03.31.06

Jim Stauber – Working For The People

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:41 pm by wcnews

Candidate for State House Blasts “Phantom Home Tax

Stauber cites unfair appraisal method for ranch, farm, and wildlife property

Jim Stauber, Democratic candidate for State House Rep., Dist 20, recently voiced his strong opposition to a little known property tax affecting approximately 1,700 Williamson County landowners. The appraisal method, which primarily affects owners of ranch land, farm land, and wildlife property, designates as a home site one acre of the appraised property, which can then be taxed at a higher rate. This designation is assigned EVEN IF NO HOME OR INFRASTRUCTURE HAS ACTUALLY BEEN BUILT ON THE SITE.

“I call it the ‘phantom home tax’”, said Stauber in a prepared statement. “The WCAD assesses values of anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000 for the one acre home site, then taxes it accordingly. It’s like paying a car registration fee because you own a driveway”.

Over the last few months, Stauber has attended meetings across the county where landowners have expressed their anger and frustration over the appraisal method.

“This is costing the land owners of Williamson County an average of $600 a year. Our property taxes are high enough without these types of backdoor methods taking more money out the pockets of our county residents”, said Stauber. “Williamson County is the only county in Texas that practices this unfair tax system. We need a tax system that is fair and equitable. As State Representative, I’ll use whatever influence I can bring to bear to end these unfair taxes”.

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The DeLay/Abramoff Taint Hits Rep.John Carter

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:20 pm by wcnews

Here’s the link, Texans received contributions from convicted DeLay aide, thanks to Capitol Annex.

The guilty plea Friday by a former aide to Tom DeLay in a federal bribery and lobbying probe started another round of politicians shedding tainted contributions.

At least three Texas members of Congress received contributions from Tony Rudy, DeLay’s former deputy chief of staff. Rudy admitted to conspiring with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff while working for DeLay, R-Sugar Land, and when he became a lobbyist.

There is no allegation that DeLay did anything wrong.

Rudy contributed $3,000 to DeLay, $1,000 to Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, and $500 to Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound.

Carter gave the equivalent of his contribution to Agape Pregnancy Resource Center in Round Rock on March 15, as things began to look more grim for Rudy, said Carter spokeswoman Amy Swanstrom on Friday.

“U.S. Rep. Carter wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety, so he decided to give away all money that could be connected to Abramoff in any way,” Swanstrom said. An official at the center said she had no information about the contribution and could not discuss donor information.

This really shouldn’t surprise anyone. It is, of course, common knowledge how close Rep. Carter and Rep. DeLay are, here, here and here.

The 65% Distraction

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:24 pm by wcnews

Gov. Perry’s “65% Rule” or “Ruse” as I like to call it takes another hit, The 65% Solution: A Distraction From Real Reforms. This time from Nathan Newman the Policy Director at the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN).

For another example, take the annual “Report Cards” issued to states by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which invariably seems to argue that more spending for poor districts is useless and vouchers would be a better alternative. The author of the 2005 report, Andrew LeFevre, has no serious education training and his background is as a public relations flack for the private prison industry. Unsurprisingly, his work is misleading and ignores studies by federal agencies, the U.S. Congress, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities which all emphasize that while funding isn’t all that is needed for schools, more money is crucial for students in poor districts to thrive. The story is no different at other prominent rightwing think tanks writing about education. The recently launched Think Tank Review Project at Arizona State University was created to get a handle on misleading and politicized think tank research by “education scholars” at conservative organizations like the Cato Institute, Friedman Foundation, Hoover Institution, and the Manhattan Institute. Maybe if the policy debate wasn’t being dominated by such corporate-backed policy outfits, we could actually have a debate on the reforms that would help our children: expanding early childhood education, more equitable funding for poorer districts, better retention of good teachers, and accountability that amounts to more than a mandate to “teach to the test.” Slapping down the 65% Distraction in the states where it is being proposed is the first step in getting back to a discussion of real reforms for our schools.

