09.01.15

How GOP Texas Governor Greg Abbott Governs

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Health Care, Taxes at 1:29 pm by wcnews

abbottperry

There have been two interesting article recently that shed some light on how GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott governs.  The first is from Scott Braddock, Texas is officially sending mixed signals to business. There are many funny parts to this article. Chief among them how thin-skinned the business community is to the bloviating of Ted Cruz and Konni Burton.

General Electric delivered a blow to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s economic development efforts on Friday as Bloomberg let us know that GE “dropped the Dallas area as a site for a possible headquarters move because of concern that Texas’s political climate is unfavorable to the company’s business.” The company is apparently considering other places like Atlanta, for example.

Whether or not Texas has become unfavorable to business, likely depends on the business. I doubt anyone  newcomers are unlikely to stop the flow of corporate welfare in Texas. As evidenced by this from later in the article.

Back in June, Gov. Abbott sent a letter to General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, informing him about recently-passed tax cuts as well as the state’s economic incentives programs for businesses.

“How many of my colleagues (other governors) just passed a total tax package of $3.8 billion like we did last week in Texas?” Abbott asked Immelt. “The Lone Star State already offers one of the lowest overall tax burdens in the nation, with no corporate income tax, no individual tax and no property tax at the state level – not to mention one of the most competitive deal-closing incentives programs,” Abbbott said.

Like his predecessor, Gov. Abbott is making the pitch to businesses that government should work with them to achieve the goals of job creation and investment in the communities where they are located.

That makes it seem like there’s nothing Abbott wouldn’t do to satisfy the needs of a business. It’s too bad he won’t go to such lengths for the needs of the people of Texas.  Texans who need health care, a better education system, roads, and a living wage.  All of which Texas is struggling with right now and make for an unfavorable business climate.  Much more then the carping of Cruz and Burton.

Did someone say health care? Oh yeah, about that.  The second article has to do with Abbott’s scheming on health care.  Via the Texas Tribune, Abbott Courting Feds for Health Care Money, Emails Show.

Shortly before 1 a.m. on July 15, Gov. Greg Abbott sent an email from his personal account to his top advisers about an editorial published by the Houston Chronicle.

Its author, Ken Janda, had written that Texas’ health care safety net system for the poor and uninsured was “in serious danger of meltdown” because state leaders were refusing to expand health coverage to a million uninsured Texans living in poverty.

The governor told aides he wanted to “see the financials” of Janda’s nonprofit Community Health Choice, a health insurer affiliated with the Harris Health System, one of Texas’ largest public hospitals.

“I’m told by informed sources that most of these entities are rolling in dough,” Abbott wrote.

Paradise in Hell sums it up this way:

Abbott, who must be seen doing everything he can to oppose “Obamacare”, hasn’t been shy about attempting to hang onto another source of critical funding for Texas hospitals. The federal government provides a huge amount of money to Texas hospitals through the uncompensated care pool. For four years, the feds have reimbursed Texas’ safety-net hospitals for care they provide to people who cannot afford to pay because Texas refuses to embrace Medicaid expansion. Now that the feds are threatening to cut off this funding, Abbott is up in arms and has his administration attacking those who are arguing for Medicaid expansion.

What this shows is that Abbott is not concerned with the issues that the people of Texas are in need of the most. And that corporations and ideology are at the top of his list.  If anyone was still holding out hope that Abbott would not govern like Perry, it’s time to forget about that.

08.27.15

Texas GOP Will Cut Therapy Rates For Medicaid Program

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Had Enough Yet? at 1:23 pm by wcnews

medicaidexpansion

There was some hope yesterday that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission was rethinking their position on cutting therapy service rates in Medicaid. That’s not the case, via DMN, Texas says it still plans same Medicaid cuts for therapists.

A spokesman for the Health and Human Services Commission has confirmed a lawmaker’s account that the Texas Medicaid program will press ahead with deep cuts to the fees it pays to providers of acute care therapy services.

