05.21.15

Where Left And Right Come Together – Our Political System Is Rigged

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Corruption, Money In Politics, Taxes at 12:08 pm by wcnews

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The recent brouhaha surrounding hidden cameras around The Lege, and what could come of it, brings up some interesting issues.  If you’re not aware of what’s been going on check out R.G. Ratcliffe’s reporting on the American Phoenix Foundation (APF) here. After reading these posts, I’m left with the impression that these folks are extremely unhappy with our political system.

Their main frustration seems to be the age-old problem with politicians – these folks say one thing when running for office, and do something different once elected.

What I was trying t explain or get people fired up about is they are all, “Rah, rah, Republicans are doing what’s right!” And I’m, No, not necessarily. I look at both parties as a political class. I don’t see a lot of difference between Republicans and Democrats now that I see what’s going on at the Capitol.”

This is nothing new and has always been a large part of politics.  Saying, one thing and doing another.  Distracting the voters attention with some shiny object and picking their pocket when they’re not paying attention.

Obviously they’re not alone in their frustration. Their frustration is inline with a study from last year called, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Which makes this case.

From the Dept. of Academics Confirming Something You Already Suspected comes a new study concluding that rich people and organizations representing business interests have a powerful grip on U.S. government policy. After examining differences in public opinion across income groups on a wide variety of issues, the political scientists Martin Gilens, of Princeton, and Benjamin Page, of Northwestern, found that the preferences of rich people had a much bigger impact on subsequent policy decisions than the views of middle-income and poor Americans. Indeed, the opinions of lower-income groups, and the interest groups that represent them, appear to have little or no independent impact on policy. [Emphasis added]

When voters, on all sides, never see the issues they care most about get addressed it makes them mad.  This recent TribTalk article on taxes is an example, Who really wants tax relief — and why.

If the implication is that the Legislature should make tax policy decisions based on what Texans want, what are we to make of the poll’s finding that voters are relatively indifferent to the business margins tax? It’s the one tax that the governor and the leadership of both chambers before the session even started were largely in agreement about cutting, and the only one of the proposed cuts that the governor has said would trigger a veto if not included in the budget.

While the assumption that taxes must be cut has defined budget politics in the Legislature, polling amply illustrates that most of the public doesn’t attach the same priority to tax reduction. In the same UT/TT Poll, only 2 percent of Texans cited taxes as the most important problem facing the state, and only 3 percent of voters (and 5 percent of Republicans) said that lowering business taxes should be the Legislature’s top priority. Even when asked about the subject in the narrower context of tax cut alternatives, a plurality of Texans have no opinion about the Legislature’s primary target (39 percent), and nearly as much of the public is satisfied with the business margins tax (29 percent) as is dissatisfied (32 percent). So much for the public clamoring for tax relief.

There are, of course, policy reasons to discuss at least revamping the business margins tax, just as there are reasons to consider revisiting the state’s reliance on property taxes. But the lack of formed opinions about the business margins tax, and the even division among those who express an opinion, suggests that responding to the popular will is only one of the factors at play in the debate. The consensus among the political class on cutting the business margins tax likely reflects the seemingly universal opposition to the tax among business groups large and small.  [Emphasis added]

And when one side (business, elites, and corporations) always get what they want, and the other side (the people) never do, the frustration just piles up.

While many may not like the way the APF is going about their business, their aim seems to be an attempt to shine a light on the hypocrisy in the Texas Lege.  When discussing the salacious aspects of their videos they make clear this is not a moral issue for them.

This isn’t about moral failures. This is about hypocrisy. That’s what we hope to show with the footage we have. It’s not going to just be this guy was having sex in the bathroom with this staffer … We all get it. That’s just a base human nature.

[…]

Our point is, men are not angels. So long as they understand who they are working with, this is a normal human being who just so happens to be making laws as to how I live my life. So if you can pull away the veil that they’re not a special class of humans just because they are making laws.

