04.30.10

Insanity – Perry’s chickens coming home to roost

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Taxes at 9:33 am by wcnews

Businesses in Texas are facing higher taxes and the state will have to borrow money all because of a political ploy. Last year Texas Gov. Rick Perry and most in his party decided to leave half a billion ($500 million) on the table and state Sen. Ken Eltife (R-Tyler) points it out and calls Perry’s actions turning it down insane.

Lisa Falkenberg has more, Perry’s stimulus snub leads to higher taxes.

Sure, I’ve made this point before, but don’t take it from me this time.

Take it from Republican state Sen. Kevin Eltife. Or, even better, from Larry Temple, executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission.

Temple acknowledged Thursday to the Senate Committee on Economic Developmentthat Texas’ decision not to take $556 million in unemployment stimulus dollars directly led to higher taxes for business owners and more borrowing from the federal government to replenish the state’s broke unemployment trust fund.

[...]

Here’s some of what Eltife had to say:

“It was insane for the state of Texas not to take that half a billion dollars in free money from the federal government to put in that unemployment fund. There are a lot of people talk about strings attached. Every federal stimulus dollar we’ve heard about today had a string attached. Every one of them had a requirement. We took 10 to12 billion dollars all with strings attached and we didn’t say a word about it. But that last half a billion that we failed to take has increased the tax burden on small businesses in the state of Texas. There are (SIC) no way around it. There are organizations out there that want to spin it differently every time the subject comes up and they are flat wrong. We should have taken that money.”

So, there you have it. Perry passed up half a billion so that he could score a few political points by appearing to thumb his nose at the Big Bad Feds and President Obama.

And now business owners, and unemployed Texans, are paying the price.

Gov. Perry used this as part of his plan to bolster his right flank heading into a tough primary with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. His playing politics with this money will now cost business all across the state.

04.29.10

Payback and plagiarism, oversight making SBOE look even worse

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Cronyism, Education, Election 2010, Had Enough Yet?, Public Schools, Right Wing Lies, SBOE, SBOE District 10 at 11:37 am by wcnews

One thing yesterday’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) hearing on the Texas State Borad of Education (SBOE) highlighted was, why the SBOE has been able to get away with mangling science and now social studies/history curriculum for Texas public schools. For the most part they’ve been able to operate below the radar and not held accountable for their actions. That changed yesterday when state Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer (D-San Antonio) held a hearing.

The first thing that came to light, even before the hearing started, was that the head of the SBOE didn’t want to show up, SBOE Chairwoman Gail Lowe Ducks Texas Lawmakers. Would Lowe have been subject to tough questioning? If having to come before legislators to defend the board’s recent actions is tough questioning, then the answer is yes. But to the average Texans it doesn’t seem like too much to ask for a governor’s appointee to show up, when asked, by elected leaders.

More than likely she was afraid she would let some truth slip out like Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott did, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott Describes SBOE Curriculum Changes As “Payback”.

Rick Perry appointee and Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott described the process involving the curriculum changes under consideration by the SBOE as “payback” while testifying at a hearing at the Texas State Capitol.

[...]

The first person to testify during the hearing was Robert Scott, Texas Education Commissioner. During his testimony, questions were raised about the curriculum process and why certain decisions were made. Scott responded to the questions by justifying the SBOE’s controversial changes as “payback.

I transcribed the key part from his testimony — video archive will be available after the hearing:

“One of the things, I think, that has been a problem in all of our deliberations regarding – whether it’s education or anything else – is that when you push out a particular group, and say we don’t care about you, when you push out, regardless of who that is, over time that creates a problem. And when the pendulum swings back, you know, there’s – whether you call it payback or a shifting in the alignment – I think that we need to be mindful as we deliberate to try to prevent the pushing out of any group, regardless of who they are. And that’s what I think this process needs to be about.”

Scott’s remarks are disgusting. Unequivocally disgusting.

