03.03.15

Until Further Notice The Cruelty Will Continue

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Health Care at 9:41 am by wcnews

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First of all this is not news.  This is a temper tantrum plain and simple.  Does anyone in their right mind actually believe that 20 GOP state Senators “demanding” – stomping their feet – is really going to change anything? They even acknowledge this is all just for show.

Patrick complained about “overreaching federal mandates” and demanded the leeway to “manage our own Medicaid.”

He and all of the chamber’s Republicans sent President Barack Obama a letter demanding flexibility to revamp Texas’ version of Medicaid, a state-federal health insurance program for the poor, elderly and disabled.

Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, quickly acknowledged at a Capitol news conference that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services probably is not going to give the Texas Republicans what they want. [Emphasis added]

Uh..no. He knows they won’t get what they want.

These GOP politicians either don’t realize, or don’t care, that there are people suffering because they’re unable to get health care. People in need of health care don’t have time to play ideological games. But these folks blocking Medicaid expansion all have health so…

Here’s the response to the intransigence and cruelty of the GOP in Texas on this issue, 13 Children’s & Health Care Groups Issue Joint Statement on Lt. Governor’s Medicaid Proposal.

Low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly, and Texans with disabilities don’t need more hoops to jump through. Like all Texans, they need to be able to see a doctor when they’re sick, fill their prescriptions, and get other critical medical care.

Texas already has one of the most bare bones Medicaid programs in the country, denying coverage to nearly all low-income parents and workers despite the availability of federal funds intended to cover them.

The officials’ announcement decries increased enrollment in Texas Medicaid, despite the fact that enrollment growth has been almost entirely through coverage of children, dropping the uninsured rate of Texas children from 25% in 1997 to 13% of all kids in 2013.  The authors ask to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s “maintenance of effort” requirements, which are designed to protect children’s health care coverage.

The real health care crisis in our state is that so many Texans don’t have access to health insurance, putting them and their families at risk while forcing other Texans to cover unpaid hospital bills through higher premiums and property taxes.

Health Savings Accounts and other requirements have been included in the plans conservative states have negotiated with the federal government for extending coverage to low-income adult workers, but these requirements are ill-suited for the vulnerable Texans served by the state’s current bare bones Medicaid program.

The proposal to squeeze a few extra dollars out of low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly, and Texans with disabilities, announced the same week the Senate Finance Committee plans to consider tax cuts for some of the state’s largest businesses, represents the wrong priorities for Texas.

Rather than casting blame on the federal government, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and Texans with disabilities, we encourage our state leaders to listen to Texas doctors, Chambers of Commerce, county judges, and others who are calling for a plan to accept our share of new Medicaid funding for uninsured workers and parents.

Texans who agree that state leaders should develop a plan to close the Coverage Gap are invited to join business leaders, health care leaders, uninsured Texans, and others at Cover Texas Now’s Advocacy Day at the state Capitol on March 12. More information is available at texaswellandhealthy.org.

People are suffering and they decide to throw a political temper tantrum that they know won’t work. That’s cruel at best.

Kuff has more on the worthlessness of their actions, Republicans demand something for nothing on Medicaid.

03.02.15

Texas Is Being Neglected – No Matter What

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Taxes at 11:02 am by wcnews

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Here at EOW we’ve written about the GOP’s neglect of this state for quite some time.  The “tax cut not matter the cost” schemes the GOP has concocted over the years are the cause.  There’s been money to fix these things, they’ve decided that tax cuts are more important.  Via the Texas Tribune, Signs of Neglect, Wear and Tear in State Government.

It didn’t happen overnight. The deterioration in state parks, hit by a series of budget cuts and outright raids on its supposedly dedicated funding by lawmakers, has been a running plot line in the papers for several years.

Likewise, the deferred maintenance at state buildings, which could cost almost $1 billion assuming the work begins now, dates backs a generation in some cases.

