I would encourage all of those who live in House District 20 and Senate District 5 to watch the video of GOP state legislators Marsha Farney and Charles Schwertner talking with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith. Farney, for a Republican from Williamson County sounds almost liberal when talking about public education, and the sense she speaks when discussing the voucher question, that Schwertner dodges. But Schwertner is way out there. It really showed when he started talking about Medicaid expansion. He refers our Federal Government as being broke, which is completely false, regularly refers (falsely) to it as insolvent, which is decades old BS. He regurgitated tired GOP talking points like “golden hand cuffs”, spoke about vague “solutions”, and spouted debunked statements about the “expansion group being a group of able-bodied, single, chilldless adults”. As if poor people who are able-bodied, single, and without children doen’t deserve health care. His indifference highlights the change that has occurred in our country over the last 40 or so years.
Over at the recently relaunched WilcoDemocrats.org you can read daily updates from the Senate District 5 Delegation, which includes Williamson County, at the Demcratic National Convention. Here’s a great post from on of the delegates, Experience at Convention 2012 by Luci Ramirez.
Being here as a delegate from SD5 as a Latina small business owner from Round Rock, is an experience of a lifetime. My son Adrian Arredondo who is living in Meddpellin, Colombia e-mailed me this morning and said I will be watching you from CNN South America.
As I responded back to him and said I am crying as I write you. Thinking of that little girl that could not speak English and was starting school at 9 years old. Today i am a delegate to the DNC 2012. Only in America. These last two days talking to delegates from all over the country and seeing our diversity makes me so proud to be a Democrat. Here at the DNC we do not have to act that we are anything but true Americans from all walks of life. I am going to end today because I know tomorrow will be an unforgettable day.
With state Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) announcing his retirement earlier in the week it has had a domino effect throughout Williamson County. Freshman tea party state in HD-20 Rep. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) is throwing his hat, and a lot of money, into the race. The other Williamson County freshman tea party state in HD-52 Rep. Larry Gonzalez (R-Round Rock) is going to stay put.
With Schwertner stepping down that leaves 2 open state House seats in Williamson County in 2010, (with the new HD 149 being an open seat as well). First-term State Board of Education (SBOE) District 10 member Marsha Farney will be running to replace Schwertner in HD-20, along with Jeff Fleece (who ran against Mark Strama in 2006). With Farney moving on that leaves SBOE District 10 as an open seat, it includes Williamson, part of Travis and several other counties.
Ogden’s retirement, and the resultant dominoes, creates several opportunities for getting some fresh faces elected in and around Williamson County. This past session saw the GOP dominated Texas legislature again put the burden of the budget shortfall on the backs of poor, working, and middle class Texans, while the GOP and their rich donors got off scot-free. Little will change in Texas and Williamson County if these races are allowed to be treated as if they were regal successions.
While Ogden was no moderate in the Senate, replacing him with Schwertner, would be like being represented by the likes of Michelle Bachmann, or worse, in the state Senate. He recently told the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce hat if it was up to him he would eliminate ALL social programs. He likely sees public education as a social program as well.
We need candidates to run that will put those of us who been left out of the debate for to long – poor, working and middle class Texans – first again. Candidates that will truly make education financing fair and the number one priority in Texas, because education is the best economic development ever created. Candidates that will vow to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – programs that keep the elderly and most vulnerable among us out of poverty – at all costs. We must have candidates that will show a contrast to the current crop of wealthy elected officials in Williamson County. This would be a good platform to run on, Rebuild the American Dream.
Bryan State Sen. Steve Ogden announced on Tuesday that he will not seek re-election in 2012.
The Republican said in an interview on WTAW radio that he plans instead to focus on his family and running his energy-exploration business.
Ogden has held the District 5 seat since 1997 and amassed great power in the Texas Senate as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He represents 13 counties from north of Austin to Huntsville.
He has been considered a possible candidate for lieutenant governor if incumbent David Dewhurst wins his race for the U.S. Senate. Dewhurst’s replacement would be selected by the Senate, but Ogden said he didn’t feel right running for senator with the intention of stepping immediately into a new seat.
Still, his move is not a complete surprise. The 61-year-old announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2010, before changing his mind and filing at the last minute. He ended up easily winning his seat back but never committed to running again in 2012.
“This time I really mean it,” he said in announcing his intentions.[Emphasis added]
Ogden is the second legislator from Bryan to announce his retirement this year. Republican Rep. Fred Brown resigned at the end of this year’s legislative session. His replacement will be picked in a special election in November.
If Ogden opts not to run, state Reps. Larry Gonzales of Round Rock and Charles Schwertner of Georgetown are possible contenders for that job. For now, Schwertner is committed to re-election, a campaign official said. Gonzales could not be reached Monday.
