09.19.14

Statesman Endorses Democrats Bucy and Osborn over GOP Incumbents

Posted in Election 2014, HD-136, HD-20, HD-52, Williamson County at 8:15 am by wcnews

In two Williamson County  house races the Austin American Statesman has endorsed Democratic challengers Chris Osborn (HD-52) and John Bucy (HD-136) over the GOP incumbents.  One big reason is the incumbents votes against public education, and continuing to neglect the needs of Texas, Change needed in some districts.

As the 28th fastest-growing county in the country, according to the latest census report, Williamson County faces significant challenges: from transportation to affordable energy; from education to job creation; and from financing infrastructure to maintaining a quality of life. Addressing those challenges takes strong leadership, and on Nov. 4, voters will have to determine whether the three incumbent state representatives in Districts 20, 52 and 136 have done enough for the area, or if it’s time for a change. In two of the three races, we believe a change is needed for Williamson County.

Both the GOP incumbents in these races voted for a voucher plan last session that ultimately failed.  Larry Gonzales (HD-52) went along with the extremists in the GOP in 2011 and “supported the massive education budget cuts”. They endorse Osborn stating:

Osborn, an attorney, wants to not only make public education a priority but also wants to help our state and local governments be more efficient and transparent, if he is elected. Though he is the underdog, Osborn understands planning for the future is the best way to address the issues of a fast-growing district. His willingness to work with both sides of the aisle should serve him well if elected.

In HD-136 they mainly take issue with Dale’s vote for a voucher program while leaving out his lying about his opponent. They endorse Bucy this way.

…Bucy has a vision to help fight for quality public education for all Texas children if he is elected. He has a multi-faceted approach for traffic solutions and understands that Williamson County needs to bring in more professional jobs to the area. He is a refreshingly strong candidate in a county that has struggled to mount a significant Democratic presence with viable candidates.

In the other district that includes Williamson County HD-20, (the reddest of the three districts), they endorse the incumbent Republican Marsha Farney over Democratic candidate Steve Wyman.  Farney may be the most sensible Republican of the three.

All three races include a Libertarian candidate.

05.06.14

Few Texas House Races Up For Grabs In 2014

Posted in Around The State, Election 2014, HD-136, HD-20, HD-52, Williamson County at 11:28 am by wcnews

Kuff links to the latest from Ross Ramsey on the few competitive races in the Texas House in 2014, The small number of competitive legislative races in November.

The 36-member congressional ballot is just as imbalanced, with three runoffs (all Republican) next month and only one obviously competitive November race, in the 23rd Congressional District, where freshman Democrat Pete Gallego of Alpine is the incumbent. Democrats are starting to talk hopefully about the chances for Wesley Craig Reed, the challenger to U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi. That district, CD-27, was drawn to favor Republicans, however, and part of Reed’s challenge will be to overcome that advantage in a midterm election year with an unpopular Democratic president in office.

That’s the problem for challengers with these maps: Barring the unexpected — scandal, death, resignations that come too late for candidates to be replaced — most races will be over by the end of next month, if they aren’t over already.

Those are most of the caveats, along with the usual one: It’s early, and things will change. All that said, here is an early list of House races to watch in November, mostly because they are in the handful of swing districts that remain on the map.

  • HD-105: Republican state Rep. Linda Harper-Brown of Irving lost her primary to former Rep. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie in March. He’ll face Libertarian W. Carl Spiller and the winner of a Democratic runoff in a district where both major parties think a win is possible.
  • HD-107: Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, is being challenged by Democrat Carol Donovan.
  • HD-113: Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, is being challenged by Democrat Milton Whitley.
  • HD-43: Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, will face Democrat Kim Gonzalez.
  • HD-23: Democratic Rep. Craig Eiland of Galveston isn’t seeking another term, leaving this open seat to either Republican Wayne Faircloth or Democrat Susan Criss.
  • HD-117: Democratic Rep. Philip Cortez of San Antonio will face Republican Rick Galindo.
  • HD-144: Rep. Mary Ann Perez, D-Houston, is being challenged by Republican Gilbert Peña.
  • HD-41: Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-Mission, will face Elijah Israel Casas in this marginally Democratic district.
  • HD-149: Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, is being challenged by Republican Al Hoang in a district that Vo has managed to defend — narrowly — several times.