But with a new crop of leaders taking the reins at state agencies, stories of neglect and bureaucratic woe are spilling out into the open more than ever — in testimony before the Legislature, interviews with the media and dry agency reports.

Newly elected Comptroller Glenn Hegar has seen it firsthand. In his earlies days on the job, he learned that a hole in the bathroom wall at the Lyndon B. Johnson building had to be patched with toilet paper. He found out a female employee had to get rabies shots not long ago after coming into contact with one of the numerous bats flying in the building. And he discovered the real purpose of a quilt on the wall of an employee’s office.

“I thought it was decoration, but, no, that’s to muffle the sound of the bathroom behind her wall, so you can’t hear people that are on the toilet,” Hegar told The Texas Tribune on Friday.

The maintenance problems are not confined to the comptroller’s office.

“We have leaking roofs that have caused damage to servers. We have elevators that don’t work,” Attorney General Ken Paxton, who recently took over the top state attorney job from Gov. Greg Abbott, testified recently. “I’ve been surprised at some of the issues that we’ve already had to deal with.”

Nowhere is the deferred maintenance more dramatic than at the Texas School for the Deaf. Its fire safety problems got so bad last year that the state fire marshal’s office threatened to shut down the historic South Austin school. To keep it open, the Texas Facilities Commission agreed to patrol parts of the campus 24 hours a day to ensure buildings don’t go up in flames — a sort of human fire alarm system to replace a mechanical one that doesn’t work in a wide swath of the campus.

“We didn’t see that as a necessity,” Peter Maass, a deputy at the Texas Facilities Commission, said of the fire checks. “[But] we said, okay, we’re not going to argue.”

Oh well, that’s a shame. But as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has told us, “tax cuts are coming no matter what“.

There’s at least one member of the Texas Senate who’s speaking out about what the real priorities of The Lege should be. It’s not tax cuts and the Senator in not a Democrat, Republican rains on tax-cut parade.

As state lawmakers clamber aboard the tax-cut bandwagon, one Republican is raining on the parade that has been so enthusiastically arranged by his party’s leaders.

Sen. Kevin Eltife points out repeatedly, publicly and with rhetorical flair that the state has a list of long-neglected problems whose solutions would mean more to Texans than even a couple of hundred more dollars in their pockets from tax relief.

His position puts him at odds with Republicans and some Democrats who are championing big tax reductions. They say there’s enough money in these relatively flush times to both meet state needs and cut taxes by billions of dollars.

[…]

The list of problems comes easily to him: troubled pension funds, infuriating road congestion, growing state debt, long-running litigation over public education funding, state buildings going without basic repairs and universities in need of facilities.

“I just can’t jump out there and support tax cuts — as politically popular as that would be — I cannot do it until I know for a fact we have solutions to state problems,” said Eltife, R-Tyler. “Most of my constituents want us to solve problems.”

Most, if not all Texans want that too.  And threats aside Eltife is sticking to his guns, and driving the wing nuts crazy.

Eltife said he doesn’t think about elections when he’s doing his work of the session, which possibly would make him unique among lawmakers.

“I don’t know why anybody would worry about elections right now in the middle of session when we are trying to solve the state’s problems,” Eltife said. “If this is the end of my political career, so be it. It’s not going to keep me from talking about the problems of the state.”

Most in The Lege are worried about what their funders want, those are their true constituents. So to them the next election is what the only thing the legislative session is about. They don’t want to be kicked out of the club.

Despite the good financial situation Texas is in, we can’t forget that the surplus we have was been built through neglect.  Taxes have been cut and much needed items have been neglected.  The bills are coming due and we have money to pay them.  Instead we’re going to give that money to the wealthy and big business who already have more then they need.

02.25.15

Doing Away With What They Believe Is Unnecessary

Posted in 84th Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Taxes at 12:22 pm by wcnews

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It’s key for everyone to understand how we got to the budget situation were in today in Texas.

The money that was cut from the budget in 2011, and not replaced in 2013, is responsible for the surplus we now have that the GOP wants to give back to the wealthy and big business in tax cuts.  Both budget estimates turned out to be way off base.