One way to think of it is that they want to have a fair fight on the issues.  The way our political system is currently configured, a fair fight on the issues is not possible.

This video helps make that clear:

More here, Study: Congress literally doesn’t care what you think. They’re also implementing a solution.

Damn near everyone knows that most of our political systems are rigged. Those on the left those on the right and everyone in between. That frustration is being shown in many different ways all over the political spectrum.

This is an area where left and right may be able to come together.  The left and right both agree that our system is rigged.

There is no candidate to advocate for around this issue.  No candidate or even candidates can fix this.  The only way this will change is if the people demand it.

Further Reading:
Politicians Think American Voters are More Conservative Than They Really Are.

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.

05.13.15

Give It All To Business – The GOP Tax Compromise

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Inequality, Taxes at 12:31 pm by wcnews

CorporateWelfare

Yesterday Joe Straus’ tax henchman alerted everyone to what the House GOP is willing to deal away to make a deal with the Senate GOP, Bonnen: I’d Scrap Sales Tax Cut for Larger Business Tax Cut.

As the Texas House and Senate appear at an impasse over what tax cuts to approve this session, House Ways and Means Chairman Dennis Bonnen said Tuesday that he’d be fine with replacing both chamber’s proposals with an even larger cut in the franchise tax paid by businesses.

“I would love to put it all into reducing the franchise tax,” Bonnen said. “I am beyond comfortable with that.”  [Emphasis added]

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, authored the House’s $4.9 billion tax cut proposal, which would cut the state sales tax rate and the franchise tax. The Senate has backed a proposal from Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that would cut the franchise tax and increase homestead exemptions to lower local school property taxes. Bonnen has repeatedly dismissed the Senate’s proposal as an inevitable letdown for Texans, predicting most won’t see their property tax bills decrease because of increases in property appraisals and local tax rates.

That’s right, screw the sales tax and the property tax, they just want to give it all away to business. They should be given credit for telling the truth this early in the legislative session.

As noted last week (The Texas GOP’s Tax Trap), there really is nothing of any significance the GOP can do in this realm for the vast majority of Texas without raising taxes on the wealthy and big business. Therefore they might as well just give it all to their real constituents.  It’s the same at the national level as well.

Yesterday the Roosevelt Institute released a report called Rewriting the Rules.  Via Our Future.

The report calls for:

● “Taming the top” through such measures as ending the phenomenon of “too big to fail” banks, working to narrow the gap between CEO pay and that of average workers, and changing the tax code so that the wealthy and corporations pay a greater share of their income in taxes.

● “Growing the middle” through focusing both fiscal and monetary policy on full employment, particularly through public infrastructure investment; empowering workers by strengthening collective bargaining rights; and a broad range of economic security and justice issues, including universal preschool, affordable higher education, Medicare for all, universal paid sick and family leave, pay equity, a path to citizenship for undocumented residents and expanded Social Security.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who no doubt inspired the title of the report by her popularizing the understanding that “the rules were rigged” against working people by the rich and powerful, said, “We know who trickle-down works for, and we know that if we want a strong middle class, it is time for new rules.”

“This country is in real trouble,” she said. “The game is rigged and we are running out of time. We cannot continue to run this country for the top 10 percent. We can’t keep pushing through trade deals that benefit multinational companies at the expense of workers. Government cannot continue to be the captive of the rich and powerful. Working people cannot be forced to give up more and more as they get squeezed harder and harder. … We know what we have to do.”

It’s obvious our state leaders could not care less about what most Texans need. If they did they could, at the least, set aside their ideology and expand Medicaid. But not only do we need to rewrite the rules, we need to elect people that will fight for what we need. But first a movement must be built, outside of a political party and it can’t be about one candidate.

Once the movement is built candidates will take on these issues as their own and then change will happen. That’s why the more publicity Bernie Sanders gets in his run for the Presidency the better off we’ll all be. Look at the issues that are being talked about just because he’s in the race.