The only difference in the situation from earlier in the summer is that the commission will re-start its rate-cutting process, so the lower rates won’t kick in Tuesday, as originally planned.

Commission spokesman Bryan Black wouldn’t comment but people with knowledge of the agency’s plans said the lower rates probably would take effect in early October.

In a statement, Black said commission leaders tried to work with home health agencies that sued them in state court in Travis County, seeking to block the rate reductions.

“[The commission] attempted to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs that would have required Legislative Budget Board approval,” he said. “Those attempts were rejected by the plaintiffs.”

It is expected to take about a month to re-issue the same lists of reduced rates, hold a public hearing and then issue an administrative rule.

[…]

A Democratic budget writer says a top official at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission told her Wednesday that the state still would pursue the same deep cuts to Medicaid therapy providers’ payments, despite statements to a judge earlier in the day that seemed to sound a retreat.

Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said the only alternative now to disruptions in disabled children’s care would be for the Legislative Budget Board to intervene and tell the commission it doesn’t have to meet savings goals outlined in a provision of the state budget.

Howard said a commission executive, whom she declined to name, told her Wednesday morning that the agency only was withdrawing a revised rate-cut proposal that it had submitted recently to state District Judge Amy Clark Meachum and plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the reimbursement changes. It will reissue the same rate cuts that have been discussed all summer, she said.

While the commission may hold a public hearing, the event “will not be meaningful,” she said.

“This is not the legislative intent of a good portion of the legislative body,” Howard said of the rate cuts, which would save $50 million of state funds per year in the coming two-year budget cycle. It begins Tuesday. It’s not clear exactly when the rate cuts would take effect.

The budget board, made up of 10 influential lawmakers, has to step in “so we are not depriving disabled children of the services they need and not cutting off small businesses at the knees,” Howard said.

The Legislative Budget Board (LBB) has only 2 Democrats out of 10 members on it. Which means, like everything else in Texas, the GOP broke it and they’re the only ones that can fix it. Probably not a good sign.  Especially when we should be expanding Medicaid, not cutting it.

08.25.15

Paxton’s Problems Pile Up

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Had Enough Yet? at 10:46 am by wcnews

ken-paxton-mug

The hits keep coming for GOP Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. If you’re not aware he’s been indicted and re-indicted on felony securities fraud charges.

On Tuesday afternoon, the prosecutors re-filed two of the three charges Paxton faces — two counts of first-degree felony securities fraud. The third charge — accusing Paxton of acting as an investment adviser or representative without registering – remained untouched.

Paxton is accused of offering to sell two people more than $100,000 worth of stock in Servergy, a McKinney technology company, but not disclosing that the company was compensating him.

Paxton also didn’t make clear that he hadn’t personally invested in the company, the indictments allege. He received 100,000 shares, but that was in the form of compensation, according to the indictment.

Over the weekend the HChron published an article about his shady dealings in another case, Paxton’s role in Hunt family probate case called ill-defined and unorthodox.

Paxton’s role in the case from 2012-2014 was not publicly reported last year during his successful campaign for attorney general. Paxton took office in January as the state’s highest legal official. He was indicted last month on three felony counts for alleged violations of securities law in an unrelated case by a Collin County grand jury.

Paxton did not respond to the Chronicle’s specific questions about his actions in the case. Through a private attorney spokesman, he said via e-mail: “This case was settled by all parties and the settlement was approved by the presiding Judge. The Houston Chronicle’s questions indicate a gross misunderstanding of this case and the settlement. General Paxton was appointed by the Court to strictly be an advocate for the children to the Court.”

Two experts, Robert Schuwerk, a retired law professor and author of the Handbook of Texas Lawyer and Judicial Ethics, and Judge Kathleen Stone, a senior district and former probate judge with 25 years’ experience, said Paxton’s actions in the Hunt probate case raised significant questions about his ethical conduct as the daughters’ court-appointed attorney ad litem – a role in which he was required to protect their interests as if he were their hired lawyer under both Texas case law and ethics rules. Both reviewed documents in the case at the request of the Houston Chronicle.