That original deficit in 2011 was caused by the GOP Tax Swap Scheme of 2006.   Everyone knew, when it was passed, that it would create a structural deficit.

Teachers lost jobs, schools were de-funded, and many were forced to sacrifice so taxes on the wealthy and big business would not be raised.

Just think about that.

The money was never intended to be replaced.  The GOP used the ruse of a tax swap in 2006 and the budget crisis it created in 2011 to gut public education.  And since then, with the surplus it created, their main concern is to give more tax cuts to the wealthy and big business.

Kuff has the latest on the GOP tax cut Olympics that are going on in The Lege right now, We can always pay for tax cuts later.

The problem with the current tax cut schemes being discussed in The Lege is that there’s little relief being offered to those who pay the most, as a percentage of their income, in taxes.  Via QR.

Texas earns dubious distinction, 3rd worst state for taxes inflicted on average Americans

Current tax cut bidding war means nothing to most Texans

While the Senate and House are in a bidding war for the biggest headline number of tax cuts that most Texans will not feel, the online financial publication “Marketwatch” named Texas the third worst state for taxes inflicted on average Americans.

The analysis reports that the Lone Star State has the fifth highest effective tax rate on the state’s bottom 20% at 12.5% and the 8th lowest rate on the top 1% at an effective tax rate of 2.9%.

From the story, “…the state relies heavily on sales and excise taxes. These consumption taxes accounted for nearly 32% of the state’s revenue, the ninth highest nationwide in fiscal 2012. The state also doesn’t provide low-income residents with any tax credits, which help offset sales, excise and property taxes in other states.”

The story can be found here.

The budget schemes of the Texas GOP is not only about lowering taxes, it’s also about destroying government – doing away with what they believe is unnecessary.

02.24.15

State Legislators Are An Easy Buy For Big Business

Posted in 84th Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans at 11:58 am by wcnews

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Big business believes state legislators are easy.  That seems to be the moral to this NYT article, States Are Blocking Local Regulations, Often at Industry’s Behest.

Darren Hodges, a Tea Party Republican and councilman in the windy West Texas city of Fort Stockton, is a fierce defender of his town’s decision to ban plastic bags. It was a local solution to a local problem and one, he says, city officials had a “God-given right” to make.

But the power of Fort Stockton and other cities to govern themselves is under attack in the state capital, Austin. The new Republican governor, Greg Abbott, has warned that several cities are undermining the business-friendly “Texas model” with a patchwork of ill-conceived regulations. Conservative legislators, already angered by a ban on fracking that was enacted by popular vote in the town of Denton last fall, quickly followed up with a host of bills to curtail local power.

[…]

So-called pre-emption laws, passed in states across the country, have barred cities from regulating landlords, building municipal broadband systems and raising the minimum wage. In the last two years, eight Republican-dominated states, most recently Alabama and Oklahoma, have prevented cities from enacting paid sick leave for workers, and a new law in Arkansas forbids municipalities to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. Already this year, bills introduced in six more states, including Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina, seek to do the same. At least five states have pre-empted local regulation of e-cigarettes. And in New Mexico, the restaurant industry supports a modest increase to the minimum wage only if the state stops cities from mandating higher minimums.

Often these efforts are driven by industry, which finds it easier to wield influence in 50 capitols than in thousands of city halls, said Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which opposes the pre-emption of public health measures.

The strategy was pioneered by tobacco companies 30 years ago to override local smoking bans. It was perfected by the National Rifle Association, which has succeeded in preventing local gun regulations in almost every state.

More recently, the restaurant industry is leading the fight to block municipalities from increasing the minimum wage or enacting paid sick leave ordinances in more than a dozen states, including Florida, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Continue reading the main story

“Businesses are operating in an already challenging regulatory environment,” said Scott DeFife, the head of government affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “The state legislature is the best place to determine wage and hour law. This is not the kind of policy that should be determined jurisdiction by jurisdiction.”