Bernie Sanders’ 2016 website is nothing but a fundraising page. It says we can expect the real thing on May 26, the day of the Vermont senator’s formal 2016 launch in Burlington. But make no mistake, Sanders is already the real thing. And there’s no denying the lure of that.

Sanders is that unique White House hopeful who calls himself a socialist and habitually warns that “the forces of greed” are afoot in the land. He talks out loud about a single-payer health system and redistributing wealth, about what we can learn from Scandinavia and about economic trends that are “immoral” and “wrong.” He skips the sentimental Mother’s Day tweets and videos and marks the day by calling U.S. child care “a total disaster.” For Democrats weary of operating in the “reality-based community,” this is like diving into an icy pond on an oppressively hot day.

Those are issues the media and the corporations that own them don’t want to be discussed. It would be best if candidates would get on the correct side of these issues. They’re popular and they’re want the people want.

Further Reading:
Analysis: Making a Tax Deal Voters Might Not Care About.

05.07.15

The Texas GOP’s Tax Trap

Posted in 84th Legislature, Around The State, Taxes at 11:43 am by wcnews

Tax-Trap

As the tax cut debate continues in Texas we must remember that this is a fight for the heart and soul of the GOP Primary base, aka, the semi-sane GOP vs. the wing nuts.

Efforts by legislative leaders to find common ground on cutting Texans’ taxes is complicated by political considerations much bigger than the financial impact to individual pocketbooks.

Each side is making overtures that appear aimed at resolving the impasse between the Senate’s plan to give a break to homeowners from school property taxes and the House’s plan to instead cut the state sales tax rate.

But there’s little evidence that the Senate is willing to budge from its position – despite Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s designation of five senators to informally negotiate with the House on the issue.

House leaders also tout the overwhelming support of their chamber for their own plan.

The disagreement could set up the potential for a special session that carries a new risk: the possibility of less money for tax cuts if the economic forecast dims.

The only folks that care about the issues being debated is a narrow slice of Texans that vote in the GOP Primary, Bonnen says Patrick holding border security bill “hostage” to get his way on tax cuts.

House Speaker Pro Tem Dennis Bonnen said late Wednesday that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has held up passage of border security legislation in an attempt to force the House to accept the Senate’s tax-cut proposals.

Bonnen, R-Angleton, said in an interview that Patrick has inappropriately linked the two matters.

Spokesmen for Patrick did not immediately comment.

Bonnen spoke just hours after the two chambers finished a two-day process of making token gestures of good will. Their GOP presiding officers referred the other chamber’s tax-cut bills to committees, amid pledges by committee chiefs that they’ll be heard. Patrick appointed a sort of shadow team of Senate negotiators to talk tax cuts.

Bonnen, who heads the House’s tax-writing panel and has emerged this session as Speaker Joe Straus’ pit bull in dealings with the Senate, was unimpressed.

While Bonnen thinks border security is the number one issue in the state, most Texans would likely disagree. I’m sure education, a good paying job, health care and transportation are more important to most Texans. Also the current tax cut schemes that have been proposed – where most of the cuts go to business and the wealthy – will make little difference in most Texans lives.

Here’s the tax trap the GOP is in. Texas is a low tax state for the wealthy and big business. That makes it impossible to lower taxes in a way most Texans will actually notice without raising taxes on the wealthy and big business. Since that’s not going to happen, the GOP is stuck in a trap.

So far there’s only one thing the House, Senate and Gov. Abbott agree on, and that’s a tax cut for the constituency they all share. And Abbott’s only veto threat so far.

He has said he will reject a state budget unless lawmakers also approve business-tax relief. That appears a near-certainty.

That should inform us all as to who and what is most important to them.  And that’s not going to do anything for the vast majority of Texans.

It’s still a shame that the Democrats did not try and distinguish the party from the GOP on this issue. They showed some life yesterday when the other Bonnen tried to pass a tax break for yachts, House Rejects Tax Break for Pricey Boats.