Read the rest of this entry �

04.28.10

Unless we get serious all this talk about the deficit is worthless

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, Right Wing Lies, Taxes, The Budget at 1:31 pm by wcnews

What going on with deficit commissions and symposiums are are likely to amount to very little, if anything, Deficit Commisson’s Most Realistic Goal: Scaring The Hell Out Of Americans. As this article on the recent hysteria about the national debt shows the recent Presidential commission and gazillionaire symposium are more for show than anything else. Except to show that all the “smart” and rich people believe everything would be better if we’d just run another tax scheme on the poor and middle class.

According to Ezra Klein, the unelected man who is now in charge of stealing your social security, Pete Peterson, thinks maybe we should have a consumption tax and a carbon tax. Leaving aside the merits of these ideas and focusing purely on the politics, I’m always struck by the fact that Washington elites constantly imagine that they can sell Exciting New Taxes to the public while bumping up the top marginal income tax rate by half a percent or increasing the gas tax by a nickel are politically impossible. Obviously resistance to income tax increases by elites is there because they’d have to pay it, while most exciting new taxes are regressive. Still they also blather on about VMT taxes, because adding a whole new somewhat regressive tax is much more awesome than simply nudging up the gas tax.

And end social security and medicare as we know them, Deficit reduction: argument by authority.

Read the rest of this entry �

This time make sure TxDOT hears from you

Posted in Around The State, Good Stuff, Road Issues, Take Action, Transportation at 10:56 am by wcnews

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is asking for the public to cooperate with them in planning the Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan 2035. It will be finalized in 2011 and will be the blue print for the “multimodal statewide transportation” in Texas for the next 24 years. There will be 26 meetings around the state of Texas, (From El Paso to Beaumont, and from Amarillo to Pharr), May 4th – 16th. (click here for the complete list.)

TxDOT has taken heat, and deservedly so, during it’s undertaking of the Trans-Texas Corridor for not involving the public and affected areas in the planning process. It looks like they’ve learned from that, and good to see that this time they are making a point of involving the public from the beginning. Here area few excerpts fromTxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz words to the people of Texas:

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is currently updating the long-range, multimodal statewide transportation plan, and I would like to personally invite you to participate in its development.

[...]

The Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan 2035 is not a listing of projects (although it will include the project listing included in the Unified Transportation Program), but a “blueprint” for the planning process that will guide the collaborative efforts among TxDOT, local and regional decision-makers, and all transportation stakeholders to reach a consensus on needed transportation projects and services. This Plan requires a cooperative process among TxDOT, metropolitan areas, cities, counties, various public and private transportation organizations, and you – the traveling public.

[...]

I encourage you to participate in the planning efforts at both the state and local levels. We want to ensure that your voice is heard, and your ideas and concerns are taken into consideration as decisions are made with regard to your transportation system and the services you depend on for your quality of life. I invite you to provide written comments at an open house-style public meeting, by mail, or on the TxDOT website. Your input is essential to TxDOT’s ability to serve the citizens of and visitors to the State of Texas and to be responsive to your transportation needs.

All of us who complained now owe it to our state and TxDOT to get involved, one way or another, and be heard on the future transportation needs of our state.  Get involved or don’t complain in the future. There are many ways to get involved, via the TxDOT web site:

Get Involved

A few items

Posted in Around The State at 9:06 am by wcnews

It looks like the GOP Supreme Court runoff winner in Place 3, Violated Campaign Contribution Limits, according to a complaint filed by Texans for Public Justice.

Williamson County DA John Bradley has a new nickname, the virtuoso of the bureaucratic dawdle. And he loves secrecy.

To combat Bradley’s secrecy sign this petition to Urge Texas Forensic Science Commission to Hold Public Meetings in Todd Willingham Case.

04.27.10

Waking the sleeping giant

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Immigration at 10:43 pm by wcnews

Texas Gov. Rick Perry isn’t eager to address whether he’d support an immigration bill in Texas like the one that just passed in Arizona.  Via Burka:

When KHOU asked Perry’s spokesperson if [the governor] would support similar legislation in Texas, she said he couldn’t answer that question.