This year, a combination of big money in state politics and a large number of first-time state legislators presents an opportunity for industries interested in getting favorable laws on the books, Mr. Pertschuk said. Increasingly, he said, disparate industries are banding together to back the same laws, through either the business-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, or shared lobbyists. “There is going to be a feeding frenzy all year long in the state legislatures,” he said. [Emphasis added]

It’s cheaper and easier for them to buy state legislators than it is to buy city council members in every city. And it’s obvious that the GOP never cared about local control, it was just a catch phrase that business lobbies like the Chamber of Commerce and ALEC made up.

And in Texas the GOP controlled state government is planning to meddle as much as they can to take away local control, Cities, state start fighting over who has local control.

While cities and counties always devote energy at the Legislature to warding off what they deem as meddling, the challenge this time appears different to many.

“There are some items that might not have been on the agenda before,” said Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas. “With the strength of the movement conservatives, my concern is that we might be taking away some local control authority from our communities.”

A new slate of statewide leaders — including Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — spelled uncertainty from the get-go for Texas municipalities.

But Abbott, in a speech before his inauguration, hammered away at cities for “unchecked overregulation” and argued that they’re causing Texas to be “California-ized.” He pointed specifically to shopping bag ordinances — such as the one Dallas just implemented — and Denton’s fracking ban.

Patrick’s push to effectively reduce growth in the amount of property tax revenue cities can collect has local budget-writers concerned. Supporters say that effort will provide Texans with long overdue property tax relief.

Some lawmakers are echoing the state leaders, even while trying to be diplomatic in addressing the cities they represent.

The Texas GOP only likes local control if the local entity does what they and their donors want.

02.17.15

When They Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

Posted in Around The Nation, Bad Government Republicans, Social Security at 10:35 am by wcnews

4-15-2011

The right wing in America, which now controls the Republican Party, has always wanted to destroy Social Security.  They believe it is a waste of money and turns people into moochers.

No matter that it has been the most successful government program ever created in the United States.  It has kept millions of elderly out of poverty.  And it has grown to include assistance for the disabled and survivor benefits. Helping to support those who cannot support themselves.

The GOP wants to start a fake crisis To Dismantle Social Security.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) issued a stark warning to supporters: Republicans are willing to create a crisis pitting “America’s seniors against America’s disabled” in order to gut Social Security.

“We’ve known for years that Social Security Disability Insurance is set to run low in 2016, and most people assumed that another bipartisan reallocation was coming,” Warren wrote in an email to supporters on Wednesday evening. “But now, thanks to the Republican ideological war on our most important national safety net, disabled Americans could suddenly face a 20% cut in their Social Security checks next year.”

House Republicans quietly passed a rule change last month that would block Congress from being able to make routine tax revenue transfers between the Social Security retirement and disability funds, commonly referred to as reallocation, unless the program’s overall solvency is improved.

Of course there’s a simple fix for Social Security that will make it solvent far into the future, if not forever. Dems Brandish New Counterproposal In Social Security Fight: Tax The Rich.

The definitive Democratic counterproposal in the fledgling fight over Social Security is starting to emerge, and it has a familiar ring in the era of income inequality politics: tax the rich.

More specifically, Democrats are proposing to raise or eliminate the cap on Social Security taxes. Those taxes are currently collected up to $118,500 of a person’s income, and any income above that is Social Security tax-free. The liberal Center for American Progress said in a new report last week that the program had lost $1.1 trillion over the last 30 years because of it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced last week that he would propose eliminating the cap for income above $250,000. His office estimated that that would keep Social Security solvent until 2060; the program is currently projected to start running out of money in 2033.

“If Republicans are serious about extending the solvency of Social Security beyond 2033,” Sanders said, “I hope they will join me in scrapping the cap that allows multi-millionaires to pay a much smaller percentage of their income into Social Security than the middle class.”