Several House Democrats decried the measure as a giveaway for rich people, though many Republicans also voted against it.

“A pig is still a pig no matter how you dress it up, and this is a big fat pig for wealthy people,” state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, said. “The mere notion that we’re doing this to save jobs is a joke.”

As has been said here repeatedly, little will change for most Texans when it comes to taxes until the wealthy and big business pay their fair share. And that won’t happen until we have a state income tax.

04.30.15

Acting Irresponsibly

Posted in 84th Legislature, Taxes, The Economy at 3:57 pm by wcnews

tax cuts cartoon_

In case you haven’t heard the economic numbers in Texas are starting to turn sour.  The so-called “Texas Miracle” is starting to look like it was just another oil boom/bust cycle. Texas manufacturing slips again as oil and gas orders disappear.

Texas manufacturing slipped again in April as the oil bust continues to wreak havoc on factories that supply machinery and equipment to the energy industry, according to responses to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’s monthly survey.

The production index, a key measure of the manufacturing conditions, remained in negative territory for the second month in a row, with three out of 10 executives reporting seeing production fall between March and April, according to a survey of 108 Texas manufacturers in mid-April. Executives were asked to say whether employment, orders, prices and other business activity had changed in the past month.

Manufacturers continued to be pessimistic about future business conditions, with the company outlook index tumbling to its lowest reading in nearly 2.5 years, according to results. Fabricated metal factories appear hardest hit, with executives complaining about a total slowdown in business from the industry.

“Our oil and gas customers have come to a complete stop,” one fabricated metal manufacturing executive wrote. The comments are kept anonymous to foster candid responses. “It looks like everyone in the industry is digging in for a long-term trough.”

Gone are the expectations for a rapid rebound, which analysts sometimes refer to as a “V-shaped” recovery because of the way it appears on a chart. Predicting a prolonged period of distress, one executive wrote that recovery now looks like “a bathtub with a large drain at one end that will take some suppliers down.” [Emphasis added]

R.G. Ratcliffe puts in context just how irresponsible the tax cuts being discussed in The Lege are, An Unstable Economy Is Not the Time for Tax Cuts.

Property tax appraisals going out around Texas right now likely will give a boost to the Senate’s property tax cut proposals over the House plan for sales tax cuts. But a look at some of the appraisals show the Senate plan is too little to make a real difference to homeowners in fast growth areas. And an honest look at the state of the state’s economy finds the House plan borders on fiscal irresponsibility rather than fiscal conservatism.

The Texas economy is poised for a contraction, and, with that, comes a major decline in state government revenues. This may not be the time for tax cuts..

In the post he goes through how invisible a property tax cut would be for most homeowners. How most of the benefits of these cuts will go to those who already pay too little, big business and the wealthy, and how as all signs point to Texas heading into a recession tax cuts are irresponsible.  He ends with this.

The real bottom line here is that tax cuts will not stimulate major new economic growth, only an increase in oil prices will do that. A property tax cut may taste good, but, for the homeowners who need a break the most, the Senate plan will just be empty calories. And with the short-term future of the Texas economy so uncertain, the House sales tax cuts look irresponsible. A good argument can be made against raising taxes during a recession to avoid budget cuts because the increase doesn’t go away when the economy rebounds. The same argument can be made against cutting taxes when times are flush, because the rate will not automatically increase when the money becomes short.

The truly responsible thing is for the Legislature to spend what it has in the best way possible for the state and put off any tax cuts until we know more about what the economy is doing.

We must understand the consequences in the future if taxes are cut now, Texas go into a recession, and we have a massive budget deficit in two years from now. Our current political leadership is only able to cut taxes and make cruel and immoral budget cuts. They’re unlikely to advocate for tax cuts when there is a budget deficit. Which only leaves cruel and immoral budget cuts.

04.28.15

141-0! Texas Democrats Making Themselves Irrelevant

Posted in 84th Legislature, Taxes at 8:57 pm by wcnews

goldsberry-texas-electoral-history-map

Not sure what more there is to say.

The House voted 141-0 for House Bill 31 by Ways and Means Chairman Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, which would cut the state sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 5.95 percent. If the bill reaches the governor’s desk, it would be the first cut in the state’s sales tax in Texas history.

Via Texas Forward:

In addition to a 25 percent cut to the franchise tax paid by businesses (HB 32), the House tax cut package includes a sales tax reduction of 0.3 percent (HB 31) – 40 percent of which would also benefit businesses.

But what about regular Texans? The sales tax cut would save the average Texan just $3.37 a month – not even enough for two gallons of gas.

Most families and businesses won’t notice a little extra pocket change each month, but together these proposals will cost Texas nearly $5 billion every two years in perpetuity – funding that could go a long way towards strengthening our public schools and colleges, or making other needed investments.

It’s hard to see, at this point, what Democrats will be able to run on in 2016 to show they’re different then Republicans on economic issues.

Bernie Sanders will give them some ideas.

04.21.15

The Tax Cut Debate

Posted in 84th Legislature, Around The State, Taxes at 8:26 am by wcnews

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The more I read about the tax cut debate in Texas the funnier it gets. The GOP right now has two competing tax cut proposals. We’ll call them the House plan (sales tax cut) and the Senate plan (property tax cut). They’re both offered as a reaction to the failed GOP tax swap scheme of 2006. Which provided little if any tax relief and actually created a structural deficit which lead to immoral tax cuts soon after.

Peggy Fikac puts it this way, Politics, policy collide over tax cut debate.

The last time lawmakers approved school property tax relief, then-Gov. Rick Perry ran ads promising a $2,000 cut for the average homeowner.

The angry calls from taxpayers who looked in vain for lower bills are still ringing in some lawmakers’ ears as they again work to reduce taxes. “They called us liars,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who wants to avoid property-tax promises and instead trim the state sales tax.

The problem for Bonnen’s approach lies across the Texas Capitol, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick already has led Senate passage of a larger homestead exemption from school property taxes.

The problem for Texans is that no one involved has their best interest in mind. Especially Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Patrick, who promised property tax relief on the campaign trail, shows no sign of budging.

“Property tax relief is No. 1 for me,” said Patrick. “Homeowners need relief.” [Emphasis added]

The battle puts legislative leaders at the intersection of policy and politics as they try to craft plans that make sense for the state, can be sold politically and carry clear implications for Republican leaders’ futures.

The GOP promised tax cuts and we’re doing to get them not matter the consequences.  There are problems for what the GOP is trying to accomplish. Texas is a low tax state for most of their campaign donors – the wealthy. Therefore it’s hard to show them a huge windfall when they’re already taxed at a low rate. Many of the GOP politicians seem hell bent on cutting property taxes for partisan political reasons.

It’s a tax break that is likely to disproportionately benefit the Republican base. And, therefore, I think it appeals to Republicans,” Henson said.

Republicans and Democrats who support property tax relief say they are responding to people who are under intense pressure from rising bills.

“The public has been crying out for property tax relief,” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston. “I have had no one cry out for sales tax relief.”

Political pressure for property tax relief is being exerted on the right.

JoAnn Fleming of Grassroots America said tea party voters – and voters in general – will look for alternative candidates if Abbott, Patrick and other officeholders do not keep their promises.

“Taxes are not something that people think is a comedy routine. They don’t think it’s funny when elected officials do a flip-flop on taxes,” she said. “We want to see property tax reductions.”

One of the problems they also face is the recent economic news, Texas’ employment decreased by 25,400 jobs in March. With this being the key takeaway, March report marks Texas’ first job loss in 53 months..

“Lower gasoline prices are a welcome idea, but people forget that they’re not a long-term supplement to spending,” Piegza said. “This economic recovery was built on energy jobs. Would you rather have a job or lower gasoline prices? It’s not apples to apples.”