Keeping score? That list includes four seats currently held by Republicans that the Democrats would like to take away, and five Democratic seats that the Republicans hope to grab. At the extremes, that would mean the Texas House would convene with 91 to 100 Republicans and 50 to 59 Democrats in January 2015 — about where it is today.

That’s what Ramsey had to say, here’s and excerpt from Kuff.

I’ll stipulate that once the runoffs are settled, so too are the vast majority of legislative races. There’s always the possibility of a surprise, as the story notes, but barring anything unforeseen, all the action this year will be statewide and in the counties. That’s just not what the pattern has been over the past decade, but it’s a testament to the power of the 2011 redistricting. I suspect it’s one part access to more accurate data and more powerful computers, and one part more rapid demographic change in various districts last decade, but right now these maps have the feel of permanence, barring court-mandated changes, until 2021.

That’s a pretty sad reality if this is what our “democracy” has become.  And it most certainly has.  The end of the primary season is pretty much the end of the election.  And thus far very few Texans have taken the opportunity to vote.

It’s sad locally because in Williamson County we have two great candidates for Texas House in Chris Osborn in HD-52 and John Bucy in HD-136.  After 2010 the GOP made HD-52, where Democrat Diana Maldonado won in 2008, more GOP-friendly.  And it was hoped that HD-136 might be a friendly district for Democrats.  They both ran in the 55R – 42D range.  One interesting element is that both races have a Libertarian, that will likely garner 4-6% of the vote.  (There’s a Democrat, Steve Wyman, running in HD-20, but that district is drawn to heavily favor the GOP).

Obama ran better then the state and county average in 2012, in both HD-52 and HD-136, but not by much.  It will be interesting to see how the candidates, the WCDP, BGTX and the Davis campaign can move the needle in these districts.  It would certainly be nice to see the TDP put some money into these two races in Williamson County.

Of course it would be great to win these races in 2014.  The numbers need to start reflecting what many on the left think – that Texas is a non-voting state. The most important thing is to see the gap between Democrats and Republicans shrink in many of these races.  This election will be one part of a years-long struggle to get Democrats back in office in Williamson County.

02.20.14

Schwertner, Gonzales, & Dale Go To The Chamber

Posted in Commentary, HD-136, HD-52, SD 5, Williamson County at 2:33 pm by wcnews

This Statesman article notes the Round Rock members of The Lege reported to the local business lobby, Local lawmakers address healthcare, education, oil and water.  Charles Schwertner reported on health care, Larry Gonzales on education, and Tony Dale on oil, gas and water.

It’s obvious they weren’t talking to the people in their districts because they mostly talked about things that don’t matter in the daily lives of their constituents.  Schwertner is taking credit for balancing the budget, cutting taxes and “beg[inning] to address the long-term infrastructure needs of the state of Texas”.  It’s a very meager beginning, to start the process of digging out from a decade of GOP neglect.  He then talked about the decision not to expand Medicaid, and likely wanting to cut it in the future.

“Medicaid spending is growing at 2.5 times the rate of other aspects of the budget. That is simply unsustainable,” he said. “Eventually you’ll have to make tough decisions as to how to allocate your resources because obviously the needs of education, transportation and criminal justice have to be addressed as well.” [Emphasis added]

Here’s more regarding Schwertner and health care, Justifying Cruelty.

When it came to education Larry Gonzales wanted to make it seem like Texas has been prioritizing education.

“Funding our schools and funding our colleges is one of the most important things we do as a state. It all starts with having our students ready to go to work and ready to make a living and ready to be part of that tax structure,” he said. “As long as education remains the No. 1 part of our budget, I’m very happy about that because I think that’s where our priority should be.”

Gee, that all sounds great but I don’t know what state he’s talking about.  Funding for schools is the most important thing, where education remains No. 1? That damn sure isn’t Texas. The GOP has always had it out for public eduction, and it shows in Texas.  Tax cuts trump everything in importance, every good member of the Texas GOP knows that’s really No. 1 , come on!

He also spoke to the dropout rate.