In essence Social Security hasn’t gotten a raise in 30 years. Think of your household budget. If you were making the same money today, as you did in 1983, your household would be heading toward insolvency too.  It’s also extremely heartening to see the Democrats pushing hard on this.

This burned Reagan when he tried to do it, and the wing nuts are at it again.

When Ronald Reagan came to town back in 1981, he ran into an unexpected media buzzsaw named Spencer Rich, who was a colleague of mine at The Washington Post. A fellow Post editor dubbed Spencer Rich “the Ferret” because Spencer was a relentless digger of facts who repeatedly drove the Reagan White House nuts. His stories revealed insider details of what programs the new president intended to launch or old programs he planned to destroy. Spencer wasn’t really interested in the political horse race, but he understood the substance of government’s many parts and he did care about how government functioned. As it happens, so do ordinary citizens.

One of Spencer’s front-page exclusives revealed the Gipper’s plan to whack Social Security Disability Insurance. Republicans, he discovered, planned to denounce the liberal program as a scandal of fraud and waste. A fire storm of controversy erupted after his story appeared. The White House first denied it. Then the White House confirmed the story but said the facts were wrong. On the third or fourth day, the White House announced the program was snuffed.

This is what makes a free press so valuable to democracy—that is, if the reporters are truly free. I yearn to see a reporter with the courage to call out liars.

The GOP will always try to pull there budget gimmicks by making the poor and the voiceless pay, never will they ask those with more then they need to sacrifice anything.

When they show you who they are, believe them.

02.09.15

The Cost Of Tax Cuts

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Public Schools, Taxes at 3:58 pm by wcnews

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It’s becoming pretty clear what the cost Lt. Gov. Patrick’s “no matter what” tax cuts will be. There’s public education of course, a favorite punching bag of conservative Republicans, Early tax cut promises have education advocates worried.

The starting budgets of the state House and Senate, released last month, are similar on many fronts, but not with respect to education. Faced with $4.5 billion in additional revenue from increasing property values, the House has chosen to reinvest a portion of that in public education while the upper chamber is focusing on tax relief, a decision not sitting well with educators.

“I don’t know how you could say that budget prioritized public education,” Lonnie Hollings-worth, governmental relations director at the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, said of the Senate budget. “We think the priority should be to fund our public schools and not to do tax cuts.”

A cursory glance at the Senate’s document indicates the upper chamber wants to provide billions more this biennium for public education funding. But the promises of many senators, including new Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, to provide $4 billion in tax relief leave only around $200 million available for schools.

Here’s the interesting thing about the property tax cut that Lt. Gov. Patrick is proposing. The reason property taxes are out of control is because the state hasn’t increased revenue in a long, long time. Without increased funding from the state cities and counties have been forced to raise local taxes to keep up with needs.

City and county officials say they will work to educate lawmakers on the problems caps could bring. The messages vary across the state.

The Texas Municipal League has argued that cities and counties don’t deserve the blame for growing property tax bills. City taxes make up only 16 percent of the taxes levied across the state, while schools account for 55 percent of all property tax bills statewide, the organization says.

“Our message is that we are not the problem,” Sandlin said.

And leaders of fast-growing cities and counties say they need property tax revenue growth to pay for new roads, sewers and other infrastructure. Caps on how much appraisals grow could simply force cities to increase the tax rate, opponents of the bills say.

And the schools need that money because of the cuts to public education the state made during the budget “shortfall” in 2011. Which was not restored once prosperity returned in 2013.

The most egregious part of this is who will benefit and who will pay for these purported tax cuts.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he worries that the caps would mostly help the rich. Property values tend to rise faster in the wealthier parts of town, he said, so those homeowners are the ones who would benefit most from a cap on appraisals.

“It is disguised as a tax break for all, but it is actually a shift from the upper class to the rest,” Jenkins said.

It’s the age-old story. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

The cost of these tax cuts are not just to our pocket books.  But they are to the future of Texas.  The needed investments in education and infrastructure will be forsaken so the wealthy, who already have more then they need, can have even more.