Here is the text of a resolution passed at our county convention last week on this topic:

WHEREAS Governor Rick Perry, after legislators failed in repeated attempts to pass school finance measures during 2005, in August ordered school districts in Texas spend 65 percent of their budgets on instruction. Though Perry’s order failed to fully define what expenses are classified as instruction, teacher salaries and athletic expenses are included; however money for counselors, librarians, transportation, nutrition or administrative salaries is not. Most Texas school districts wouldn’t meet the standard now. There are 1,041 school districts in Texas, no two alike.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the Texas Democratic Party opposes this power grab by the Governor, requests an immediate withdrawal of the order, and demands our state government pass meaningful reforms that assure all our children have an opportunity to obtain a quality education.

OTG Digs Up Dr. Dirt

Posted in Adminisphere, Uncategorized at 3:59 pm by wcnews

This article yesterday from G. Selby at the AAS on one George Shipley, aka, Dr. Dirt was pretty humorous. Mr. Shipley was at one time a pretty hot commodity for the Democrats in Texas, a Karl Rove type shall we say. The article goes on to say that he has changed his ways, and his nickname (Mr. Clean, I guess?), and gone to work for OTG.This leads to the question we all want the answer to, what good is he to OTG’s campaign if he’s cleaned up his act? Are we supposed to believe that a former smear merchant has been hired in the middle of a bloody race to come in and give “nice advice”?

Shipley, 59, insists that this round, he won’t churn gunk on opponents. “I’m past that in my life; I’ve changed,” he said. He adds, “I no longer count myself as an insider,” a statement hard to swallow. Shipley dealing himself out of the loop is like Texans forsaking iced tea and football.

He and OTG go way back and he’s responsible for her becoming Mayor of Austin back in the ’70s and all the pain that caused. The end of the article devolves into petty name calling by Mr. Shipley, the previously renounced Dr. Dirt remember, of former colleagues and current consultants. Mr. Selby does leave Gov. Perry and his campaign out of this article, and above the fray for some reason. But he does add this one little nugget that had slipped my mind. It needs to be put back into the consciousness for all Democrats and Independents out there that are thinking of voting for OTG:

…Bell’s fundraising has improved, and his campaign will give Democratic voters sticky reasons to doubt Strayhorn, such as her 2001 vote for new Texas House districts that helped Republicans capture the House and Tom Craddick become speaker. “We’re going to continue to pull the curtain back on her.”

That right there should be enough to keep any Democrat from voting for her. The Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB) decided redistricting in Texas last time around because the legislature couldn’t. That’s right, when she had a chance to show her independence, and do what was right for Texas, and side with two well respected Texas leaders (Pete Laney and Bill Ratliff), she instead decided to side with the likes of David Dewhurst and John Cornyn.

This is just another stunt by OTG to bring in washed up or washed out Democratic Party people, add him to Ben Barnes and Tony Sanchez, to make her palatable to Democrats.

Local TTRC Reaction & More

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:49 pm by wcnews

Karen Felthauser’s reaction:

This looks like a typical Republican plan. It doesn’t do anything more for the schools and gives the biggest breaks to the richest Texans. It utilizes a one time supply of surplus money instead of finding a viable long-term solution to education funding. Just as our current system is not based on ability to pay the proposed new business tax is not based on ability to pay either. Gross receipts is no way to tax fairly. Net receipts would make more sense. Then you wouldn’t write off cost of goods OR cost of employees. BOTH things are expenses to businesses and any business tax should be based on net income, not gross income

- Karen Felthauser, Democratic candidate, HD-52

Jim Stauber’s reaction:

This is just a Republican band-aid. Perry’s plan does not solve the whole problem, it’s a temporary fix. The legislature must find a long term solution to public school financing. Taxing businesses is a start but they must do it right. Tax them on net receipts & quit giving huge tax breaks to bribe businesses to relocate or to stay in Texas. Education is Texas biggest business & our future depends on well educated people.

-Jim Stauber, Democratic Party candidate for State House Rep. District #20

Mike Krusee’s reaction to the crony commission’s plan:

‘I support it. I think it’s fair to all taxpayers and provides the best opportunity for a long-term solution.’

- Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County

Click on “read the rest of this entry” to see reaction from the TFT and, if trouble is brewing in the Senate.

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The I Word

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:01 am by wcnews

I will dip into the immigration debate and do it with one of the best articles I’ve seen on this issue so far, Today’s Immigration Battle – Corporatists vs. Racists (and Labor is Left Behind). I recommend reading the whole thing. It’s written by Thom Hartmann and it, in my opinion, lays out what is going on and has a great historical perspective. This is a fight between the greedy and the racists:

The corporatist Republicans (“amnesty!”) are fighting with the racist Republicans (“fence!”), and it provides an opportunity for progressives to step forward with a clear solution to the immigration problem facing America.

Both the corporatists and the racists are fond of the mantra, “There are some jobs Americans won’t do.” It’s a lie.

Americans will do virtually any job if they’re paid a decent wage. This isn’t about immigration – it’s about economics. Industry and agriculture won’t collapse without illegal labor, but the middle class is being crushed by it.

The reason why thirty years ago United Farm Workers’ Union (UFW) founder Caesar Chávez fought against illegal immigration, and the UFW turned in illegals during his tenure as president, was because Chávez, like progressives since the 1870s, understood the simple reality that labor rises and falls in price as a function of availability.

It takes both sides to task:

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03.30.06

Mary Beth Harrell Was In Stephenville Yesterday

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:11 pm by wcnews

Here’s the article from the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, Harrell sets sights on defeating Carter:

.“I can’t buy this election, so I’m making it my mission to meet as many folks as I can,” Harrell said. “I am learning the issues and concerns facing the citizens of Erath County so that when I get to Congress, I can better serve them.”

[...]

Harrell, whose husband retired from the army after 23 years of service, has two grown sons currently serving in the military. Her oldest son is on active duty in Iraq.

“Our boys would not choose to do anything other than serve our country,” Harrell said. “Being proud of the military and supporting the military is not an issue for my family.”

However, Harrell was outspoken in her criticism of the Bush administration for saying that U.S. troops could be stationed in Iraq for years to come. She said Congress needs to stop being a “rubber stamp.”

“When the president says we are going to be in Iraq for years and Congress does nothing but remain silent, that makes them part of the problem,” she said. “We need to have a better solution for the people in Iraq and for our soldiers. We need to build a peacekeeping coalition and it’s the job of Congress to help push that through. We can’t go it alone anymore.“

If elected, Harrell said her first priority would be to “get back to serving working class families.”

“I’m very distressed and disappointed that this Congress serves special interests and big corporations,” she said. “The rising prices in home heating and gasoline are not the result of inflation, they are the result of the bad decisions our elected officials are making. It’s a problem with deregulation and the fact that they (Congress) is beholden to big business.”

I recommend reading the whole thing. To get Mary Beth more press you might try writing a letter like this to your local paper:

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Karen Felthauser’s Campaign (HD-52) Gets Creative

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:39 am by wcnews

A post primary and county convention message from Karen Felthauser:

Hi All,
The primary election and the Williamson County Convention are over. The latter was well attended on March 25th with nearly 200 people present. We enjoyed many rousing speeches by our Democratic candidates.

The results in the Republican Primary were very encouraging for my campaign. Our District 52 Republican incumbent, Mike Krusee, drew a Republican opponent at the last minute who ran against him on a platform quite similar to mine, anti-tolls and pro-education. She was an unknown, with little time, little money and little press coverage and yet she drew 36% of the Republican Primary vote!

District 52 has a nearly 44% Democratic Performance Index. This means a Democrat who runs an average campaign can expect to garner 44% of the vote. I do not intend to run an ordinary campaign. I announced back in May and have been running hard ever since. Krusee is not representing Williamson County well. He has not supported Public Education and he has saddled us with toll roads, a commuter tax for our commuter community. His poor showing in the primary is just an indicator of things to come. We have a very good chance of winning the District 52 seat this year but I will need your help.

Visit our web site and sign up as a volunteer.