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to answer the question either if I were Perry. He doesn’t want to get anywhere near that question. It is potential dynamite in Texas. What happens if the grassroots of the Texas Republican party demands that Texas pass a similar law? What happens if the issue catches fire among Hispanics? The only real hope the Democrats have of winning a statewide race in the foreseeable future is for the sleeping giant of the Hispanic vote to awaken. That’s what Perry has to worry about, and that is why he has pretty much remained mum about the Arizona law.

No need to worry, GOP state Rep. Leo Berman’s got his back. He says he wants to bring pass the Arizona law in Texas next year. Via Latina Lista:

And it hasn’t even been a week since the bill was signed that now the first politician has declared he’s introducing legislation similar to the Arizona bill in his state legislature. The politician’s name is Leo Berman and he’s a Republican Representative from Tyler, Texas.

Berman is traveling in Europe at the moment but he instructed his aide to let the media know he has every intention of introducing immigration legislation comparable to the Arizona bill in January 2011.

According to the aide, Berman said his bill will be similar to the Arizona law, specifically the provision which requires local law enforcement agencies in the state to check the immigration status of individuals who they suspect of being in the United States illegally.

Talk about waking up a sleeping giant. If Berman carries out his promise, he won’t find much support among people who cherish their Constitutional rights, don’t like seeing anyone racially profiled and are particularly fed up with Texas leaders who lack respect for the history of Latinos in the state and would seek to further disparage Latinos on their own home turf.

If Berman thinks he can remotely achieve what was accomplished in Arizona then he doesn’t know Texas or the wrath of the Latino electorate.

Maybe he should go ahead and try to introduce a similar bill, because this may be what is needed to anger Texas Latinos enough that they will go to the polls in full force, unlike what has been seen before.

When that happens, no one who would attempt to politicize racial discrimination would stand a chance at being elected or re-elected.

This kind of legislation ruined the GOP in California, it will do it to the GOP in Arizona, will the Texas GOP follow suit?   Will they wake the sleeping giant?  Silence is consent Governor Perry.

Debate and taxes

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Election 2010 at 11:34 am by wcnews

We knew all along that Gov. Rick Perry was hyping Bill White’s tax returns for a reason.  We just weren’t sure what for and we never thought he would use it as a lame excuse to duck debating Bill White.  As BOR so aptly points out, 190 Days Until the Election and Rick Perry is Already Scared to Debate Bill White, he’s never taken issue with Dewhurst failing to release his tax returns, ever.

This has to be one of the most chicken-moves imaginable. The Perry campaign is terrified — absolutely terrified — of standing next to Bill White and defending their record. Perry already skipped out on all newspaper endorsement meetings in his primary race against Hutchison, knowing full well that his repetitive history of lies could not stand the scrutiny of their honest fact-checking and reasonable requests for responsible solutions.

It’s a cowards play, and a pretty weak one at that. Rick Perry thinks Bill White should release random tax returns from obscure years when he wasn’t running for statewide office — a standard that doesn’t measure up to what Perry himself has done. Moreover, Perry’s own Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst, has failed to release a single one of his tax returns.

Finally — Rick, if you think these damn tax returns are so important, why don’t you stand next to Bill White in front of a television camera and say so?

The answer is clear: Rick Perry is terrified to stand next to Bill White and defend his record.

More on this at Letters From Texas, Interoffice Memorandum to Governor Perry.

White’s campaign puts it in the proper perspective, it’s not Perry’s decision, via Elise Hu.

White’s team says the power lies in the sponsor’s hands. “It’s up to WFAA and Belo to decide the criteria. Rick Perry’s playing a political game here with WFAA,” said Katy Bacon, the White campaign’s spokesperson. “It’s their choice, not his choice. If Rick Perry doesn’t want to debate, he should just say so. As usual, he’s just playing politics instead of focusing on Texas and Texas’ future. This is his way of trying to avoid the debate.”

Schedule the debates and if Perry doesn’t show up that’s his choice.  I’m sure Burka will have a post up soon telling us why this is bad for White and good for Perry’s presidential aspirations in 2012.