02.02.15

Privatization Corruption Is Common In Texas

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Corruption, Money In Politics, Privatization, Vouchers at 12:31 pm by wcnews

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It’s amazing me how little Texans care if corporations waste their money.  If the same thing was happening, and it was a state agency doing it, you’d better believe all the government haters on the right would be screaming.  But since it’s the corporations that bankroll their campaigns, think tanks, and PACs that are wasting tax payer money, they don’t seem to mind.

It’s also clear from this Texas Tribune article that privatization corruption is common in Texas.  This is a record of ineptitude that’s striking, In State Contracting, Failure is an Option.

Over the past two decades, Texas has pursued a wave of privatization of public functions with the belief that corporations could save taxpayer money while improving the delivery of essential government services. But multiple contracts representing billions in public dollars have blown up in the state’s face, prompting lawsuits, ethics investigations, wasted funds and frustrated Texans.

The pattern that emerges is one of famously business-friendly Texas repeatedly fumbling its efforts to hold the businesses it hires accountable. [Emphasis added]

An audit released Wednesday found a lack of due diligence with 46 of 53 contracts tested at the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management. Before that, 12 of 14 audits conducted between 2012 and 2014 of various programs found weaknesses in contracting oversight. It’s not a recent phenomenon. Dozens of audits going back to the 1990s have found similar problems with contract management and procurement across a wide stretch of state government agencies. And conflict of interest questions similar to those now dogging the 21CT deal have periodically emerged over other state contracts in the past.

Accenture, IBM, Xerox, EDS have all done it.  The one thing the government must do, when it’s money is being given out in situations like this, is make sure that the tax payer is getting a good deal for their money. Obviously those running our government right not could care less about that.

To keep proper oversight would mean having well-qualified, well-paid government staff that will make sure taxpayer money is being used efficiently. That’s not likely to happen with our current government that thinks the government is the problem.

There is not incentive for those currently in office, that keep getting reelected under this corrupt system, to reform this system in any meaningful way.

As our state government takes up school vouchers we all must pay careful attention to how our elected leaders, or more likely how they won’t, setup an accountability system for taxpayer money in the private education system.

01.26.15

Texas “Conservatism” Exposed

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Money In Politics, Uncategorized at 10:47 am by wcnews

There are many oxymoron’s in politics.  In Texas we are becoming all too familiar with one – responsible conservative.  This article from Lisa Falkenberg at the HChron shows why, Lack of fiscal responsibility dogs conservatives.

Let’s forget for a moment about all the issues that divide us as Texans, from guns to abortion to Confederate flags on license plates.

Let’s focus on something that nearly all of us can agree to hate – bad spending.

I don’t mean debatable spending, such as, say, publicly funding birth control for poor women. In principle you may oppose it, but fiscally, many argue it saves the state money in unplanned Medicaid births.

No, I mean obviously bad spending, including but not limited to stupid spending, shady spending and sleazy spending. We can all join hands, sing Kumbaya, and agree that this kind of spending of taxpayer money is not good.

Yet, if you’ve seen a newspaper lately, there seems to be a rash of it in our “conservative”-controlled state. The Chronicle’s Brian M. Rosenthal in Austin, along with reporters at the Austin American-Statesman, have reported extensively on a state contracting system that lets inexperienced companies win millions in contracts without having to compete. They simply sidestep the bidding process by getting pre-approved for contracts using a process intended for smaller purchases.

The only problem that so-called conservatives have with government spending is who gets the money. Spending for poor, working, and middle class Texans on education, transportation, health care are always bad.  Tax payer give-aways to their corporate donors are always good.

The GOP playing fast and loose with taxpayer money has gotten out of hand.

{Houston] Chronicle reporters Rosenthal and Mike Ward recently confirmed that the Travis County district attorney’s public integrity unit had been looking into another case of no-bid contract dealing by Perry’s administration, this time at the Department of Public Safety.

