I would encourage all of those who live in House District 20 and Senate District 5 to watch the video of GOP state legislators Marsha Farney and Charles Schwertner talking with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith. Farney, for a Republican from Williamson County sounds almost liberal when talking about public education, and the sense she speaks when discussing the voucher question, that Schwertner dodges. But Schwertner is way out there. It really showed when he started talking about Medicaid expansion. He refers our Federal Government as being broke, which is completely false, regularly refers (falsely) to it as insolvent, which is decades old BS. He regurgitated tired GOP talking points like “golden hand cuffs”, spoke about vague “solutions”, and spouted debunked statements about the “expansion group being a group of able-bodied, single, chilldless adults”. As if poor people who are able-bodied, single, and without children doen’t deserve health care. His indifference highlights the change that has occurred in our country over the last 40 or so years.
With state Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) announcing his retirement earlier in the week it has had a domino effect throughout Williamson County. Freshman tea party state in HD-20 Rep. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) is throwing his hat, and a lot of money, into the race. The other Williamson County freshman tea party state in HD-52 Rep. Larry Gonzalez (R-Round Rock) is going to stay put.
With Schwertner stepping down that leaves 2 open state House seats in Williamson County in 2010, (with the new HD 149 being an open seat as well). First-term State Board of Education (SBOE) District 10 member Marsha Farney will be running to replace Schwertner in HD-20, along with Jeff Fleece (who ran against Mark Strama in 2006). With Farney moving on that leaves SBOE District 10 as an open seat, it includes Williamson, part of Travis and several other counties.
Ogden’s retirement, and the resultant dominoes, creates several opportunities for getting some fresh faces elected in and around Williamson County. This past session saw the GOP dominated Texas legislature again put the burden of the budget shortfall on the backs of poor, working, and middle class Texans, while the GOP and their rich donors got off scot-free. Little will change in Texas and Williamson County if these races are allowed to be treated as if they were regal successions.
While Ogden was no moderate in the Senate, replacing him with Schwertner, would be like being represented by the likes of Michelle Bachmann, or worse, in the state Senate. He recently told the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce hat if it was up to him he would eliminate ALL social programs. He likely sees public education as a social program as well.
We need candidates to run that will put those of us who been left out of the debate for to long – poor, working and middle class Texans – first again. Candidates that will truly make education financing fair and the number one priority in Texas, because education is the best economic development ever created. Candidates that will vow to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – programs that keep the elderly and most vulnerable among us out of poverty – at all costs. We must have candidates that will show a contrast to the current crop of wealthy elected officials in Williamson County. This would be a good platform to run on, Rebuild the American Dream.
As the members of the Texas GOP in the House begin debating their new scheme to gut public education in Texas it’s important we understand why this must be done. Here’s the GOP’s line in the sand.
“I would love to give more money to schools, but the bottom line is we can’t spend money we don’t have, and we can’t raise taxes,” said Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford.
That summarizes the GOP’s priorities. They will do anything – gut public education, take away children’s health care (as they did in 2003), vote to end Medicare – to keep from making the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. That line is taken from this article in the Star-Telegram, Teacher groups say Texas GOP will pay price in 2012 for budget cuts.
Education is shaping up to be a dominant issue in the 2012 legislative elections as teachers and their allies begin seeking political retaliation for deep reductions in school financing and other measures perceived as unfriendly to educators.
“Cuts in education are going to be one of the biggest issues to be considered in the next election cycle,” said Lonnie Hollingsworth, director of governmental relations for the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.
His group will examine voting records and plan strategy to “get some teacher-friendly folks” elected, he said.
Ends huge giveaways to business, like the early filer tax break. Texas gave retailers a tax break of over $200M last year simply to file their sales tax on time. We gave them another $200M to file them early, and we gave another $65 million to businesses who pay their fuel taxes on time. There shouldn’t be such a huge reward for doing what you are supposed to do.
Eliminates the so-called “high cost” natural gas tax loophole. Texas gave away over $7.4 Billion in tax giveaways from 2004-09 to Natural gas producers who already profit in the billions, because their lobbyists have been able to maintain an antiquated definition of “high cost” gas in the code. From new drills established in 2009 alone, we will lose another $7.9B over the next 10 years.
This ‘tax incentive’ was created in 1989 to help companies with the costs of drilling high cost wells, which made sense then, but now virtually every new well produced is a so-called ‘high cost’ well. Mom and Pop producers are not getting this tax break, major oil companies are. One huge oil company saved $113.8 million in FY 2010, while reporting net profits of $4.6 billion. A subsidiary of another of the world’s largest oil companies saved $113.2 million.