The settlement Paxton negotiated on the two small girls’ behalf was in their view clearly not in the girls’ best interest and ran counter to his legal and ethical obligations, Schuwerk and Stone said.

“I don’t think a competent lawyer for the child could do that, especially without looking into both the asserted legal basis for proposing to award the girls less than the entirety of the decedent’s estate (and trust) and without examining the underlying Hunt family trusts … in order to assess the strength of any claim they might have to those other assets,” Schuwerk said.

And in an article this week about a poll that shows Most GOP voters think Paxton should resign, a new issue is brought to light. The so-called “Mont Blanc pen story”.

A majority of Texas Republican voters think Attorney General Ken Paxton should resign, a new statewide poll has found.

The poll, being released Monday by the Longview-based Texas Bipartisan Justice Committee, found 78 percent of respondents were aware of the felony fraud indictments Paxton is facing and 62 percent said he should resign because of them. More than 53 percent of those who identified themselves as tea party voters agreed the Republican should resign the job he won in November.

Dr. John Coppedge, treasurer of the committee that commissioned the poll, said that as more becomes known about Paxton’s past — including what he calls “the Mont Blanc pen story” — the drumbeat for Paxton’s resignation will grow louder.

The poll, conducted Aug. 15 by Gravis Marketing of Florida, found 18 percent of GOP voters were aware of the Mont Blanc pen story. The 2013 episode, in which Paxton walked away from a courthouse metal detector with a $1,000 pen that didn’t belong to him, was reported a few weeks after the November election.

“This story is important because everybody can understand it and the moral issues involved,” Coppedge said in an interview. “Vague securities fraud issues don’t resonate with their day-to-day lives. This does.”

It’s unlikely he’ll resign and of course.  Especially when GOP officials say Paxton should not resign.

Gov. Greg Abbott brushed off the idea Monday that indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton should resign, while the state GOP chairman said Texas’ chief law enforcement officer “absolutely” should stay in office while he faces the charges against him.

Innocent until proven guilty, of course. But Paxton’s problems are piling up.

08.21.15

Don’t Be Cruel To Begin With

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans at 10:48 am by wcnews

images

In a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post it appears there may be some good news with regard to the HHSC therapy issue.  Via the HChron, Bipartisan coalition forms against Medicaid cuts.

One longtime Texas senator and six state representatives have joined several Democrats who have called on the Health and Human Services Commission to pump the brakes on slashing Medicaid provider rates. They have sent letters to the agency’s chief, Chris Traylor, asking him to delay or reconsider the cuts.

It’s encouraging that some in the GOP may be coming to their senses on this issue. But no one should go so far as to give them credit for fixing something they broke on purpose. The lesson is don’t be cruel to being with, and then things like this won’t be necessary.

08.20.15

When They Show You Who They Are Believe Them

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Had Enough Yet? at 9:30 am by wcnews

medicaidexpansion

Try to remember back to January 2015 and how the Texas budget situation looked.

But [Comptroller Glenn] Hegar’s estimate is comparatively rosy, actually. The comptroller’s office estimates that the state is going to pull in a little over $110 billion dollars during the next biennium, plus $7.5 billion in “surplus” revenue at the end of the current one. With $5 billion of that $110 billion being split between the state highway fund and the state’s rainy day fund, the men and women of the 84th session will have, Hegar says, about $113 billion for the next budget.

To put that into perspective, the budget for the 2014-15 biennium was about $95 billion. According to the left-leaning think tank Center for Public Policy Priorities, it would take $101 billion this session just to maintain the level of services that were provided for in the old budget—new money needed in part because of the state’s rapid population growth. But that would still leave $12 billion for legislators to play with.

On one hand, it’s not a crisis budget, and it’s not one that will require legislators to make cuts (though they might anyway.) The office of Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick released a brief statement that characterized the comptroller’s estimate as a green light for his agenda, which has included the promise of significant tax cuts: It provided “adequate revenue to secure our border, provide property and business tax relief while focusing on education and infrastructure. I intend to accomplish these goals.” [Emphasis added]

The budget situation looked pretty good, but the GOP had plans already in place.