Of the remaining Central Texas legislative delegation, most lawmakers have said they will seek re-election.
Because of the GOP state legislatures decision to short public education funding by $4 billion this year it’s forcing tough local school districts to make tough choices. The choice is between higher taxes or a withering public education system. From The Hutto News, [Hutto] ISD calls for tax election.
Voters will decide in November if the Hutto Independent School District can raise its tax cap by 6 cents to offset a 15 percent decrease in state funding over the next two years. [Emphasis added]
This is the direct of result of all the legislative and executive officials (Perry, Dewhurst, Ogden, Gonzalez) that were overwhelmingly elected in 2010. Of course the structural shortfall in our state budget was caused by the GOP tax swap scheme on 2006.
If anyone is mad about their choices, either higher taxes or withering public education, they need to look no further the elected officials whose decision in office are forcing those choices on them. If they would have used the Rainy Day Fund for it’s intended purpose – making up for a budget shortfall in a down economy – none of this would be happening.
As the members of the Texas GOP in the House begin debating their new scheme to gut public education in Texas it’s important we understand why this must be done. Here’s the GOP’s line in the sand.
“I would love to give more money to schools, but the bottom line is we can’t spend money we don’t have, and we can’t raise taxes,” said Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford.
That summarizes the GOP’s priorities. They will do anything – gut public education, take away children’s health care (as they did in 2003), vote to end Medicare – to keep from making the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. That line is taken from this article in the Star-Telegram, Teacher groups say Texas GOP will pay price in 2012 for budget cuts.
Education is shaping up to be a dominant issue in the 2012 legislative elections as teachers and their allies begin seeking political retaliation for deep reductions in school financing and other measures perceived as unfriendly to educators.
“Cuts in education are going to be one of the biggest issues to be considered in the next election cycle,” said Lonnie Hollingsworth, director of governmental relations for the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.
His group will examine voting records and plan strategy to “get some teacher-friendly folks” elected, he said.
Ends huge giveaways to business, like the early filer tax break. Texas gave retailers a tax break of over $200M last year simply to file their sales tax on time. We gave them another $200M to file them early, and we gave another $65 million to businesses who pay their fuel taxes on time. There shouldn’t be such a huge reward for doing what you are supposed to do.
Eliminates the so-called “high cost” natural gas tax loophole. Texas gave away over $7.4 Billion in tax giveaways from 2004-09 to Natural gas producers who already profit in the billions, because their lobbyists have been able to maintain an antiquated definition of “high cost” gas in the code. From new drills established in 2009 alone, we will lose another $7.9B over the next 10 years.
This ‘tax incentive’ was created in 1989 to help companies with the costs of drilling high cost wells, which made sense then, but now virtually every new well produced is a so-called ‘high cost’ well. Mom and Pop producers are not getting this tax break, major oil companies are. One huge oil company saved $113.8 million in FY 2010, while reporting net profits of $4.6 billion. A subsidiary of another of the world’s largest oil companies saved $113.2 million.
Uses the Rainy Day Fund to spare cuts our kids, our seniors and our schools. Ellis’ SJR 2 allows for a majority vote to tap the Rainy Day Fund for education. The Rainy Day Fund was created for budget challenges exactly like we face today. And, because of rising oil and gas prices, the Rainy Day Fund balance is at least $6.3 billion; and growing. Even if the Texas economy does slow in future years, soaring oil and gas prices virtually guarantee the Rainy Day Fund will continue to grow. For instance, even as the Texas economy slumped, the Rainy Day Fund grew by 40 percent, from $6.7 billion in FY 2008 to $9.4 billion in FY 2012.
Addresses the structural deficit resulting from how the legislature paid for property tax cuts during the 2006 school finance debate. The business, or “margins tax,” simply did not raise enough revenue to offset property tax cuts and, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public accounts, will lead to a $10 billion shortfall every two years if we do not fix the tax. More businesses — not fewer — need to pay their fair share for Texas schools.
In 2006, then-Comptroller of Public Accounts Carole Keeton Strayhorn warned the legislature that the swap was completely out of balance. She called it “the largest hot check in Texas history:
“As the state’s chief fiscal officer, it is my responsibility to spell out exactly what the Perry Tax Plan means to our state’s fiscal integrity. As you have known since it was made public, your plan simply does not pay for itself. As of this moment, this legislation is a staggering $23 billion short of the funds needed to pay for the promised property tax cuts over the next five years.”
“It is far more important for us to get the budget done right than just get it done right now, said Ellis. “We’re ready to get to work and to work with the governor and those in charge.”