Uses the Rainy Day Fund to spare cuts our kids, our seniors and our schools. Ellis’ SJR 2 allows for a majority vote to tap the Rainy Day Fund for education. The Rainy Day Fund was created for budget challenges exactly like we face today. And, because of rising oil and gas prices, the Rainy Day Fund balance is at least $6.3 billion; and growing. Even if the Texas economy does slow in future years, soaring oil and gas prices virtually guarantee the Rainy Day Fund will continue to grow. For instance, even as the Texas economy slumped, the Rainy Day Fund grew by 40 percent, from $6.7 billion in FY 2008 to $9.4 billion in FY 2012.
Addresses the structural deficit resulting from how the legislature paid for property tax cuts during the 2006 school finance debate. The business, or “margins tax,” simply did not raise enough revenue to offset property tax cuts and, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public accounts, will lead to a $10 billion shortfall every two years if we do not fix the tax. More businesses — not fewer — need to pay their fair share for Texas schools.
In 2006, then-Comptroller of Public Accounts Carole Keeton Strayhorn warned the legislature that the swap was completely out of balance. She called it “the largest hot check in Texas history:
“As the state’s chief fiscal officer, it is my responsibility to spell out exactly what the Perry Tax Plan means to our state’s fiscal integrity. As you have known since it was made public, your plan simply does not pay for itself. As of this moment, this legislation is a staggering $23 billion short of the funds needed to pay for the promised property tax cuts over the next five years.”
“It is far more important for us to get the budget done right than just get it done right now, said Ellis. “We’re ready to get to work and to work with the governor and those in charge.”
While the GOP’s scheme for school finance is horrible and all will get cut it hurts rural and poor school districts much harder then it does urban and rich school districts. Bill Grusendorf Executive Director of the Texas Association of Rural Schools had this to say about SB 1, the bill to be debated today (Via QR).
SB 1 in its current form would make uniform cuts to school districts regardless of whether that district is funded by the state at a very high or very low level. It could underfund schools in years when the state’s estimates of enrollment growth or property values are inaccurate – something school districts have no control over. And it will establish a Regular Program Adjustment Factor that would, for the first time, set school funding levels in the appropriations bill conference committee rather than going through the more transparent and publicly accessible legislative process.
SB 1 in its current form is a threat to rural Texas, and that endangers us all.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the GOP is again using class warfare, that’s what they do. Let’s hope that dome of the rural Republicans wake up before it’s too late. Via Harvey Kronberg at the Quorum Report on the injustices in the current bill.
To state it more bluntly, schools are at the center of most rural communities and are often the largest employers.. Friday night football is a metaphor for the glue that public schools offer in holding folks together.
Its not all rural communities that get dinged. Nor are all urban and suburban communities exempted from the worst of the pain.
The point of the conversations we hear is that the distribution of the pain is too unevenly distributed—the difference between winners and losers too stark. Absent a compelling amendment, enough votes may be drifting away to put the outcome on the floor in question.
Here’s what the TCTA is saying about SB 1 and several other bills on today’s House calendar.
Although TCTA has focused heavily on the deregulation bills that are scheduled for House consideration Thursday (HBs 18, 19, 20 and 21), SB 1, which is also on Thursday’s House calendar, is crucial legislation. SB 1 contains the school finance reform necessary to accommodate the significant per-student reductions in school funding, but as legislators have viewed the individual impact on the school districts they represent, concern has grown. Some House members are unhappy about the overall loss of funding, and will likely not vote for any school finance bill unless more money is put into the system. Others, particularly in rural areas, believe that the cuts are unequally distributed and have a particularly strong impact on their districts. Passage of SB 1, or similar legislation, during this 30-day special session is a “must”; failure would almost certainly force another special session. Because SB 1 is comprehensive legislation (it addresses many fiscal issues aside from school funding), we expect to see a large number of amendments attempted on the floor, resulting in hours of deliberation on this bill. We will update this page throughout Thursday as developments on SB 1 and the deregulation bills warrant.
Texas AFT has all the information on how to get in touch with your elected officials.
The latest word is that SB 1 is far from a done deal. Call your state rep on Texas AFT’s toll-free line: 1-888-836-8368.
