Everything bad about the Voter ID law that was known when it passed has now been ratified by the courts. And worst of all, it’s a poll tax.
Less than two weeks before the start of early voting, a federal judge ruled the state’s photo voter ID law unconstitutional late Thursday and ordered state officials to drop the new requirements.
“The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi wrote in a 147-page opinion. “The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.
But unfortunately, especially in Texas, tolls tend to be introduced for the wrong reasons. When elected leaders aren’t willing to fix major transportation funding problems, tolling can appear to create money out of thin air while actually wasting tax dollars and leading to poor decisions about what transportation projects to build and how to manage them.
The chief reason most toll projects get built is because the money used to build them is “off budget,” meaning it doesn’t appear on the state’s budget and revenue doesn’t come from general taxes. Politicians want to build new public works, repair infrastructure and get their picture taken at ribbon cuttings, but they also fear losing their jobs if they propose raising taxes to pay for these things. Texas lawmakers last session passed legislation that, if approved by voters in November, is expected to redirect billions of dollars over the next decade from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for transportation. But it won’t come close to fixing budget shortfalls.
Tolling raises revenue from the public akin to taxes or fees but uses off-budget private concessions or quasi-public agencies to collect the money and borrow against future tolls. The borrowing doesn’t count as public debt, and thus the costs seem to disappear, especially when public-private partnerships act as a middleman. It’s government accounting fiction. In reality, the private costs of financing toll roads are far more expensive than the rock-bottom interest rates the state pays when issuing tax-free public bonds.
Off-budget tolling can thus discourage public officials from confronting transportation funding questions directly, distorting public choices and enabling politicians to take credit for shiny new roads while remaining insulated from any blame.[Emphasis added]
That exactly like what the GOP has been doing in Texas for the last 12 years. Shiny objects, in the form of extremely expensive toll roads to nowhere, and were all still stuck in traffic.
Well the GOP politicians aren’t the only ones to blame. Those of us who keep buying the same BS that they’re selling certainly deserve blame. But it’s bigger then that. As this TTI study, (referenced at the beginning of the above article), makes clear. The public doesn’t want toll roads, but they don’t want to pay for new roads either.
Texans are most supportive of timing traffic signals more effectively and doing a better job of managing accidents as strategies to help resolve regional transportation issues. Timing traffic signals more effectively was clearly identified as the highest-rated strategy. Building more toll roads was, by far, the least-supported strategy. The lack of support held true in both metropolitan areas and rural areas, as well as areas with and without toll roads.
Nearly two-thirds of Texans believe there is a need to increase transportation funding in Texas. The data suggest a majority agreement on this sentiment across all socio-economic groups. Support was strongest among more highly educated Texans and Texans that primarily use modes other than the personal auto.
Respondents were asked to evaluate specific transportation funding mechanisms such as “increasing the state fuel tax by 5 cents per gallon.” The data suggest that the least attractive mechanisms are those that are more likely to require additional spending on the part of Texans, such as those mechanisms that are linked to inflation and funded by system users. The most attractive mechanisms are those associated with fees already being paid, such as the state vehicle sales tax, but are not currently dedicated to transportation funding. [Emphasis added]
Texans hate toll roads, know we need to spend more on transportation, but balk at any real solution to raise the money needed to fix our transportation problem. Which is the main reason we have what we have. A transportation system stuck in the 1990’s – the last time the gas tax was raised.
The politicians, as politicians do, are telling the people what they want to hear. And the people know it’s not possible to have new roads without raising money to pay for it. But the people are actually fooling themselves into believing it and letting the politicians get away with it.
We can’t even raise taxes to pay for the things we need. That’s not conservative, that’s just plain stupid. Meanwhile we’re all still stuck in traffic.
It’s a very real possibility that Texas GOP Attorney General nominee Ken Paxton will be indicted, whether he is elected or not. Via Gromer Jeffers.
In May, the Texas State Securities Board said Paxton violated state law by soliciting clients, for pay, for a company that dispenses investment advice even though he had not registered with the board. He was fined $1,000. It can be a crime, but Paxton describes it as an administrative error.
“We resolved the issue in the spring,” Paxton said in Allen. “They have been saying that [indictment was possible] ever since. I continue to work on my campaign. That’s something we took care of in the spring.”
But Paxton’s Democratic rival, Houston attorney Sam Houston, said the Republican is unfit for office, a mantra that Paxton’s GOP primary opponents also tried to trumpet. He and others say it’s possible that Paxton will face criminal charges.
“He admitted to committing a felony, and he may or may not be indicted,” Houston said. “He wants to be the state’s top law enforcement officer, and he broke the law. He needs to answer to it.”
Paxton said he’s not worried that his securities violation would derail or affect his role as attorney general.