It’s estimated that just keeping up with population growth will require $6 billion to $7 billion more in state spending on services. Much of that $5 billion is already spoken for. There remains supplemental Medicaid funding needs in the current budget. The state is appealing a court ruling that might require a revamping of state school financing, a key part of the ruling having to do with how underfunded the system is. The price of oil, taxes on which contribute much to the state budget, is on a downward spiral at the moment. And existing programs need more money than any of these extra dollars can address — likely more need than can be covered even if better-than-expected economic growth pumps in more than $5 billion extra into the budget.

In other words, unmet need atop unmet need in Texas.

So, of course, tax relief is said to be a priority for the Legislature next year. Huh?

They did pass tax cuts for business.

The budget leaves $6.4 billion unspent, including $2.9 billion under the state’s constitutional spending cap, which limits the growth of some state funds. Lawmakers also left untouched another $11 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which is fed by oil and gas production taxes.

The budget also includes funding to cover $3.8 billion in property tax relief and franchise tax cuts for Texas businesses.

But vulnerable kids and the elderly were not part of the plan.

Even though there was enough to go around to triple spending on border security, the state Legislature directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to slash Medicaid reimbursement rates for therapists who work with Texas’ most vulnerable children. Legitimate questions are percolating about the reasons for the jump in the number of Medicaid clients now served by therapists. Nevertheless, there exists a very real likelihood that the extreme cuts proposed will be catastrophic for many Texas families.

The $150 million reduction in state funding over the biennium represents nearly a quarter of the overall budget for acute care – or outpatient – therapy, and it will trigger an estimated additional loss of $200 million in federal funding over the biennium. Acute care therapy can help ensure some children who receive the services will not require state aid for the rest of their lives and instead will be able to lead self-sufficient, productive lives.

While the cuts will primarily affect children, they will also affect adults. Of the seniors who need therapy, many have experienced strokes and need to re-learn to walk or speak. [Emphasis added]

Some in the GOP “say” they regret what they did. Hopefully they do and it’s not too late to do something about it.  Maybe they could ask businesses to give back some of their $3.8 billion in tax cuts?

08.06.15

Another GOP Mug Shot – Jana Duty Edition

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 9:02 pm by wcnews

635744767434542607-Jana-Duty

Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty has been found in contempt of court.

A judge has found Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty in contempt of court for violating a judge’s gag order during a hearing Thursday.

Williamson County Judge Rick Kennon filed the contempt motion against Duty in May after she refused to come to a hearing. Duty was sentenced to 10 days in jail and a $500 fine for the charges against her.

The judge wanted to discuss the claims that she violated a gag order on a murder case. Duty fought to have the gag order removed — essentially voiding the case against her — three times, and each attempt failed.

Duty was fingerprinted and released on bond, pending the completion of the appeals process.

Oh well, I guess a mug shot is what it takes to be a member of the GOP these days.

08.03.15

That Ken Paxton Is Attorney General Proves Our Political System Has Failed

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans at 9:05 pm by wcnews

ken-paxton-mug

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been indicted on three felony charges.

His crime was known – he had admitted to it – before he won the general election in 2014. The people of Texas knew it, or should have, and still voted for him.

His crimes were also known before he won the GOP Primary before in March of 2014.  The GOP Primary voters knew it and didn’t care.

The media didn’t seem to see it as a disqualifying factor.

The Democrats were unable to do anything about it.

And we now have an indicted felon, three times over, as our Attorney General in Texas.

Kuff has the details.

 

07.17.15

County GOP Elected Officials Using Courts For Petty Political Battles

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 8:32 am by wcnews

scales_of_injustice

It would appear from this AAS article that Williamson County GOP political squabbles are now being handled in the courts, Hearing scheduled as DA fires back at Williamson County judge.