For the first time this year, the state’s job losses were widespread, not just focused in oil and gas and manufacturing, said Orrenius. “Initially the lower oil prices had a concentrated impact, but now it’s spreading to the service sector and construction,” she said.

While the Texas economy is not likely to be affected as much by the oil shock as it was in the 80’s it will still an effect. And what looks to be starting to show is that the oil boom that fueled our economy for so many months is over and the effects are seeping into all areas of our economy. Which makes it a precarious time for budget writers and tax cutters.

I just wish there was a political party out there that would stand against these cuts and not be a wishy-washy supporter of something like what is being proposed.

Some senators have not ruled out a sales tax cut.

Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, said the state has created an over-reliance on property taxes and people are being squeezed as a result.

“I’m surprised that a sales tax cut is on the table because we’ve just never talked about it. And I’m pleased that we’re talking about it,” he said.

There is a way to significantly cut property and/or sales taxes and make the state’s tax system fair and equitable.  It’s called a state income tax.  What Texans needs are politicians and a party that would point out that alternative.

It’s now being said that Lt. Gov. Patrick may force a special session over his stubbornness over the property tax cut.  It’s too early to start worrying about that, but it’s not unlikely.

04.16.15

Tax Cuts Today = Cruel Budget Cuts Later

Posted in Around The State, Taxes, The Budget at 1:08 pm by wcnews

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Tax cuts today equal cruel budget cuts later. That’s the message from 25 groups to The Lege.  Here’s the letter from Texas Forward.

Over 25 Groups Warn Legislature Tax Plan Could Cause More School & Health Cuts

Letter Says Huge Tax Cuts Put Children and Families One Economic Slowdown Away from 2011-Style Budget Cuts

Peggy Fikac has more.

The groups recalled billions of dollars worth of cuts to public education and other programs that occurred during tough economic times in 2011, when then-state comptroller Susan Combs issued an erroneously low revenue estimate.

The group said in their letter that they are “concerned that the nearly $5 billion tax cut proposals you are currently considering would place the state on a path to the kind of deep, harmful cuts to basic services that were enacted in 2011…. Texas must be prepared for the natural ups and downs of the economy, particularly today as sales tax growth slows and oil prices remain low.”

Unless the tax cuts are temporary, or the rainy day fund is made available, “the next economic downturn will leave Texas without the revenue necessary to meet the needs of our growing state and risk another round of deep cuts to basic services,” the groups said.

Backers of the tax cuts have said Texas has enough money to meet key priorities while still reducing levies, and that it’s appropriate to return money to taxpayers in relatively flush times.

The groups backing Monday’s letter include the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Austin Voices for Education and Youth, Center for Public Policy Priorities,
Children’s Defense Fund – Texas, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Coastal Bend Center for Independent Living, Foundation Communities, Grassroots Leadership
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter.

Also signing on to the letter are North Texas Job with Justice, Pastors for Texas Children, Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, San Antonio Nonprofit Council, SEIU- Texas, Texans Care for Children, Texas AFL-CIO, Texas AFT, Texas National Nurses Organizing Committee, Texas Organizing Project, Texas Public Interest Research Group, Texas State Employees Union, Texas State Teachers Association, Voices for Children of San Antonio and Workers Defense Project.

Let’s not forget that along with Combs’ bad budget estimate, the last GOP tax scheme, which created a structural deficit, made those cuts harsher as well.

04.14.15

When Cutting Is All You Know

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Taxes at 12:38 pm by wcnews

taxcuthomerimagesHere’s an analysis from Ross Ramsey on the Texas GOP’s inability to deal with the current budget situation, Analysis: Big Money, Little Ideas in Legislature.

You can make a perfectly reasonable argument for leaving the money alone, which is apparently what’s going to happen during this legislative session. But isn’t it strange that none of those statewide officials and legislators has come up with some fantastic scheme for all that cash? No big dreams? It could be a genuinely big tax cut, a transportation plan, funding for more water projects or public schools, or whatever.