“The dropout and truancy rates of minority students is absolutely unacceptable, so what can we do to keep these kids in school? What can we do to make sure they’re not dropping out at 15 and 16 and they’re finishing and when they’re finishing at 18 years old that they’re ready to go to work?”

One of the best ways to keep kids in school is to keep their parents involved in their education, and keeping the families out of poverty.  To do that making sure the parents aren’t having to work all the time just to put food on the table must be a priority. Which is happening way too much in Texas, Too Many Working Mothers in Texas Trapped in Low-Wage Jobs.

“With too many working mothers facing barriers to career advancement, Texas has the opportunity to embrace proven tools to increase education and incomes for working mothers,” said Don Baylor, Jr., senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “In addition to investing more resources, we should embrace strategies we know are successful, like child care for working parents, and other two-generation approaches to move these families up the economic ladder, which would not only improve the bottom line for these families, but also boost the economic and job activity throughout our state.”

[...]

While the report will not come to a surprise for many who understand the very real and desperate health care and financial security needs for Texans that our current state government has not sufficiently provided, it does set a clear trajectory of policy initiatives well within the grasp of Texas policy makers to provide real solutions for low-income working mothers in our state.

Tony Dale was all over the drilling boom in Texas.

“The cycle that we’re in now, the boom in oil is not going to stop anytime soon,” he said. “Forty-eight percent of land rigs in the United States are in Texas and we’re at the highest production in 20 years. I like to say that because of our production we’re actually outproducing Saudi Arabia at this point, so Saudi Arabia is the Texas of the Middle East.”

For Texas’ sake we better hope he’s right.  Because if it wasn’t for the boom, who knows what economic shape our state would be in today.  It’s good that the state is piling up money in the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), aka Rainy Day Fund, from the booming oil and gas drilling.  While that money sits there our health, education, and infrastructure needs fester.  And it must be realized that there are serious costs associated with the boom that are not being addressed. From Texas Sharon, The Fracking Big Gulp.

The “marriage” of two old technologies, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, has fueled a new, national drilling boom. But these newlywed technologies, sometimes called unconventional drilling, remain experimental. We lack sufficient science to know how to extract shale oil and gas safely while adequately protecting public health and the environment and minimizing climate impacts. What we do know is that human health, property and well-being and the environment, and the global climate are suffering because of fracking.

Complaints are widespread and have risen in tandem with a veritable gold rush of new natural gas wells – now numbering over 493,000 across 31 states. Fracking is also fueling opposition–even in Texas, a state known for supporting the oil and gas industry–that grows in direct proportion to drilling expansion.

Texans are now having to deal with issues of earthquakes, waste disposal, air pollution, and torn up roads, just to name a few.

There was no discussion of the issues that matter to most people.  Affordable higher education, returning funds to public education, raising the minimum wage, inequality, transportation, and immigration reform just to name a few.

It’s no surprise that these incumbent politicians are trying to toot their horns to their donors and base.  But it’s also quite striking how their concern for the people are completely missing.  That’s due to the fact that so many people who are being left out by these guys decisions don’t show up to vote.  In order to fix the problems of the people, the people must show up and vote.  If that happens our politicians will have much more concern for the people’s problems.

09.17.13

Is Larry Gonzales going to get primaried?

Posted in HD-52, Williamson County at 9:53 am by wcnews

These have been showing up in mail boxes around Texas House District 52.

It would be nice to see a strong Democrat make the decision to run in HD-52. QR had this to say about similar mailers that went out in other House Districts around the state.

This really has to do with how Gonzales has strayed from the tea party, that he was more then happy to use in 2010 to get elected. Democrats wouldn’t give him a passing grade either.  In a wing nut county like Williamson that doesn’t leave many people left to vote for him.  Another thing that could make Gonzales vulnerable is that his sugar daddy from 2010, Swift Boat Bob Perry, passed away earlier in the year.

02.22.12

An update on school funding, Perry says no special session to help schools

Posted in Around The State, Education, HD-52, Hutto, Public Schools, The Budget at 1:05 pm by wcnews

Democratic state representatives say if the economy is improving then let’s re-fund public education, Dems, GOP debate school funds.

Texas has added 440,000 payroll jobs since December 2009, which John Heleman, chief revenue estimator for Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, identified as the recession’s low point during a House Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday.