It involved more than $20 million in contracts given to a Virginia defense contractor, Abrams Learning and Information Systems Inc., to help the state of Texas redevelop border security strategies. See if you see a pattern here: Abrams had little experience in the work it was hired to do. Abrams didn’t have to bid for the contract.

And how did DPS get around the state’s open-bidding laws on this one? There’s loophole in the case of emergency. Perry had proclaimed on the campaign trail that border security was an “emergency.” And that was enough.

But wait, there’s more

It was the emergency that kept on giving. According to reports, the company was initially approved for $471,800 in March of 2006 to establish the state’s Border Security Operations Center in Austin. Only three months in, that amount was hiked by $680,000. It just kept growing.

And Travis County’s investigation? It died a quiet, sudden death when Perry vetoed funding for the public integrity unit. He said he vetoed the funding because District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg wouldn’t resign after her embarrassing drunkendriving arrest.

But this latest revelation casts even more doubt on that claim. Maybe, just maybe, those grand jurors who indicted Perry for threatening Lehmberg, weren’t crazy after all.

And don’t expect those currently in power to try and “fix” the system that got them elected to office.

Now, the only reason we know as much as we do about how our money is being misspent in these cases is because a few dogged reporters told us. Official investigations underway can provide more answers.

But here’s another irony: officials at the Health and Human Services Commission are using the “ongoing investigations” as an excuse to block the flow of public records requested by reporters. A gaping loophole in the Texas Public Information Act, passed a few years ago, lets them get away with that.

Who writes these laws? Who signs off on this bad spending? Who has the power to do something about it?

Mostly people who call themselves conservatives.

A few influential Republican state senators have already condemned the shady contracting and one has called for stronger action at HHSC than has thus far been taken.

But it’s up to the new crop of “conservative” leaders in Austin to remember the modern definition of that word still includes fiscal responsibility.

This is the way responsible conservatives in the Texas GOP operate.

01.22.15

60 percent of 30 percent

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Money In Politics, Taxes at 10:23 am by wcnews

TxCapitol

The only thing sadder then the inauguration this week has been the reaction to it of retiring Texas Village Paul Burka.  Also his lamenting the end of “adult behavior” because the 2/3rds rule is no more.

I have always been a fan of the two-thirds rule because it gave the minority a fighting chance to take on the majority and it required a level of bridge-building and consensus to pass legislation. On a more basic level, it imposed “adult behavior on people who might be otherwise inclined.” Unfortunately for the Democrats, their party just doesn’t have the numbers to fend off the majority, so Patrick doesn’t have to worry about bridge-building, consensus, or adult behavior as the presiding officer.

I’m not sure what Lege he’s been covering for the last 10 years, but adult behavior went out the door quite a while ago. We get it, things have changed over the last 40 years . This is what happens when we have one-party GOP rule, they change the rules.

When 60 percent of 30 percent of registered voters are allowed to pick our elected leaders this is what we get. I wish Scott Turner would have been elected Speaker. The Democrats should have voted for him. Nothing will speed Democrats back to power in Texas faster then giving the wing nuts control. Once they break Texas then maybe we can get back to sane and rational government – Burka’s adult hehavior.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be serious negative consequences because of how our state is now “governed”.  Anyone that’s not wealthy and/or connected is left out.  And as long as our elected officials are allowed to essentially bribe corporations with tax payer money – likely the same corporations that bankroll their campaigns – little is likely to change.

 

01.20.15

Inaguration Day – Texans Are Weary, An Opportunity Awaits

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans at 4:36 pm by wcnews

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I’ve been asked more questions about politics at work in the last week then I have in the last decade.  Generally speaking they’re people that don’t vote and are wondering how someone like Dan Patrick, in particular, was able to get elected.  In a mostly nice way I try and explain that’s what happens when 30% of the registered voters show up to vote.  Then they fall silent.