But his critics predict, or hope, that his admission and regulatory fine to the Securities Board will prompt a criminal investigation.
Texans for Public Justice, a Democratic-leaning group that filed the complaint that led to the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on abuse of power charges, has also submitted a complaint against Paxton to the Travis County district attorney.
“It’s likely he did commit a felony,” said Craig McDonald, the group’s director. “Just because he entered into an agreement with regulator for a small fine and a slap on the wrist doesn’t exonerate him for the underlying crimes.”
Paxton said he hired a lawyer to help him settle the issue and hasn’t focused on it since the spring.
“Hypotheticals are tough for me. I’ve dealt with what I could deal with by resolving this in the spring,” he said of rumors about an indictment. “We wanted to make sure we were doing things legally correct, so we had a lawyer to resolve the issue. We have one ready, if anything does happen.”
McDonald conceded that filing a complaint against Paxton was a low priority for his organization. He said he did so because no other candidate or group stepped up.
“The agreement he signed in essence is a confession to breaking securities law,” he said “We were kind of surprised that no district attorney and no opponent, no one else, came forward to try to hold him accountable.”
Republican voters were unfazed by the incident. Paxton easily won a runoff against state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, to take the GOP nomination.
The base of the GOP has no problem with their nominee being an admitted criminal. That’s interesting. Erica Grieder is thoroughly confused with Paxton’s statements about his illegal actions, An Update on the AG Race.
My second point of confusion is why Paxton’s presenting himself as the victim here. I get it, as a political gambit, but this is not, let’s say, an argument one would take to appellate court. The suggestion that Paxton could possibly face indictment over actions that violated the law and that he’s already admitted to isn’t a “narrative” being pushed by political rivals. It’s a factual comment about a possibility, a possiblity that Paxton himself acknowledged to Jeffers: “We have [a lawyer] ready, if anything does happen.” It’s arguably a possiblity that should concern Republicans more than Democrats; the last time I heard someone raise a concern about this, in fact, it was a conservative lawyer, and the concern was that the looming possibility of an indictment would potentially give the federal government leverage against the Texas attorney general. And for that matter Paxton’s actual political rival–the Democratic candidate for attorney general, Sam Houston–did tell Jeffers that Paxton might be indicted, but his main point was about the action itself, the failure to register as an investment advisor: “He wants to be the state’s top law enforcement officer, and he broke the law.”[Emphasis added]
The GOP always loves to play the victim. This sounds like nothing more than a politician spinning bad situation and hoping enough foolish voters will by his lame explanation. It’s no secret that Paxton’s hiding as much as he can during this campaign.. He’s still likely to win and that’s the truly sad part. It’s likely never been more true that the only reason Paxton has a chance is because he has an “R” next to his name.
His opponent, Democrat Sam Houston, will be is running to bring the Texas AG’s office back to doing what Texas need, and not just suing the federal government on behalf of campaign donors. Via Kuff’s interview with Sam Houston.
The stark contrast between Houston and his underqualified opponent has been noticed by the press, whose attentions Paxton has been diligently ducking ever since he secured the Republican nomination. Houston has been racking up the endorsements, and should have a clean sweep when all is said and done. He’ll be a breath of fresh air and a return to the original purpose of the office of Attorney General, which at one time represented the interests of the state of Texas and not just the Republican Party.
Listen to the entire interview here. Houston is obviously the best choice for Texas.
From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The question remains, is something like the Texas Enterprise Fund scandal enough to get voters to change their mind about Greg Abbott and the GOP? If not then what would it take?
This is, of course, in my opinion…FWIW. I still don’t think much has changed from the day this race started. The only way Wendy Davis has a chance is if a bunch of people who don’t usually show up to vote in a mid-term election show up to vote in 2014.
I keep hearing quite a bit about what’s going on at the grassroots level, and it looks and sounds impressive. There’s talk of high interest of progressive “drip-off” voters. There’s been a concerted effort by BGTX and other progressive groups around Texas to register new voters. And that will soon switch to GOTV. All good signs.
Similar to previous Texas Lyceum Polls, Texans remain optimistic about the state their state’s economy compared to the nations’. When asked whether Texas’ economy is better off, worse off, or about the same as the rest of the country, 61 percent of respondents expressed the opinion that Texas’ economy is the better off, compared with only 10 percent who thought Texas was worse off, and the remaining 23 percent who said that it was about the same.
It’s really hard to get a massive change in the electorate at a time when so many feel they are going good economically. Think Clinton in ’92 and Obama in ’08. It’s not impossible just harder. Let’s hope yesterday’s court ruling will re-awaken those who were so inspired by Davis and Leticia Van de Putte in the Summer of 2013, to get to the polls next month.