An administrative judge ordered Monday that a hearing be held over whether District Judge Rick Kennon should be recused from presiding over a contempt of court hearing against Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty.

The order came after Duty filed a motion Friday asking that Kennon — who four years ago announced he would run against her — be removed from presiding over the contempt of court hearing against her because he is not impartial.

Kennon declined Monday to comment about Duty’s motion because the case is pending in his court.

Billy Ray Stubblefield, the presiding judge of the Third Administrative Judicial Region, said Monday that Kennon had declined to “voluntarily recuse himself,” according to a court document. Stubblefield appointed another district judge to hear the motion over whether Kennon should be recused, the document said.

Kennon filed a motion in May to hold Duty in contempt of court for violating a gag order in the Crispin Harmel capital murder case. Her contempt of court hearing has been set for July 23.

The motion that Duty filed Friday said Kennon was not impartial because he announced previously that he was running for election against her and he had also run in another race against a candidate that she actively campaigned for, the motion said. Most recently he has treated her with hostility during court proceedings in the Harmel case, the motion said. [Emphasis added]

It’s long past time for Williamson County to elect some people who are not members of the GOP. The GOP using our courts to fight their petty political battles has to stop.

05.15.15

It’s Time To Stop Believing The Lie Of Trickle Down

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Taxes at 9:17 am by wcnews

santaletter

Yesterday I was talking with a few people about the current legislative session.  The consensus was that nothing of any consequence has been, is being, or will be done this session. My response was that they don’t want to do anything.

The people that run our state’s government are self-proclaimed government haters, believe it’s evil, and wrecks everything it touches. So what they’re doing, or rather not doing, makes perfect sense.

The GOP is likely to compromise on their signature economic proposal of this session, tax cuts.  The compromise will likely be that the biggest share of tax cuts go to business, with a mere pittance going to the rest of us.

Negotiators have proposed ditching the House’s preferred sales tax cut in favor of property tax relief that would cost about $1 billion less than the version passed in the Senate, according to sources in both chambers. It would give homeowners an additional $10,000 in homestead exemptions, enough to save the average homeowner about $125 annually.

Abbott praised the $10,000 homestead exemption as a “way that we can reduce the property tax burden for Texans.”

The deal would take the House’s preferred approach to cutting the business franchise tax — a 25 percent across-the-board cut — rather than the Senate’s approach, which would combine a smaller cut in rates and a provision freeing a large number of businesses from paying any tax at all.

Ten bucks a month for the “average” homeowner. It’s not worth the future misery it will likely cause, (see below).

This sessions attempt to help public education died yesterday.  Supporting public education is too liberal an issue for the Texas Senate.

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, began presenting his proposal Thursday, calling it a near-total tear down of the school finance system.

But he scrapped it after only a few minutes, saying that debate would take too long and derail too many other important bills. Aycock also noted that the Senate “almost certainly” wouldn’t even consider his measure.

“For a bill we already knew wasn’t going anywhere on the other end of the hall, there was no reason to kill all the rest of the bills on the counter to talk about that bill,” said Aycock, who also serves as the House Public Education Chairman, after he pulled the bill.

“Yes. I had suspicions that we were not going to be taking this bill all the way. I know there’s resistant on the Senate side for sure, but certainly, I thought it merited much more discussion than we were able to have with it today,” said Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who supported the bill and Aycock’s efforts. “We spent hours last night talking about abortion and we couldn’t even spend 15 minutes it seemed like talking about how we’re going to be funding our public schools.”

Anyone who’s been paying attention since Reagan knows the reason why the GOP cuts taxes is not to give money back, but to force cuts the next time there’s a budget deficit. Via Will Francis in the FWST, Tax cuts undermine services, economy.

While Texas House and Senate budget conferees finalize the state budget, most legislators have chosen to ignore the state’s many neglected needs, focusing instead on enacting shortsighted tax cuts.

Tax cut packages range from $4.6 billion in the Senate to $4.9 billion in the House.