While the GOP’s scheme for school finance is horrible and all will get cut it hurts rural and poor school districts much harder then it does urban and rich school districts. Bill Grusendorf Executive Director of the Texas Association of Rural Schools had this to say about SB 1, the bill to be debated today (Via QR).
SB 1 in its current form would make uniform cuts to school districts regardless of whether that district is funded by the state at a very high or very low level. It could underfund schools in years when the state’s estimates of enrollment growth or property values are inaccurate – something school districts have no control over. And it will establish a Regular Program Adjustment Factor that would, for the first time, set school funding levels in the appropriations bill conference committee rather than going through the more transparent and publicly accessible legislative process.
SB 1 in its current form is a threat to rural Texas, and that endangers us all.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the GOP is again using class warfare, that’s what they do. Let’s hope that dome of the rural Republicans wake up before it’s too late. Via Harvey Kronberg at the Quorum Report on the injustices in the current bill.
To state it more bluntly, schools are at the center of most rural communities and are often the largest employers.. Friday night football is a metaphor for the glue that public schools offer in holding folks together.
Its not all rural communities that get dinged. Nor are all urban and suburban communities exempted from the worst of the pain.
The point of the conversations we hear is that the distribution of the pain is too unevenly distributed—the difference between winners and losers too stark. Absent a compelling amendment, enough votes may be drifting away to put the outcome on the floor in question.
Here’s what the TCTA is saying about SB 1 and several other bills on today’s House calendar.
Although TCTA has focused heavily on the deregulation bills that are scheduled for House consideration Thursday (HBs 18, 19, 20 and 21), SB 1, which is also on Thursday’s House calendar, is crucial legislation. SB 1 contains the school finance reform necessary to accommodate the significant per-student reductions in school funding, but as legislators have viewed the individual impact on the school districts they represent, concern has grown. Some House members are unhappy about the overall loss of funding, and will likely not vote for any school finance bill unless more money is put into the system. Others, particularly in rural areas, believe that the cuts are unequally distributed and have a particularly strong impact on their districts. Passage of SB 1, or similar legislation, during this 30-day special session is a “must”; failure would almost certainly force another special session. Because SB 1 is comprehensive legislation (it addresses many fiscal issues aside from school funding), we expect to see a large number of amendments attempted on the floor, resulting in hours of deliberation on this bill. We will update this page throughout Thursday as developments on SB 1 and the deregulation bills warrant.
Texas AFT has all the information on how to get in touch with your elected officials.
The latest word is that SB 1 is far from a done deal. Call your state rep on Texas AFT’s toll-free line: 1-888-836-8368.
Education is the great equalizer in a democracy. In Texas it is a right. It’s time our elected representatives stood up for the rights of Texans. And if the rich and corporations have to pay more taxes because of that then so be it. Democracy has a price.
Peggy Fikac has a frustrating conversation with State Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden. I say frustrating because I know he knows what the correct answer to this is, and I also know he’s never going to say it out loud:
Q: When you look at the challenges that are facing you, is the problem the recession or is there a systemic problem with the way the budget is structured year after year?
A: Well, how about yes and no? I think last session if you really go through all the numbers, we used about $6 billion of the stimulus money to balance our budget … I think it was a smart thing to do in the context of we didn’t use the rainy day fund to balance our budget, or we didn’t make Draconian cuts to balance our budget. Well, depending on how much federal assistance we have next session, we’ll be faced again with the same decision: Should we make cuts? Should we use the rainy day fund? Or should we use federal funding stimulus money?
Ogden is a budget writer. He knows fully well what the effect was of the 2006 property tax cut – how much revenue was forsaken, how much was supposed to come in to replace it, how far short of projections those other sources fell, and how much general revenue had to be tapped to make up the difference. He also knows that this isn’t going to change by itself. If we can’t say what the problem is, we have no hope of fixing it. And one consequence of that is it means we can’t fix some other problems as well.
Kuff goes on to discuss Ogden’s answer on school finance which is equally as bad, if not worse. But Ogden’s “plan” to solve the impending budget problem, that he thinks may or may not exist, is to do like in 2006 and institute another “revenue neutral” tax swap:
Q: How much more money do you think that could bring in, or should it bring in?
A: I would want it to initially be revenue neutral, but I would argue that over time … as the economy grows, a broader-base, lower-rate tax would raise more money over the long haul than the one we have.
[UPDATE]: One more thing. What also can be seen from one of Ogden’s responses is what has been in the GOP playbook for several decades. That is to run up deficits, or in this case a shortfall, and use it as an excuse to cut spending on things they don’t like.
Q: On the budget, lawmakers face a minimum $11 billion shortfall next session.