Sales tax revenue for the first five months of the state’s fiscal year is up 11 percent over the same period last year, he said.

“It looks like the Texas consumer is back. They are buying,” Heleman said of the growth in revenue from the sales tax, the state’s single largest revenue source outside of the federal government.

Oil production tax revenue has increased 47 percent over the same period last year, Heleman said. The state ended the fiscal year last fall with a $1.6 billion surplus, and he estimated the state’s rainy day fund to contain $7.3 billion by the end of the current budget cycle.

The Legislature cut public school funding by $2 billion over what existing law would have provided this year, and another $2 billion will be cut next year.

With the economic recovery accelerating, Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, wondered why lawmakers can’t restore funding to public schools.

“Right now, we have a lot of schools that are hurting,” the committee vice chairman said. “We need to consider how we are going to address the needs of our schoolchildren.”

After the hearing, committee member Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, said it’s become apparent that last year’s public school education cuts will become permanent.

In addition to a $4 billion cut in basic school funding, Villarreal said another $2 billion deferral payment to the next fiscal year means public education will start the next legislative session in a $6 billion hole.

Public education funding will play a big role in the elections later this year, he said.

“The only way to change the priorities in the Capitol is to change out members of the Legislature,” Villarreal said.

Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said there’s no appetite among his GOP House colleagues for a special legislative session to avoid more public education funding cuts. Perry could call one after the next regular session to deal with school finance litigation now in the courts, Pitts said.

“Until we get some direction from the courts, we’re flying blind,” he said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he won’t call a special session to help public schools in Texas, No special session on education, Perry says.

But in the interview a few hours later, Perry declared: “No special session. We’re not going to have a special session.”

“I appreciate all of the legislators’ input, but I would be stunned if there is an outcry from the people of this state or, for that matter, a majority of the members of the Legislature that want to come back in here and have a special session when I don’t think we need one,” Perry said.

And the Texas Democratic Party is holding Larry Gonzales Responsible for School Closure, Teacher Lay-Offs in His District. Read full press release below in extended entry.

Read the rest of this entry �

10.26.11

Texas GOP’s attack on Hispanic voters

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Election 2012, Elections, HD-52, Had Enough Yet?, Redistricting at 12:14 pm by wcnews

TPM Muckraker has this report on the latest Department of Justice (DOJ) filing on the Texas Congressional and state House redistricting maps, Feds: Rick Perry-Signed Texas Redistricting Plan Reduces Voting Power Of 479,704 Hispanics.

There is “ample circumstantial evidence” that the congressional and state representative redistricting maps signed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry had not only the effect but the intent of limiting the voting power of Hispanic voters, Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing late Tuesday.

DOJ is seeking the block the maps, filing to deny Texas’ request for summary judgement in a case involving allegations that officials in the state tried to limit the voter power of Hispanic voters in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Federal lawyers contended in the newest filing that there is “ample circumstantial evidence of a discriminatory purpose with regard to both the State House and Congressional plans” and that in the new maps nearly half a million fewer Hispanics would live in districts where they would have the ability to elect a candidate of their choosing.

They also say the only way to get the truth is in court.

Justice Department officials said the only way this could be settled is for the facts to come out in court.

“Deviations from procedural and substantive standards, as well as racially-charged contemporaneous statements, also provide significant evidence of a discriminatory purpose,” DOJ lawyers argue. “The State has presented little evidence concerning the intent of the proposed plan, but the legislative staff who crafted the map and legislators closely involved in the process have provided conflicting testimony. Assessing the credibility of these witnesses and resolving other disputed factual issues cannot be performed until trial.”

For more on the Texas GOP’s attacks on Hispanic voters, check out these two recent releases from the Texas Democratic Party.

Hispanic Republicans: Latinos Not Welcome in Our Districts.

As George P. Bush visits EL Paso today with other legislators as part of their Hispanic outreach tour, likely missing from their stump speech are the facts that Hispanic Republicans have purged tens of thousands of Latinos from their legislative districts and voted to disenfranchise tens of thousands more. The Department of Justice pointed to four of the districts represented by members of the Hispanic Republican Conference (Torres/HD 33, Aliseda/HD 35, Pena/HD 41, and Garza/HD 117) as violating the Voting Rights Act when refusing to pre-clear the state house maps.