If approved, these tax cuts mean that, at best, the current low levels of funding for public services and programs will continue for years to come, leaving the most vulnerable Texans to pay the price.

What would happen in a worst-case scenario, if an economic downturn occurs? No one would propose raising taxes during a recession, so tax cuts now could equal budget cuts later as drastic as those in 2011. [Emphasis added]

That last part is the kicker. There’s no way our current state government, in it’s current form, would ever raise taxes in an economic downturn. It would just be more pain for most Texans.

Francis finishes by highlighting the shortsightedness and cruelty of our current state leaders.

Legislators who claim that tax cuts will stimulate the economy are overlooking the fundamentals of economic prosperity.

Tax cuts will leave our classrooms overcrowded, our colleges unaffordable, our parks deprived, our roads in disrepair and other public services neglected, which will neither spur economic growth nor provide our communities with the resources to flourish.

Tax cuts only make it more difficult to meet the needs of our growing population.

If an economic downturn occurs, the tax cuts of today will leave our future legislators with only harmful options, such as cutting funding to public services from which we all benefit.

Why would we leave the many challenges facing Texas for our children to fix, when we can get started on these very real issues now?

There are certainly much higher priorities than tax cuts, and future cruel budget cuts, for the state of Texas.

Supply side/Trickle-down economics never worked and never will for anyone but the wealthy. It’s only caused pain for everyone else. It’s long past time we stopped allowing anyone, especially our elected leaders, to continue peddling these lies.

05.06.15

Coo Coo For Cocoa Puffs

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans at 11:14 am by wcnews

coocoo_for_cocoa_puffs_by_conkertheking-d2zolem

Governor’s don’t have too much power in Texas.  One they do have is spokesperson for the state.  And current Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made clear in that role that he will react, and take seriously, any “tinfoil hat” theory the tea party adherents in Texas may have.

So much for those who still held out hope for him, Abbott’s Letter Elevates Jade Helm 15 Concerns.

Abbott’s letter came the day after Bastrop County residents reportedly packed an information session on Jade Helm 15, quizzing a military spokesman about it while clutching signs with ominous messages such as, “No Gestapo in Bastropo.” Among the concerned citizens who turned out: Kathie Glass, a long-shot candidate for governor last year who campaigned against an “increasingly tyrannical federal government.”

“I don’t buy into some of the more extravagant claims, but I think it is not routine and it needs to be addressed, and the people need to be comforted,” Glass said of Jade Helm 15. She applauded Abbott for shining a spotlight on the issue, saying that before he weighed in, most “people had never heard about it.”

Outside the Lone Star State, though, Abbott’s move has drawn more skepticism and fueled a perception — an incorrect one, his office would say — that he is lending more credibility than deserved to a cause mostly driven by internet rumors. Asked Wednesday about Abbott’s involvement, White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded over fits of laughter from reporters in the room.

“I have no idea what he’s thinking,” Earnest said of Abbott, adding that the operation will “in no way” affect the civil liberties or constitutional rights of Americans.

The best that can be said of this decision is that he’s only doing it to protect his right flank from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. But that’s an indictment as well, because it means he’s using the Texas National Guard for his political gain.

Abbott and the GOP have no one but themselves to blame. They’ve been going along with these folks as they head further and further off the deep end.

To show just how far this has gone, check out who else in Texas supports this, Conservatives Keep Pouring Fuel On The Texas Takeover Fire.

Rick Perry tried to tamp this down yesterday by saying that no one should ever question the military.

“It’s OK to question your government. I do it on a regular basis. But the military is something else,” said Perry, an Air Force veteran, as he prepared to speak to the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. “Our military is quite trustworthy. The civilian leadership, you can always question that, but not the men and women in uniform.”

That is wrong too, of course, no one is above being questioned.

Of course it was not this way when George W. Bush was president.  This is just, unfortunately, what has become the “Texas-way” since Barack Obama was elected President.  Anything the federal government does, as long as Obama is President, they will try and use to scare people.  It is, after all, why the tea party was started.

� Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »