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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Texans For Lawsuit Reform, the notorious lobbying group that has pumped tens of millions of dollars into Republican state legislative campaigns since its foundation in 1993; has given Larry Gonzales about $260,000 in his campaign to unseat Rep. Diana Maldonado (D-Round Rock). Still, TLR is not Gonzales’ greatest source of funds. That honor goes to Bob “Swiftboat” Perry, the Houston homebuilder who realy likes his Texas Residential Construction Commission, and is willing to invest $285,000 in Gonzales to purchase one more Republican vote against sunsetting this disgrace out of existence.
The two mega-donors combined have provided the majority of the funds that Gonzales has used in his bid for the House seat. Contrast that with the thousands of individual donors contributing relatively small amounts to Maldonado’s campaign and you have a pretty clear picture of the difference between the two candidates. One represents all of us who work for a living and bring home a paycheck, and the other represents businessmen who hate paying damages when their defective products kill people or make them homeless.
The source reporting for this post comes from the Austin American-Statesman. The policy of this blog is to cite this source reporting at the top of the story to make it more likely that the reader will click on the link and read the full story; however, there is a problem with this story that resulted in the decision to bury the link. The reporters, Jason Embry and Corrie MacLaggan, usually dependable and informative, in this story have committed the mainstream media sin of false equivalency.
In a desire to appear balanced, Embry and MacLaggan have listed two of Maldonado’s largest supporters to support the narrative that “House races (are) awash in cash”. The best they can come up with, however are donations of $50,000 from the House Democratic Campaign Committee and $120,000 from Annie’s List. Together, this makes up $170,000 or less than one-fourth of Maldonado’s total campaign contributions this cycle.
Embry and MacLaggan have written the ultimate “Dog bites Man” headline one week before election day. Voters, especially those who watch television, are painfully aware that campaigns are awash in cash. Politics is a game of big money. However, when that flood of cash is made up of millions of raindrops from you and me, it produces a candidate who is likely to represent the interests of a wider segment of society. Larry Gonzales is taking his campaign cash from very few sources, which shows that he lacks a broad base of support, and provides an insight into whose interests he will be championing in the unfortunate event that he is actually elected.
Two endorsements came this week from the Williamson County Sun, excerpts below:
Keep Maldonado in Office.
Moreover, in her one and a half years as a state legislator, she has been both active and effective, passing a key education bill to expand the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Taylor and Hutto and securing serious money for three educational projects that should pay handsome financial dividends throughout the county: $805,000 to establish a Renewable Energy Training Institute in Williamson County, $16 million for the Texas A&M Health Science Center in Round Rock and $350,000 for the Texas State University’s Round Rock campus.
She also secured $10 million for the expansion of FM 1460 (the old Georgetown-Round Rock highway), which was critically needed as Seton Medical Center Williamson, Scott & White Healthcare – Round Rock, Texas State University, and Austin Community College continued to build out along University Boulevard between Interstate 35 and FM 1460.
This was urgent and had been blocked for several years; Maldonado pushed this money through roadblocks. No area of the country is better primed to boost education, medical care and financial clout over the next decade than this one – and though technically within Round Rock, Georgetown will greatly benefit from these developments.
As a member of the House Committee on Defense and Veterans Affairs, Representative Maldonado has educated herself on the needs of Texas veterans and is working to get better regional medical care for former military and their families, especially as veterans are transitioning back into their home communities.
In short, Representative Maldonado is on a roll. She has worked hard, earning plaudits for concrete advances in education, transportation and economic development. It would (be) silly for Williamson County voters to allow the good will, connections and experience she has accumulated to go to waste.
The Sun strongly recommends her reelection so she can continue to become a more effective legislator for the county.
Maurice for Commissioner.
Mr. Maurice has the background: He graduated number one in his class from University of Texas’ honors business program, then graduated from UT’s MBA program and its School of Law. After law school he worked for Pete Winstead’s Austin law firm, which did virtually all the legal work for Michael Dell and Dell Computers, which soon became Mr. Maurice’s main focus. After four years with Winstead, Dell recruited him to its fledgling in-house law firm. While at Dell, Mr. Maurice was the legal guide for the development of the Dell Campus at Round Rock.
After nearly 10 years with Dell, Mr. Maurice retired and moved with his wife, Shawn to Hutto, to raise horses. He volunteered his legal skills to Hutto, which was fighting a large LCRA transmission line and the county landfill. He became active in the community, co-founding the Williamson County Public Policy Coalition and serving on the board of the Hutto Citizens Group and Jonah Water Utility District.
He sees Precinct 4 as having intriguing possibilities – a “nice growth corridor” from the medical and educational complex at the junction of FM 1460 and University Boulevard continuing east on Chandler Road, which he pledges to finish building. But the area’s future is threatened by visions of a landfill towering 140 feet over the prairie below. His solution: keep the height at 70 feet, spread the landfill over a wider span, so that it resembles rolling hills and master plan it so developers aren’t scared off.
This is an issue that strikes at the heart of Precinct 4, which could use a savvy attorney with deep knowledge of development and finance to help drive fresh and healthy development. Jeff Maurice appears to be just the man for the job.
Maldonado had an impressive first term, helping to secure money to expand higher education opportunities for her constituents and earning the respect of high tech heavy hitters like Austin lawyer Pike Powers, who appears in her television spots.
The difference that gives Maldonado the edge in this race is her background as a school board member, a valuable perspective. Another perspective she brings is that of a veteran agency employee. She worked at the state comptroller’s office for 20 years before being forced out when she decided to seek the office.
There’s no doubt that Maldonado has represented her district well and has earned reelection.