The lack of such a plan is a tiny piece of evidence that none of the people serving in Texas government really wants to write a chapter in the history books. Method, motive and opportunity — all of the elements of crime and government — are present here.

I think he’s wrong. The GOP does have a “fantastic scheme for all that cash“, that at this point seems likely to pass, and will cause Texas huge problems in the future.

The problem the GOP will have in the long run with these tax cuts will far out weigh any success.  The tax cut to average, non wealthy, Texans will be negligible at best.  While the problems caused because of them will be easy for all to see.

The GOP, as it is currently run in Texas, is incapable of using the current budget conditions to set Texas on a road to long term success.  They see government as the problem and cannot fathom a way to use government to help Texans.

 

04.06.15

The Texas Way – The More You Make The Less You Pay, The Less You Make The More You Pay

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Inequality, Taxes, The Budget at 11:26 am by wcnews

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Last week the Texas House passed their version of a budget. There’s been quite a bit of ink and bytes spilled on, as Kuff calls it, “..a moment that would be worthy of the Daily Show and the kind of viral mockery”.

But the true derision should be saved for the kind of immoral legislating that the Texas GOP craves. Via the CPPP, Texas House Budget: The Day After.

Lost in the shuffle are the dozens of missed opportunities that lawmakers had to recommend smart investments that would have moved us closer to a Texas where everyone is healthy, well-educated, and financially secure.

Failing to add General Revenue outright – and not just in Article XI – for everything from Pre-K to child protective services means that it’s the people of Texas who will lose out. And it’s clear from early drafts that the Texas Senate’s draft budget will do even less in most areas to invest in Texas’ future.

I was struck by the repeated assertions by House leaders that – as important as some of the proposed amendments were – there was simply not enough money available to fund them. Well, when you reserve billions for unspecified tax cuts, make a half a billion dollars for border security “off limits,” and leave unspent $2 billion of available revenue beneath the arbitrary spending cap, then it’s easy to claim there’s not enough money. And there’s still another $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund that House leaders are choosing not to invest.

The House budget emerged from the floor debate without accounting for cost increases in health and human services, fully restoring state aid for public education or other things a more responsible budget would do. Tuesday night was a long and sleep-deprived evening for those of us who followed the House budget debate. But it’s the missed opportunities that won’t let us rest easy in the weeks ahead — not as long as there’s still a chance to improve the final outcome.

There is certainly enough money in the budget to take care of the needs of Texans. And, as this report shows, the last thing we need are tax cuts for the wealthy in this state, Who Pays Taxes in Texas?

..households with income less than $34,161 pay almost four times as much in taxes as a percentage of income, than households with income over $147,411. Which means that the Texas households that are least able to afford it pay more in taxes as a percentage of their income, than the Texas households that could easily afford to pay more.

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The more you make the less you pay, the less you make the more you pay, that’s the Texas way.

The budget and likely tax cuts will do nothing to change that slogan.  Texas will continue to shun Medicaid expansion, only making things worse for those who are not wealthy, no matter the cost to the state and local communities.

Do you know how many local jobs would be created in your county if Texas closed the health care Coverage Gap? It’s easy to find out with our new fact sheets for every county in Texas.

With the support of Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, we’ve created customized fact sheets that outline the economic and health benefits for county residents if Texas accepts federal funds to expand health care coverage.

In Harris County, for example, expanded health care coverage would create 60,000 new jobs per year and pump up to $935 million into the county economy. Data come from recent estimates by respected Texas and national experts, including the U.S. Census, economist Dr. Ray Perryman and former Texas Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton.

In Williamson County that would be 1,985 jobs, pump $76 million into the local economy, and cover 12,000 residents.

These numbers need to be pointed out. Not to shame our current elected leaders – that’s not possible – but to inform the public that there is an alternative.

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