Education is the great equalizer in a democracy. In Texas it is a right. It’s time our elected representatives stood up for the rights of Texans. And if the rich and corporations have to pay more taxes because of that then so be it. Democracy has a price.
The Show goes on. Today the Texas House is set to begin the 82nd Legislatures first serious debate, out in the open, debate of the budget for th 2012-2013 biennium. It’s likely to last into, if not through, the weekend. Kuff asks a question that was the impetus for the post below this one, What was this past election about? The last election was for many people, who did and did not vote, about jobs. But, unfortunately, for most that did vote it was about something else.
I don’t know how the campaigns actually went in most House districts. There wasn’t a competitive race in mine, so the vast majority of what I saw that an average voter would have seen came from the Governor’s race, where the Republican message was basically “Texas rulz, Obama droolz”. Rick Perry certainly didn’t campaign on the need to slash the budget in Texas. Sure, he talked at length about out of control spending, but that was always clearly in the context of talking about Washington and Obama and the Democratic Congress. I realize I’m Monday morning quarterbacking to an extent here, but does anyone disagree with the claim that Rick Perry has basically been running a nonstop anti-Washington campaign for about two years now? Does anyone disagree that the 2010 election was all about the anti-Obama vote coming out in force, abetted by a weak economy and a heaping measure of anti-immigrant sentiment?
Looking over the two candidate issue pages for the two current state representatives in Williamson County, (Larry Gonzales and Charles Schwertner), there were some similarities and differences. The biggest similarity was that neither one of them spoke of gutting funding for public education, nursing homes, health care, and mental health – the least among us. Gonzalez being in a more competitive race, where dispirited Obama voters stayed home, did little to rile them up and largely left Obama out of it. Mostly he just blew the GOP’s “liberal” dog whistle as often as possible which was paid for by Bob Perry. Why he even had this to say about education back then, going so far as to quote the father of the Democratic Party.
Larry knows that education is not only the ticket to a successful future but — as Jefferson believed — the only true way to preserve our democracy. A great public education is a critical first step to a successful career in our modern economy. More and more, a college degree is also required. That’s why Larry is dedicated to providing a world-class education to our K-12 children, but also to finding ways to expand the opportunity for a college education to as many Texans as possible.
Schwertner, on the other hand, not having an opponent was able to go full wing-nut. His campaign was all about Obama, cutting taxes, and protecting tax loopholes for businesses. Neither on of them campaigned on the morally bankrupt policies that Schwertner voted to pass out of the Appropriations Committee. Nor did they campaign on the budget that’s likely pass through the House that will cause massive job loss in Texas. The last election was about national discontent, trickling-down to the local level. But Texas’ budget this session, unlike 2009, will have to be balanced without the help of the federal government.
Much of what you will see over the next several days will be more of what EOW calls The Show. It is at the heart an attempt to bring political cover to the GOP leadership in the Lege for what they will eventually have to be done.
Once The Show is over, the RDF will be used. Fees and taxes, will be raised. Cuts will have been made too. But before this can be agreed upon, we must sit through The Show.
Political cover is what The Show is all about. What Ogden said in that recent talk show appearance likely still holds for the coming budget. All Perry and the wing nuts need is several months of Op-Eds, blog posts, TV and newspaper stories, etc… to highlight how bad things will be if a “cuts only” budget is passed. Then, and only then, will Perry and the wing nuts begrudgingly accept “reality” and do what they knew they were going to to months before.
It’s unlikely the budget will be resolved in the regular session. What is likely to happen is that the shortfall number will be reduced even further, it currently stands at $23 billion, down from $27 billion. Money will be added from new taxes and fees, ending unfair tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, and likely an increased revenue estimate from the Comptroller by the Summer.
This is just the next step in a process that will last for a few more months.
In HD-20 of the three viable candidates – Dr. Charles Schwertner, Milton Rister, and Stephen Thomas – Schwertner was the only one who didn’t receive large contributions from GOP Sugar Daddy Bob Perry. He self-financed his campaign. And for that reason he was probably the best of the bunch. At least he’s not beholden to a fat cat donor or special interest.
Round Rock Democrat Diana Maldonado is going to have to wait a little while longer to see who her Republican opponent is going to be in the House District 52 race.
With all GOP primary votes counted by 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, John Gordon and Larry Gonzales are headed for an April 13 runoff.
Throughout the primary campaign [John] Gordon, 63, touted his long history of involvement with Williamson County and the Republican Party. On Tuesday night he said voters recognized that experience and it paid of for him at the ballot box.