Burka thinks with Davis’ strong debate performance on Tuesday and with more to come from the Perry/GOP slush fund, aka the Texas Enterprise Fund, that Davis has the momentum.
Republicans have the advantage in numbers, this being Texas, but Democrats seem to be somewhat resurgent, and Davis gave them a shot in the arm with her strong performance in the final debate. Abbott has to be the favorite, but this is not a particularly strong Republican ticket, and the full force of the Texas Enterprise Fund scandal has yet to be felt. It’s going to be closer than people think.
Abbott is a bad candidate and looks every bit like someone who’s been able to win office without ever being seriously tested in a campaign. But he has more money then he can spend and will be all over the TV the next month. Davis is a much better candidate and will likely get many media endorsements – for what they’re worth.
What Davis must do in the next month is show voters why they must choose her over Abbott. Why Abbott is bad for Texas and why she is the best choice for Texas. It’s still an uphill battle for Davis and all the Democrats. The only way she wins is for her and all the Democratic and progressive grassroots to work harder then Abbott, the GOP, and the tea party. And if she wins the only poll she will ever lead in is the one on Election Night.
One thing that was exposed as a result of the Lt. Gov. debate on Monday night was the extreme position of many in the GOP, highlighted by GOP nominee Dan Patrick, who want to make taxes more unfair in Texas. Via Forrest Wilder.
In the same way, he hopes to win in November by promising tax reforms that he’ll be hard-pressed to deliver. He’ll decrease some unspecified number of people’s property taxes by spiking the sales tax—in other words, he’ll move the state from a tax that hurts the middle class to a tax that hurts the poor. We’re weeks away from the election, and Patrick’s already got several sessions of dubious policies he’s promised to get done next session. (Add overhauling public ed to the list.)
Texas families earning less than $100,000 a year would pay about $1.1 billion more a year in state taxes, while higher-income residents would see a tax cut of $437 million under a House bill designed to cut school property taxes, a report said Tuesday.
The Legislative Budget Board’s analysis of House Bill 3 also shows that the legislation would shift a portion of the state tax burden from businesses to individuals.
And that’s the kind of scam Patrick wants to run now. Instead of that gem the GOP wound up passing a tax swap in 2006, that created a structural deficit, but they left the sales tax alone.
During the recent Republican primary for state comptroller, state Sen. Glenn Hegar repeatedly endorsed eliminating local property taxes in Texas.
Borrowing from GOP opponent Debra Medina’s 2010 playbook, Hegar urged a shift to sales taxes to make up the more than $40 billion a year of revenue that cities, counties, school districts and other local governmental entities would lose.
Hegar, R-Katy, even suggested a very rapid transition to the new tax system. At a Longview tea party gathering in January, he told a man in the audience, “You just do it.”
This week, though, the governing implications of so massive a shift seem to have cooled Hegar’s jets.
Burying the property tax, after all, would require leaders to more than double the current rates of all state and local sales taxes.
Getting rid of the property tax, and replacing it with a much higher (at least doubled) sales tax would make an already unfair tax system in Texas, even more unfair. The GOP likes to call them consumption taxes, but these taxes fall much harder on consumers with low incomes then those at with higher incomes.
Think of it this way, and extra $20 when spending $100, if it’s raised to 20%…and extra $25 is it’s 25%. An extra $25 bucks on a grocery bill, it makes a $40 pair of shoes $50. Who does that hurt more the single mom or the wealthy suburban family? No property taxes will help those at the top abundantly more than everyone else. And don’t expect them to share, Half of All Income Goes to the Top 10 Percent.
A plan like Patrick and Hegar’s would also take away local control of tax dollars, as Democratic candidate Leticia Van de Putte so aptly pointed out in the debate. City and county governments would be left to rely on the state sales tax for money to pay police, firefighters, and first responders as well as all city and county employees. And during an economic downturn, where sales tax plummets, the cuts could be disastrous.
The GOP’s plan has always been higher taxes on the poor and middle class, and lower taxes on the wealthy. There is no feasible plan they will come up with that will lower taxes for Texans. All they can hope to do is pass another tax swap scheme. A scheme that will create a worse budget situation that they can then use to cut state spending on education, health care, roads and other infrastructure and speed us on our way to privatization.
The state senators vying to be Texas’ next lieutenant governor tore into one another Monday night during their only scheduled debate, clashing on immigration, education and tax policy while accusing each other of misrepresenting their legislative records.
Republican Dan Patrick, a conservative Houston radio talk show host and tea party darling, is favored in November — meaning San Antonio Democrat Leticia Van de Putte had the most to gain. She came out swinging, saying her opponent supports higher sales taxes but has refused to divulge his own federal income tax returns as other top candidates have.
“He wants to raise your taxes but he won’t release his,” Van de Putte said, accusing Patrick of backing a “tax swap” that would mean higher sales taxes so that he could lower property taxes.
Patrick countered that he’d lower property taxes first, then study increasing the sales tax “by a penny or two” so he could cut homeowners’ tax burden even more.
“My opponent is the one who wants to raise every tax she can find,” Patrick said. He also said he’d released 160-plus pages of financial disclosure information as a state senator, which he said would be more informative than a personal income tax return that ran about eight pages.
Van de Putte, who works as a pharmacist when she is not in the Legislature, grinned and concluded: “There’s two people on this stage and I’m the only one who doesn’t want to raise your taxes.”
Unlike last week’s Davis/Abbott debate I was able to watch most of this one. My perception was they both looked about like expected.
Van de Putte espoused a mainstream business-friendly, socially liberal, modern day Texas Democrat stance on the issues – for education (invest), health care (expand coverage), women’s health (bring it back), and taxes (more progressive).
Patrick on the other hand did not try to hide his extreme right wing agenda on education (more cuts), health care (none), women’s health (end it) and taxes (more regressive).
It was obvious after the debate that there’s a clear choice. Not left or right (there is not left in Texas right now), but moderate or extreme.
Perry and Abbott are Republicans, and the Texas GOP controls every branch of government. And there is no way the GOP is going to start impeachment proceedings against it’s sitting Governor and Attorney General.
The GOP’s main concern is winning the next election. And as far as the Texas GOP is concerned Perry and Abbott are just proving what they’ve been saying for decades: the government can’t be trusted. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The GOP has been denigrating government for so long that not only have they deadened the citizenry when corruption occurs, they’ve become the worst offenders. In this case they are unlikely to be punished for it. Likely making the public even more distrusting and cynical of their government….they all do it! They wouldn’t if there was a price to be paid for it.
[UPDATE]: Via Slater, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has called on GOP opponent Greg Abbott to return $1.4 million in contributions from beneficiaries of the Texas Enterprise Fund and for an independent investigation into Abbott’s role keeping secret records of the troubled agency.
“Greg Abbott used the power of his office to orchestrate a cover up of the transfer of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to companies who never even completed an application for the funds – blocking the release of applications he knew didn’t exist,” Davis said.
“Mr. Abbott did not recover one dime of taxpayer dollars for the Enterprise Fund. Instead, he accepted more than $1.4 million in campaign contributions from the very taxpayer funded grant recipients he was supposed to be watching – and helped hide the fact hundreds of millions of our tax dollars were handed out without any oversight or accountability.”
A decade ago, Attorney General Greg Abbott invoked a cloak of secrecy around the Texas Enterprise Fund. When The Dallas Morning News requested the application of a company seeking taxpayer subsidies, Abbott said no. He ruled that the applications for money from the $500 million job-creation fund might contain confidential corporate information. The company was Vought Aircraft, which wanted a $35 million subsidy to expand in the Dallas area. As it turns out, there was no application, a new audit found.
Had the attorney general responded to the newspaper’s open-records request in 2004 by disclosing that Vought – and other businesses with their hands out – were getting millions in state money without submitting applications or specific promises to create jobs, it might have been an early signal of problems bedeviling the fund. Abbott has received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from companies that got state money.
Abbott is the Republican nominee for governor. The Abbott campaign did not respond directly to the question why Abbott formally blocked release of an application that didn’t exist. His Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, sponsored the bill asking for the audit of the problem-plagued business-subsidy fund.
In 2004, when The News initially sought the Vought application, Perry’s chief of staff, Phil Wilson, said the governor’s office didn’t object to releasing the applications. But he pointed to the Abbott ruling that “we would be in violation of the law if we released the document to you.”
Last week’s audit found that in the case of Vought, which was acquired by Triumph Aerostructures in 2010, auditors couldn’t determine how many jobs actually were created. What they did find is that at least 450 of those jobs should have been disqualified, including eight jobs in Everett, Wash., 144 posts that were empty for more than a year, 110 that weren’t full-time jobs and 174 contractor positions. Under terms of the agreement, the recipient paid back some money, but undercalculated the amount owed the state. [Emphasis added]
What an Attorney General with integrity would have said was that Vaught did not submit an application, so there’s nothing to rule on. But he instead decided protect the scheme, the governor, and his campaign contributors.
It’s pretty obvious that Perry and Abbott knew things were going on with this “fund” that the public wouldn’t like and they made a decision to keep it quiet, and out of the public eye, for as long as they could. They can’t do that any longer.
Though the new routes are far from being finalized,Texas Leftist shares that Houston METRO has now fully committed to the System Reimagining Plan. After this week’s vote by the METRO board, there’s no turning back.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
SciGuy gives us a look at Russia’s astronaut training facility.
Newsdesk reports on Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ abortion disclosure.