“Hispanic Republicans have made it clear that their outreach plan is to take Latinos out of their districts and make it harder for them to vote,” said Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso). “The Republican voter suppression legislation could disenfranchise close to 30,000 voters currently registered in El Paso County. It’s more appropriate to call their outreach tour a disenfranchisement tour.”

Together, the six members of the Hispanic Republican Conference kicked out 180,536 Latinos from their districts. Further, all six members voted for the voter suppression legislation which could disenfranchise 73,375 registered Latinos in the counties they represent. In El Paso County, 29,908 individuals – including 19,108 Hispanics – lack a state issued driver’s license or identification card.

Click the link above included in the list are over 11,000 removed from HD-52 here in Williamson County, represented by Larry Gonzales.

Also, TDP to Rep. Larry Gonzales: Prove Your Claim on Voter ID.

Today, the Texas Democratic Party sent an open records request to Rep. Larry Gonzales (click here). In an interview with Austin’s YNN News regarding SB 14, the voter ID bill, Gonzales unequivocally stated that no one will be disenfranchised once all forms of ID allowable under SB 14 are factored in. The TDP is requesting the data Gonzales possesses to demonstrate his claim, pursuant to the state open records law, Tex. Gov’t Code Ann. Secs. 552.001 to 552.353.

In the YNN “Capital Tonight” interview airing October 14th, in regard to the over 600,000 voters the Texas Secretary of State reports lack the state-issued driver’s license or identification card, Gonzales stated:

“What the Democrats aren’t taking into consideration is, the numbers they saw do not include all 7 forms of identification. It only includes a few of them. We feel confident that once all the forms are included, no one will be disenfranchised and people will have access to the polls, and remember, it’s all about voter integrity in the first place.”

“Rep. Gonzales made a bold claim in defense of a bill that will disenfranchise his own constituents,” said TDP Spokeswoman Kirsten Gray. “His explanation just doesn’t pass the smell test and he’s obviously desperate to defend his purely partisan support for this discriminatory bill.”

The Republican voter ID law that Gonzales is defending is currently being reviewed for preclearance under the Voting Rights Act by the Department of Justice.

We know that nearly 604,000 Texans who are currently registered to vote have neither a Texas Driver’s License or Personal Identification Card (form of ID), according to documentation provided to the Department of Justice by the Texas Secretary of State.

It’s pretty clear that the Texas GOP sees diluting, if not outright decreasing, the Hispanic vote in Texas as their key to victory in the future.

09.22.11

The changing election landscape in Williamson County, creating opportunities

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Election 2012, HD-20, HD-52, SBOE District 10, SD 5, Williamson County at 11:19 am by wcnews

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.

What we need in Williamson County and across the state are candidates that will stand up for most Texans whose taxes have been going up year after year, as those who benefit from our hard work have been getting off without contributing their fair share.  While our governor is prancing around the country, the  poverty rate and the number of working uninsured continues to rise.  It’s not likely that continuing to elect tea party ideologues will change anything for the better for most Texans.

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.

Further Reading:
Meant to link this yesterday. A good list of the changes in legislative seats across the state, Update on Texas Legislative Races.

09.03.11

The results of the GOP’s austerity plan are becoming a reality at the local level – higher taxes or withering public education

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, HD-52, Hutto, Public Schools, SD 5, Taxes, The Budget, Williamson County at 12:49 pm by wcnews

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.

06.09.11

Rural vs. Urban, Rich vs. Poor – lines drawn as House is set to debate school finance

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, Education, HD-20, HD-52, Had Enough Yet?, Public Schools, SD 5, Special Session, Teachers at 10:21 am by wcnews

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.

We used to have a teacher-friendly representative in Williamson County, but tea party hysteria took care of that. And now we are represented by folks (Gonzales, Schwertner & Ogden) who voted to cut over $100 million from ISD’s in Williamson County.

There is an alternative plan for how to enact a responsible budget in Texas.  Here’s the crux of a plan put forward by three Democratic state Senators, Ellis, Davis, Lucio File Legislation to Enact Responsible Budget Roadmap.