It was disheartening to listen to the vapid regurgitation of GOP talking points from our new Governor and Lt. Governor. Snarky comments abounded as my coworkers watched the proceedings.  Most think Patrick is unqualified for the job, and his religious talk scared them.  And Abbott is not a good speaker.  But again, they don’t vote, and they wonder how this happened.  I get the sense that they never thought it was possible for someone like him to get elected no who did or didn’t vote.

But now they’ve realized they’re going to have to live with this for 4 years and they’re starting to ask questions.  The sad part is I’m still not sure they’ll vote in the next election.  One thing I do know as I talk about the issues with them, they any tax cut won’t effect them.  They no longer see their pay rise,  and the cost of everything – except gas recently – continues to rise.  They see the rich getting richer and the rest of us struggling.  And they don’t see good things ahead for their children, and they believe neither political party is on their side.

Which is why this article piqued my interest, Why Elizabeth Warren Strikes Such a Chord.

It seems like just about everyone these days is talking about Elizabeth Warren. I saw Jay Leno -not a very political guy or especially progressive- the other day on Bill Maher’s show, talking about how shocked he was that Elizabeth Warren was only 18 months younger than Hilary because of how vital and energetic she seemed. A focus group of swing voters, who traditionally don’t follow politics very closely, in Colorado a couple of weeks back were disdainful of the politicians they had heard of like Jeb Bush and Hillary who were likely running for president, but loved what they were hearing about Elizabeth Warren. The Sunday “Doonesbury” this weekend was a plea to “run, Lizzie, run” because “she hears the voices no one else hears”. The Washington Post print addition on Sunday had a front page article whose headline asked “What does Elizabeth Warren want?”

Why is a first-term Senator in the minority party, a wonky college professor who had never held elective office before 2013, a woman who insists to everyone who asks that she is not running for president, striking such a chord in American politics right now? Why are hundreds of thousands of people and some of the biggest organizations in American politics begging her to run for president despite her apparent lack of interest? Where did she get the political power to stop the president’s political nominations and almost bring down budget bills that seemed destined for easy bi-partisan passage? Why is the media obsessed with her?

As great as Elizabeth Warren is (and she is), I think the chord she strikes has at least as much to do with the moment we are in as to who she is. I think most Americans in both parties have come to believe that government is too bought off by big money special interests to care about them anymore. They are worn down by an economic system that doesn’t seem to reward working hard and playing by the rules, in Bill Clinton’s famous words, anymore; and they are cynical that the establishment politicians in both parties seem disconnected to the real world of no wage increases and rising costs of necessities. Elizabeth Warren excites people so much because she actually seems like she knows what is going in everyday people’s lives, and because she seems like she will take on the powers that be in both party to fight on their behalf. That is so refreshing to voters and activists alike, and it is turning Elizabeth into an icon that people respond to. She calls “Charge!” on a nomination fight for a position that no one has ever heard of, or a legislative fight that they weren’t even aware of, and people answer the call because they trust her- they know in their hearts that she is fighting for them.

[…]

The large numbers of activists and voters who follow Elizabeth know she is not only smart and tough, but trustworthy to the core. And in this cynical age of politics, where big money and rank partisanship seems to drive everything in DC, having someone you can trust to fight for you, to be on your side rather than on big money’s side, creates a loyalty and a passion that is powerful.

[…]

Beyond those policy proposals, which would go a long way in making our economy work far better for working people in this country, there’s a simple answer: she wants a country where we invest in all of our people, and where everyday folks get the rewards for working hard and playing by the rules. She wants a country where the government is on the side of working people rather than just the wealthiest individuals and biggest businesses.

There a millions of Texans and Americans who want a party or just a bunch of their fellow citizens to fix our rigged political system. They will support those who will fight for it. Those, like our new Governor and Lt. Gov., who are for more of the same will not inspire them to get out and vote. The opportunity is there, my hope is that some politicians in Texas will start talking and acting like Elizabeth Warren.

Here are statements from Progress Texas and Texas Forward on today’s inauguration.

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