[Larry] Gonzales, 39, is a Round Rock resident and owner of Lazarus Graphics. He’s making his first run at elected office but, like Gordon, has previously worked as a behind-the scenes political foot soldier.
Other than the age difference between the two candidates this race sets up a lot like the run off in 2008. Gordon, like Dee Hobbs in 2008, is a long time Williamson County resident with deep roots here. He is also largely self-funding his campaign like Schwertner. Gonzales, like Bryan Daniel, is the slick newcomer to the county who is favored by the statewide money – with ties to the Perry’s, Bob and Rick, and the deposed Craddick faction in the Texas House.
According to the eight day out reports, home builder and right-wing sugar daddy Bob Perry is making his presence known, contributing a total of $95,000 to his candidates in two local House GOP primary races. The largest single political donor in Texas tapped Larry Gonzales and Milton Rister for largess as they seek the Republican nominations for House districts 52 and 20.
In HD-52 it looks like a two candidate race between Larry Gonzales and John Gordon. Gonzales in the current filing raised over $83,000, $70,000 of that from Bob Perry ($40,000) and his wife Doylene ($30,000). Gordon is largely self-financing his campaign and spent just shy of $48,000 over the last filing period. The two other candidates, Alyssa Eacono (raised $7,000/spent $16,000) and Stephen Casey (raised $1,200/spent $2,300), are lagging behind in the money race.
In HD-20 there are three candidates spending and raising significant money – Milton Rister, Dr. Charles Schwertner, and Stephen Thomas.
Milton Rister raised just over $46,000 this filing period. Perry gave him $25,000 of that. Also giving to Rister were former GOP candidate for Governor Clayton Williams ($10,000), James Leininger ($2,500), and a variety of Oil interests – KOCHPAC ($1,000), Conoco Phillips ($1,500), and Chevron ($1,000).
Looks like a race between Sun City and Cedar Park. Virtually no mention of other parts of the district by the candidates, Milam County in particular. With those being the two largest voting centers of HD-20 that’s where the candidates are focusing there attention.
It’s fun to speculate as to why Dan Gattis really decided not to run for the Texas Senate, and why, (or if), Steve Ogden will run again, and there is quite a bit to speculate about. From Burka alone today we learn that Gattis, who once aspired to the Presidency of these United States of America, has dropped out of the SD 5 race because a wing-nut scared him out of the race.
An amazing development. Gattis has spoken openly of his desire to be president of the United States some day. Now he is out of politics, not even running for reelection to the House. It’s a double whammy, a talented member gone and the dreadful Milton Rister as a possible successor.
Gattis had a very active opponent in Ben Bius, of Walker County (Huntsville). The Bius camp contends that the real reason Gattis dropped out was that the race was not going well for him, that they had knocked on 15,000 doors in Williamson County, that they had been running radio spots for several weeks, that Gattis was having trouble raising money from business interests that didn’t like his support for legislation backed by trial lawyers. They were getting ready to send out a mailer slamming Gattis for offering what they claim is a state “public option” for health insurance, HB 2470, which established the Texas Mutual Health Benefit Plan Company.
That this is all Kay Bailey Hutchison’s fault:
This is more fallout from Hutchison’s decision not to resign her Senate seat. It is safe to conclude that Ogden would not run for the Senate again if he were not confident of retaining the chairmanship of Senate Finance. He can have that confidence only he knows that Dewhurst will remain as light gov and not run for Hutchison’s seat if and when she were to resign. Indeed, the purveyors of the conventional wisdom around the Capitol believe that she will serve out her term to the bitter end, December 31, 2012.
Did Ogden get pressure from Brazos County leaders to run? There were indications that the folks in Bryan were none too happy at the prospect that the district would be represented by someone from Williamson County. Brazos County would be unlikely to get the seat back anytime soon. It is not growing relative to the state’s growth. Williamson County is.
If Ogden does not run, Williamson County will find someone else to do so. Rumors are swirling around that former Round Rock Mayor Nyle Maxwell, who can self-finance, is being asked to consider it. Several other elected officials are also putting out feelers
Everyone in HD-20 should read the comments to the AAS blog post yesterday where some sniping between the Rister and Thomas “supporters” broke out. Gattis’ move leaves many puzzled and rightfully so. For such an up-and-coming politician to just quit is a surprise. It’s equally surprising that Gattis won’t run in HD-20, and will be out of politics for now. When I first saw that he was dropping out of the SD 5 race, I was almost certain he would go back to the HD-20 race. No matter, it would be great to get a Democrat in this race, to run against the winner of the ideological purity test/primary, on the GOP side in HD-20.