The Roadmap to a More Responsible Budget:

  • 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.

Not sure who represents you in the Texas House? You can find out quickly at this state Web site:  www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us.

You can do more! Send an e-mail letter to your state rep from the Texas AFT Web site.Click here to find the already-prepared letter and send it. The whole process takes less than a minute. That’s a minute worth spending to save Texas schools, don’t you think?

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.

03.31.11

Thoughts as the budget debate moves to the next phase

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, HD-20, HD-52, Taxes, The Budget, The Lege, jobs at 10:51 am by wcnews

The Show goes on.  Today the Texas House is set to begin the 82nd Legislatures first serious debate, out in the open, debate of the budget for th 2012-2013 biennium.  It’s likely to last into, if not through, the weekend.  Kuff asks a question that was the impetus for the post below this one, What was this past election about? The last election was for many people, who did and did not vote, about jobs. But, unfortunately, for most that did vote it was about something else.

I don’t know how the campaigns actually went in most House districts. There wasn’t a competitive race in mine, so the vast majority of what I saw that an average voter would have seen came from the Governor’s race, where the Republican message was basically “Texas rulz, Obama droolz”. Rick Perry certainly didn’t campaign on the need to slash the budget in Texas. Sure, he talked at length about out of control spending, but that was always clearly in the context of talking about Washington and Obama and the Democratic Congress. I realize I’m Monday morning quarterbacking to an extent here, but does anyone disagree with the claim that Rick Perry has basically been running a nonstop anti-Washington campaign for about two years now? Does anyone disagree that the 2010 election was all about the anti-Obama vote coming out in force, abetted by a weak economy and a heaping measure of anti-immigrant sentiment?

Looking over the two candidate issue pages for the two current state representatives in Williamson County, (Larry Gonzales and Charles Schwertner), there were some similarities and differences.  The biggest similarity was that neither one of them spoke of gutting funding for public education, nursing homes, health care, and mental health – the least among us. Gonzalez being in a more competitive race, where dispirited Obama voters stayed home, did little to rile them up and largely left Obama out of it. Mostly he just blew the GOP’s “liberal” dog whistle as often as possible which was paid for by Bob Perry. Why he even had this to say about education back then, going so far as to quote the father of the Democratic Party.

Larry knows that education is not only the ticket to a successful future but — as Jefferson believed — the only true way to preserve our democracy. A great public education is a critical first step to a successful career in our modern economy. More and more, a college degree is also required. That’s why Larry is dedicated to providing a world-class education to our K-12 children, but also to finding ways to expand the opportunity for a college education to as many Texans as possible.

Schwertner, on the other hand, not having an opponent was able to go full wing-nut.   His campaign was all about Obama, cutting taxes, and protecting tax loopholes for businesses. Neither on of them campaigned on the morally bankrupt policies that Schwertner voted to pass out of the Appropriations Committee.  Nor did they campaign on the budget that’s likely pass through the House that will cause massive job loss in Texas.  The last election was about national discontent, trickling-down to the local level.  But Texas’ budget this session, unlike 2009, will have to be balanced without the help of the federal government.

Much of what you will see over the next several days will be more of what EOW calls The Show.  It is at the heart an attempt to bring political cover to the GOP leadership in the Lege for what they will eventually have to be done.

Once The Show is over, the RDF will be used.  Fees and taxes, will be raised.   Cuts will have been made too.  But before this can be agreed upon, we must sit through The Show.

[...]

Political cover is what The Show is all about.  What Ogden said in that recent talk show appearance likely still holds for the coming budget.  All Perry and the wing nuts need is several months of Op-Eds, blog posts, TV and newspaper stories, etc… to highlight how bad things will be if a “cuts only” budget is passed.  Then, and only then, will Perry and the wing nuts begrudgingly accept “reality” and do what they knew they were going to to months before.

It’s unlikely the budget will be resolved in the regular session. What is likely to happen is that the shortfall number will be reduced even further, it currently stands at $23 billion, down from $27 billion. Money will be added from new taxes and fees, ending unfair tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, and likely an increased revenue estimate from the Comptroller by the Summer.

This is just the next step in a process that will last for a few more months.

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