Look for opportunities to help our campaign in this newsletter!

Thanks,
Karen

Also check out these great opportunities to help out the campaign.

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Blackland Coalition Forum Follow-Up

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:14 am by wcnews

I’ve been meaning to tell the other side of Friday night’s forum in Seaton but with the county convention over the weekend and many other things going on this week I haven’t had time yet to get around to it. I received an e-mail this afternoon from another person who was there and after reading it, it was time.

From the Blackland Coalition’s Governor-Candidate Forum last Friday evening I’d like to add that in Strayhorn’s lively speech, she pledged her administration would be lean but not mean, then repeated that catch phrase a time or two afterward.

I have a Power Point Presentation from a Political Campaign Training in Austin this past March which covered Democratic Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who was running for that office back in 2002, as an example of good messaging. Throughout her run, she repeatedly declared, “In Michigan , I’ll lead, I’ll protect our families and educate our kids, I’ll hold corporations accountable and run a government that’s lean but not mean.”

Just as Barbara Samualson seemed to ‘borrow’ Karen Felthauser’s website issue statements in her primary opposition to Mike Krusee, it looks like Carol Strayhorn takes winning Democratic ideas for her own as well.

If you would post words to that effect on eyeonwilliamson I surely would appreciate it.

Of course none of this is a surprise. Ms. Carole has made a living out of switching (I’m a Democrat, no I’m a Republican), borrowing (as shown above) and just plain changing depending on which way the wind is blowing (I’m for vouchers, no I’m against them – I’m for toll roads, no I’m against them). The point here is that what is truly going on is that people’s family farms, their livelihoods, are at stake and they need to trust that the person they elect will actually do as they promised during the campaign.

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03.29.06

The Center for Public Policy Priorities’ Opinion On The TTRC Report

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:26 pm by wcnews

They have a different opinion (.pdf) than the media. (Be sure and check Capitol Annex and Off The Kuff for much more analysis.)

In our testimony to the commission, we outlined three criteria to judge any new tax system: 1) would it produce more revenue to meet critical needs; 2) would it be fairer to taxpayers by reducing regressivity, or at least not significantly increase regressivity; and 3) would it grow better over time than the system it replaced. On all three criteria, we have serious concerns about the commission’s final proposal.

First, the proposal is a net tax cut. We had urged a plan that increased revenue; the Governor had asked for a plan that was revenue neutral; but the commission delivered a plan that reduces revenue by using some of the so-called surplus in this biennium to replace property tax revenue.

[...]

Our present revenue system is inadequate to meet our needs. The commission’s plan makes it more so.

Second, the commission’s plan, contrary to early reports, is not less regressive than our current tax structure. Texas has the fifth most regressive tax system in the United States, meaning that those with less income pay a greater percentage of their income in state and local taxes than those with more income. Under the commission’s plan, every income group gets a tax cut, but that is because the plan reduces revenue, not because the plan reduces regressivity. Indeed, as the equity note shows, using the new business tax, along with some of the so-called surplus, to cut property taxes gives the biggest tax breaks to those with the highest incomes – actually increasing the regressivity of the Texas tax system, a step backwards for low- and middle-income Texans.

(As we shared with the commission, we have no objection to regressivity attributable to the cigarette tax because increasing cigarette taxes discourages smoking and is therefore good for public health. Indeed, we suggested that the commission seek a tax equity note that broke out the regressivity separately to isolate the effects of the cigarette tax.)

Third, we are concerned about whether this new tax base has the same growth potential as the property tax. We await a fiscal note that will indicate future revenue growth. It is unlikely, however, that the new tax will grow fast enough both to keep up with what the property tax would have produced and replace the revenue lost from the net tax reduction.

On the positive side, the commission may have designed the best business tax proposed to date. This new tax may be the basis for legislation during the upcoming special session that Texans can applaud. To draw applause, however, any proposal must 1) put more revenue on the table; 2) increase fairness, or at least not make things significantly worse; and 3) meet our future needs with growth that is equal to or greater than the growth from the property tax it replaces.

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