The boildown is that Gattis regards Ogden as the only man with the financial know-how to fix the state budget with the anticipated 2011 deficit. Actually, there should probably be more probing of exactly how culpable the four-time Senate Finance chair is in creating that deficit. The Texas state budget is already in a structural deficit that Ogden et al papered over with federal stimulus money (thereby negating any stimulative effects). Ogden was Finance boss when the abortive business franchise tax reforms were passed in 2006. He’s also helped further institutionalize fund diversions (the legislative term for robbing Peter to pay Paul), which tax watchdogs like the Texas Taxpayers and Research Associationoppose for disguising real need and real state spending, but that he has defended.
Ogden surely has some chinks in his armor and anyone running against him, in a primary or general election, can surely attack him as not wanting the job anymore. It would take more than that to keep him from winning, but a good candidate with an adequate amount of money and who knows? But what if Ogden doesn’t run? It would then setup an interesting race without a clear front runner – a truly open seat. While SD 5 is still a district that leans Republican, a Democrat in the mold of Hank Gilbert would have a fighting chance in SD-5. Especially with the Texas GOP, and GOP throughout SD 5, looking more disorganized and disunited than it has in quite some time.
And that disarray is one of the main problems facing the Texas GOP in the 2010 cycle. Another issue they have, that’s not getting much notice, is that they will be running the same three candidates at the top of the ballot that for the third straight election cycle – Perry, Dewhurst, and Abbott. When Texans ask themselves if they’re better off than they were 8 years ago, and come to the conclusion they aren’t, they won’t be comfortable voting for these three again.
[UPDATE]: There has still been no official word from Ogden that he will run again in SD 5. Ben Bius has not dropped out. So at this time, 5 PM Central, Bius is the only announced candidate in the SD 5 race. Of course that can change very quickly.
Via Quorum Report, Gattis Withdrawing From Senate Race, Ogden To Run For Re-Election.
Gattis may also be retiring from House seat
Although we have not been able to speak to any of the parties directly, Quorum Report has learned that State Rep. Dan Gattis will not file for Senate District 5. As a result, incumbent Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) will run for re-election one more time.
It also appears that Gattis will not seek re-election to his House seat either.
An announcement is expected tomorrow.
Ogden changing his mind on his retirement is a big development. As is Gattis not jumping back into his HD-20 seat. No word on Ben Bius yet, but this all seems more than a little odd. The way the QR blurb above is worded makes it sound like this was driven by Gattis dropping out of the SD 5 race. And not wanting the district to go to Bius, Ogden will “take one for the team” and run again. Whatever the back story, it’s definitely an interesting development.
[UPDATE]: Via the AAS. Has more on why this may be happening.
Gattis, who has three small children, has found that running in the Senate district has caused him to spend considerable time away from his family and his law practice. With Ogden having announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election, Gattis has had numerous conversations with him in recent months about the Senate district, hoping to secure Ogden’s endorsement. The source said that out of those discussions grew a conversation about Gattis not running and Ogden stepping back in.
Ogden did not initiate conversations about stepping back in, the source said. But with the state facing a budget shortfall of more than $10 billion in the 2011 legislative session, there was talk that the times fit with Ogden’s skills. Ogden has chaired the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee during the last three sessions.
Gattis won’t rule out another run for office. Every seat in the House and Senate is up for re-election in 2012, after legislative districts are drawn. With Williamson County growing quickly, it’s possible that the Senate seat will be more compact, making it easier for Gattis to run. However, the source said Ogden and Gattis have made no deal about who will and won’t run in 2012
Let’s call them reason 1 (Gattis’ family considerations and law firm) and reason 2 (Ogden’s experience in tough times). As far a reason one is concerned, it’s hard to believe that Gattis would be so ignorant and naive about a job he’s been coveting for years. Reason 2 is more believable, but it’s hard to believe that someone like Gattis, with big aspirations would want to willingly sit on the sidelines for 4 years. Just seems like there might be another shoe waiting to drop in this story.
On the GOP side there are now three announced candidates to replace Dan Gattis, Jr. on the ballot. Today Stephen Thomas and Georgetown physician Charles Schwertner announced that they will run in the GOP primary in March, joining Milton Rister who announced last month. No one has announce yet on for the Democrats.