Please don’t dew us like this

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Employment, Right Wing Lies at 10:31 am by wcnews

In today’s AAS Laylan Copelin has a great article, Is state jobs program luring employers?, which sheds light on Lt. Gov. David Dewhursts plan that gives money to businesses to hire unemployed Texans. The idea is for the state to give businesses, that wasn’t planning on hiring new employees, a $2,000 incentive to hire new employees. But in many cases it’s just allowing business to, in essence, scam the tax payers out of $2,000 for hiring employees they would have hired, with or without, the incentive. And Dewhurst, in an election year, is going around the state trumpeting this as a success.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is crisscrossing the state to promote his plan that pays employers with state tax dollars to hire unemployed Texans.

He touts it as a way for the state to save money by getting people off unemployment and jump-starting a Texas economy that many fear could be in a long, slow recovery.

“We’ve got to grow this locomotive called the Texas economy,” Dewhurst said in February as he kicked off the $15 million program. He already is talking about extending the nascent program during next year’s legislative session, and the Texas Workforce Commission is trying to persuade federal officials to give it $50 million in stimulus money to triple the program’s size.

The program pays employers $2,000 for each unemployed person they hire and retain for at least four months. As of Friday, 682 Texans had been hired by 421 employers statewide. In many instances, however, employers say the state is paying them to do what they would be doing anyway: filling crucial vacancies, expanding only when business conditions warrant or, in the case of high-turnover industries such as call centers, filling their constant roster of openings.

“No one has said that to me,” said Dewhurst, who has made a half-dozen appearances with employers around the state promoting the program. “They’ve all said they wouldn’t have hired the employees without the program.”

[...]

“If they are going to hire a person anyway,” Dewhurst said, “I don’t think their application (for the money) fits.”

Well now you’ve been told.  It’s doubtful he’ll do anything to stop this though.  But businesses sure like the free money.

Read the rest of this entry �

Commissioners Court lets Waste Management slide on contract requirement

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, County Judge, Landfill, Precinct 4, Williamson County at 7:33 am by wcnews

Over the last several years no issue has crystallized the Williamson County Commissioners Court (WCCC) and it’s, if not corruption, at least tone deafness to the public and hypocrisy, more than the controversy surrounding the new landfill contract between the WCCC and Waste Management, Inc. (WMI)  (To read about it just click on “Landfill” under categories donw the right side of this blog).

When the landfill contract was signed in March 2009 a requirement of the contract was that WMI had to meet certain criteria withing the first year.  Specifically they were supposed to present a Master Site Development Plan and a Master Recycling Plan within that time.  We find out from this memo [.pdf] from the Williamson County Public Policy Coalition (WCPPC) sent to Williamson County Commissioners Court that this requirement was not met:

On March 9, 2010, Williamson County Commissioners Court “accepted” a hypothetical “report” without approving or disapproving the Master Site Development Plan (MSDP) and Master Recycling Plan (MRP) from Waste Management of Texas (WMTX, or Contractor) submitted for the Williamson County Landfill. Submission of the plans at the end of the first contract year (which began on March 3, 2009) was a requirement of the Landfill Operating Agreement (LOA) approved by commissioners court on March 3, 2009.

The memo further states:

The LOA contains this requirement for the MSDP in Section 2.16 (Page 21): “Within one (1) year of the Effective Date, Contractor (Waste Management of Texas) shall development a Master Site Development Plan for the Landfill. Within (12) months of the date of County’s approval of the Master Site Development Plan, Contractor shall begin implementation of the Master Site Development Plan for the Landfill in accordance with the agreed upon timelines set forth in the Plan.”

This statement makes it clear that the Contractor is to submit its full and complete plan for review by the county, not a partial or incomplete plan. In addition, there must be “timelines set forth in the Plan.”

Wait until you read the excuse the corporations attorney gives for not having these plans done on time:

The plan as submitted contains no “timelines”. In addition, Steve Jacobs, the Contractor’s representative, admitted in commissioners court on March 9 that the plan is incomplete. Jacobs stated:1 “We have a lot of other information that may not have made it into the plan simply because it gets too complicated and too hard for me to write it.”