A: No, I disagree. … I don’t think you can define it yet because you don’t know — when you say shortfall, you imply some sort of mandatory spending level and some sort of predetermined revenue level, neither of which we have. There’s no shortfall if you don’t spend it. And we don’t know yet what our revenue projections are.
The current budget shortfall projections are indeed that, projections. Those projections are based on what it will cost to fund what is in the current budget in the next budget cycle. But what Ogden is saying is that the shortfall is an opportunity for him and his party to finally do what they’ve been wanting to do for decades. That is to cut, draconian or not, what they see fit from our state’s budget if they are returned to office. In this case it’s the much needed money for public education, the there’s no money lie that the Texas GOP is spreading.
Reading over this Texas Tribune article on the GOP race in SD-5 it’s pretty clear it’s a race between which one would do the least harm. As Kuff points out while current Sen. Steve Ogden is not ideal, Ben Bius would be infinitely worse:
I note that mostly as a reason to link to this Trib story about Ogden’s primary race, in which he faces a challenge from the right from someone who doesn’t really have a firm grasp on what’s in the budget. This pretty much said it all to me:
In an apparent attempt to solidify his more-conservative-than-Ogden bona fides, Bius has made the elimination of “generational welfare” a centerpiece of his campaign. “If we begin requiring drug testing for those trying to get cash payments for welfare and require them to be citizens of the United States and Texas, it’ll go along way toward solving our social problems,” Bius says. “My momma told me, you get what you pay for. If you want drug addicts, give them money. If you want illegal immigrants, give them money.”
Ogden brushes off the idea as cynical stereotyping of the poor — and wholly unnecessary in a conservative state that already has among the nation’s stingiest public doles. “It bothers me, because it’s kind of a code word,” he says. “I’m not sure exactly what he means by it, but Texas is the least-generous state when it comes to welfare. The majority of people on it are children. Another large category is people in nursing homes. Neither of these groups fit into the category of ‘generational welfare.’ … We have not incentivized anti-social behavior, but when you’re dealing with unemployed mothers with children, you have to do something. You can’t just say, ‘It’s not our problem – good luck.’”
Yes, it is a code word, and not a particularly subtle one. It’s weird being put in the position of defending Steve Ogden, who’s far too conservative to be the guy I want writing the budget, but that’s the state of the GOP these days. The alternative to Steve Ogden is someone who lives in a fantasy world. The sad thing is that Ogden’s experience and understanding of reality won’t be an asset for him in his race.
Yes it’s amazing that wanting to give poor people a hand up might cost a 20-year GOP incumbent their seat in the primary, but anything is possible right now with the Texas secessionists GOP these days. As this quote from the article shows the “Tea Party”, aka teabaggers, anger is focused mainly at the Federal government, and Obama in particular, and isn’t well-informed of the fiscal situation facing Texas.
Bill Lyle, president of the Tea Party in Leon County, says he’s heard no particular buzz about the District 5 race and no outrage directed specifically at Ogden. “Honestly, we’re probably a whole lot less aware of the state situation than the we are of the federal, but I have heard we’re facing a $12 or $15 billion shortfall in the state,” Lyle says. “We want to get back to conservative roots and the Constitution. Whichever candidate is the most conservative, they’re going to get the vote. It’s going to boil down to who’s the most fiscally responsible and who will do the most to control the borders.” [Emphasis added].
And that depends on what the definition of being “fiscally responsible” means to a conservative, at this point that’s anyone’s guess. Given Mr. Lyle’s response he doesn’t appear to have an idea of how either one of these two would work to fill that $12 – $15 billion hole in the state budget, much less whether they’d do it in what he considers a “fiscally responsible” way.
Bius said he got into the race last summer after Ogden announced he would not seek reelection.
“Senator Ogden asked me to run for his seat,” Bius said. “I told him it was probably the worst possible time. My wife had left me after 27 years and my son had been murdered in Houston.”
Bius said he began traveling District 5 and talking to the citizens to get a better idea on whether or not he wanted to run.
“I formed a committee and found out I would probably beat [Dan] Gattis,” Bius said. Gattis is a state representative serving Williamson and Milam counties who entered the race after Ogden announced he would not run.
Then Ogden entered the picture again, announcing he would seek reelection to his seat. Gattis immediately dropped out of the race and announced he wouldn’t seek reelection to his state representative seat.
This left Bius with a decision on whether or not to run against the man who talked him into running in the first place.
“I was very unhappy and a little angry,” Bius said. “Although we didn’t agree on a lot of things, [Ogden] was a man of his word and he had never before broken his word.”
Not only is he calling Ogden out for not being a man of his word, but he’s clearly saying that Ogden got back in this race because Gattis was going to lose. In the article Bius does a lot of rambling about “conservative values”, which mainly means for him he’s pro-business/corporations and against using the government to help people.