of a budget. There’s been quite a bit of ink and bytes spilled on, as Kuff calls it, “..a moment that would be worthy of the Daily Show and the kind of viral mockery”.

But the true derision should be saved for the kind of immoral legislating that the Texas GOP craves. Via the CPPP, Texas House Budget: The Day After.

Lost in the shuffle are the dozens of missed opportunities that lawmakers had to recommend smart investments that would have moved us closer to a Texas where everyone is healthy, well-educated, and financially secure.

Failing to add General Revenue outright – and not just in Article XI – for everything from Pre-K to child protective services means that it’s the people of Texas who will lose out. And it’s clear from early drafts that the Texas Senate’s draft budget will do even less in most areas to invest in Texas’ future.

I was struck by the repeated assertions by House leaders that – as important as some of the proposed amendments were – there was simply not enough money available to fund them. Well, when you reserve billions for unspecified tax cuts, make a half a billion dollars for border security “off limits,” and leave unspent $2 billion of available revenue beneath the arbitrary spending cap, then it’s easy to claim there’s not enough money. And there’s still another $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund that House leaders are choosing not to invest.

The House budget emerged from the floor debate without accounting for cost increases in health and human services, fully restoring state aid for public education or other things a more responsible budget would do. Tuesday night was a long and sleep-deprived evening for those of us who followed the House budget debate. But it’s the missed opportunities that won’t let us rest easy in the weeks ahead — not as long as there’s still a chance to improve the final outcome.

There is certainly enough money in the budget to take care of the needs of Texans. And, as this report shows, the last thing we need are tax cuts for the wealthy in this state, Who Pays Taxes in Texas?

..households with income less than $34,161 pay almost four times as much in taxes as a percentage of income, than households with income over $147,411. Which means that the Texas households that are least able to afford it pay more in taxes as a percentage of their income, than the Texas households that could easily afford to pay more.

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The more you make the less you pay, the less you make the more you pay, that’s the Texas way.

The budget and likely tax cuts will do nothing to change that slogan.  Texas will continue to shun Medicaid expansion, only making things worse for those who are not wealthy, no matter the cost to the state and local communities.

Do you know how many local jobs would be created in your county if Texas closed the health care Coverage Gap? It’s easy to find out with our new fact sheets for every county in Texas.

With the support of Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, we’ve created customized fact sheets that outline the economic and health benefits for county residents if Texas accepts federal funds to expand health care coverage.

In Harris County, for example, expanded health care coverage would create 60,000 new jobs per year and pump up to $935 million into the county economy. Data come from recent estimates by respected Texas and national experts, including the U.S. Census, economist Dr. Ray Perryman and former Texas Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton.

In Williamson County that would be 1,985 jobs, pump $76 million into the local economy, and cover 12,000 residents.

These numbers need to be pointed out. Not to shame our current elected leaders – that’s not possible – but to inform the public that there is an alternative.

TPA Blog Round Up (April 6, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Uncategorized at 8:37 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes that our state can learn the lesson of the Indiana debacle as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff compared Greg Abbott’s performance in heavily Latino districts to that of Rick Perry in 2010.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos is absolutely stunned to learn Texas elected a crook as its top cop. Not. Texas Attorney General an “admitted law breaker”.

Socratic Gadfly wrote about the DPS’ stupid disciplining of Trooper Billy Spears.

Nonsequiteuse explains to Rep. Stuart Spitzer, the Kaufman Republican who bragged about his sexual history on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives during debate on a budget amendment, that virginity and abstinence aren’t the same thing, and neither will protect a person from all methods of HIV transmission.

A conversation between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and JPMorganChase CEO Jamie Dimon from 2013 provides a clue as to what’s wrong with everything, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value said look at things you see in everyday life because they are interesting & use as few words as you can. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas bloggers.

Grits for Breakfast rounds up news stories about the failure of the latest “border surge”.

Better Texas Blog explains how lower oil prices would affect the state’s finances.

Texas Vox calls for strengthening the Texas state senate bill aimed at combating government corruption.

Joe Cutbirth wants Texas to stand tall for equality.

Elizabeth Rose saw the signs of discrimination in the Deep South as a child, and she sees them today in Indiana.

RG Ratcliffe rounds up a week of Texas political scandal.

03.30.15

Texas Blog Round Up (March 30, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:33 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks even Ted Cruz deserves affordable health insurance as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff hears the death rattle of the anti-gay forces.

Harold Cook explains how the “school choice” scam works.

Horwitz at Texpatriate makes an early pick and endorses Sylvester Turner for mayor of Houston.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos is pleased to know the Houston Chronicle called out Ted Cruz for being all about Ted. The Houston Chronicle Spanks Ted Cruz.

Houston’s LyondellBasell refinery’s management turned off an advance warning system near the front gates of the plant, where striking USW workers walk the picket line. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says that if this is how they demonstrate their concerns for worker safety, it’s no wonder they won’t end a work stoppage despite the national settlement.

Neil at All People Have Value said you should make an effort with the people in your life as part of a complete outlook on life. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Bad things happen when a bunch of government haters try to run the government like a business. This Is What Happens When We Turn Government Over To Corporations.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Nonsequiteuse analyzes Ted Cruz’s font and logo choices.

Paradise in Hell examines the Supreme Court arguments about specialty license plates sporting the Confederate Battle Flag.

Grits for Breakfast hopes the state loses that specialty license plate case, though not for the same reason as the plaintiffs.

Purple City thinks the legislative attempt to kill the private high speed rail line may not amount to much.

Better Texas Blog gamely stumps for Medicaid expansion.

The Texas Election Law Blog explains what recent SCOTUS decisions on voter ID and redistricting have to do with pending litigation over those issues here.

Raise Your Hand Texas testified against the voucher bills in the Senate.

03.26.15

This Is What Happens When We Turn Government Over To Corporations

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans at 1:47 pm by wcnews

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This is a very interesting comment from GOP Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.  It’s related to the disastrous lack of oversight at the HHSC under Kyle Janek.

House Speaker Joe Straus is asking lawmakers to develop a comprehensive solution to the state’s contracting woes, in light of what he called a “troubling” new report on more such problems at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Straus said the latest audit illustrates a “systemic problem across all of state government.” With more agencies relying on the private sector, he said, it appears those agencies “lack the resources or expertise to effectively negotiate and implement these contracts.”

“The policies and procedures for awarding these contracts are too often sidestepped, and oversight is too often incompetent or non-existent,” the Republican said in a statement, his most in-depth comments on the topic to date.

In other words we’ve turned our government services over to the corporations. That’s likely not what Straus meant.

And folks who were involved in doing that – like former GOP state Sen. Kyle Janek – don’t seem to think there needs to be oversight. You know, if we run our state like a business and let the free market take care it!

The reason those agencies don’t have the necessary resources and expertise is because the GOP Lege has been gutting agency budgets for at least a decade. Just ask Sid Miller.  The folks who pay for their campaigns don’t wont oversight, so we’re not getting oversight.

As has been said here many times, this is what happens when we elect people who believe the government is the problem and can’t do anything good for the citizenry.  They will do everything they can to prove it.

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