The MSDP cannot properly be evaluated by members of commissioners court or by citizens if it lacks completeness and the required timelines. The LOA makes no provision for submitting a partial or incomplete plan in meeting the specific provision of the LOA. If, as stated by Jacobs, the Contractor is incapable of submitting a complete plan because it “gets too complicated” and is “too hard” to write, then the Contractor obviously cannot perform on the contract. At the very least, such failure to perform is a contract default.

Really? And our WCCC took that excuse and let it pass!! For a bunch who thinks corporations can always do it better, we can only imagine the outrage if words like that would have been spoken by a government employee, instead of a corporate mouthpiece.

It’s encouraged that all residents of Williamson County read the entire WCPPC memo on this issue. The county has essentially allowed WMI to miss this deadline, without any retribution, by submitting a “report” that falls way short of the plans they were required to submit. Needless to say, as in most dealings with the WCCC, the public has been left in the dark as to what the WCCC has been doing on this issue.

However, it also is clear from the discussion at commissioners court on March 9 that representatives of commissioners court participated with the Contractor in working on the plan in a secret, non-public process prior to its release.

The WCPPC also list four key issues moving forward.

  • Adequate notice and forum format
  • Consideration of complete and not partial plans
  • The county’s responsibility in processing plans
  • The county’s responsibility in the public discussion of the plans

It should come as no surprise that the WCCC would let WMI slide on a requirement of the contract. This action will only bolster the perception many have of the court and it’s penchant for secrecy and backroom dealing when it comes to its dealings with WMI. During contract negotiations how the WCCC treated WMI was controversial and seemed hypocritical.  It’s perceived that the WCCC believes in the free market, is pro-business competition, and “conservative”.  When they negotiated the new contract without a competitive bidding process, which went against their beliefs, it makes people wonder. Instead the perception now is that the WCCC will bend over backwards to accommodate WMI, at the expense of the residents and tax payers in Williamson County. And this current action will only further that perception.

Starred in the RSS reader this week, heavy on Wall Street reform

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State at 6:32 am by wcnews

(This is a fairly new weekly series here at EOW. Essentially these are items we found interesting but didn’t blog about over the week.)

Six Doctrines in Search of a Policy Regime

The New Yorker Explains Resolution Authority

What Conservatives Mean When They Say “Libertarian”

Only they don’t seem to understand what Libertarian actually means. Take for example this articlein which Jacob Hornberger anoints 1880 as the peak of America’s Libertarian golden age.

Let’s consider, say, the year 1880. Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned, because there was no income tax. They were also free to decide what to do with their own money—spend it, save it, invest it, donate it, or whatever. People were generally free to engage in occupations and professions without a license or permit. There were few federal economic regulations and regulatory agencies. No Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, bailouts, or so-called stimulus plans. No IRS. No Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. No EPA and OSHA. No Federal Reserve. No drug laws. Few systems of public schooling. No immigration controls. No federal minimum-wage laws or price controls. A monetary system based on gold and silver coins rather than paper money. No slavery. No CIA. No FBI. No torture or cruel or unusual punishments. No renditions. No overseas military empire. No military-industrial complex.

As a libertarian, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a society that is pretty darned golden.

Ah, the 1880s. I can hear people getting wistful from here.

Golden Bull

The story of the golden calf in Exodus is the perfect allegory for the conservative movement’s rapturous worship of the free market uber alles. In their religious fervor, the free market is always good, and therefore corporations- no matter their size, power, or history of malfeasance- are always good too, and all government is always bad, all of the time, no matter what. They worship their idol of gold no matter what actually happens in the world around them, and nothing can change their religion

Perry: Only a “rank political hack” would criticize Bush. Or praise him uncritically.

Lewis Black: I Don’t Understand the Tea Partiers

Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This’

Email is the Hub around which Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media Revolve

Break Up The Banks

Read the rest of this entry �

� Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »