01.31.11

Texas Blog Round Up (January 31, 2011)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 10:36 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready to retire the phrase “blue norther” for another year as it brings you this week’s blog roundup.

Off the Kuff took an early look at fundraising for 2011 city of Houston elections.

The Big Gas Mafia says it’s impossible but hydraulic fracturing causes gas to migrate threatening life…AGAIN. TXsharon puts 2 and 2 together at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Bay Area Houston has a press release from Rick Perry titled Rick Perry Asks Republican Voters to Quit Their State Jobs.

Texas republican at the forefront to kill Medicare. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is not surprised.

This week at Left of College Station, Teddy calls out Congressman Bill Flores’ health care hypocrisy for voting to repeal health care reform that ensures health care for millions of Americans while voting against repealing his own government health care. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

The Texas Cloverleaf highlights the TX state house GOP vote against open government.

Ryan at TexasVox asks “Where’s the outrage?” from TCEQ approving another polluting power plant despite local opposition, warnings from the EPA, and rulings from two SOAH hearings, this time the ironically named Las Brisas plant in Corpus Christi.

During the voter I.D. legislation fight on the floor of the Texas Senate last week, a new problem emerged on the policy. And it’s not what you think this time – potential problems for minorities, or the elderly, or rural Texans, or poor folks. This time, it’s a problem with your right to vote. Yes, you. Letters From Texas explains why.

Eye On Williamson, points out that the GOP’s proposed budget is asking for huge sacrifices from poor and working Texans, but little or nothing from the wealthy and corporations, the Texas GOP budget proposal is morally bankrupt.

Ever been broken down on the side of the road and everybody in the car is arguing about who’s going to get out in the rain and try to fix what’s wrong? Well, that’s where the state’s highway fund is. And our Austin representatives are “ready to have a discussion” about it. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs double-checked, and no, nobody has a roadside assistance plan, either.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw serves up a heaping helpin’ of snark, in Governor Rick Perry Urges Republican Voters to Abandon Public Schools. By the reactions she got, she ruffled a few feathers. You go girl!

Neil at Texas Liberal had jury duty in the past week. Neil dressed well for jury duty and feels that you should do the same when you are called. What merits greater respect than our common society?

01.27.11

The Texas GOP budget proposal is morally bankrupt (Part 2)

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, The Budget at 4:51 pm by wcnews

Lisa Falkenberg in the HChron takes on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s mendacity regarding the Texas budget.  Here’a a sample, Perry’s priorities tell tale of Texas.

Hey you! Teacher who’s going to lose your job, stop worrying. There’s no state budget shortfall.

Hey you, community college student who’s going to lose your financial aid, and maybe even your campus, stop whining. There’s no budget shortfall.

Hey you, kid from the poor side of town who could lose your health insurance and probably your access to pre-school, stop crying. There’s no budget shortfall.

There can’t be. This is Texas. And according to Gov. Rick Perry, we don’t have shortfalls in Texas. And certainly not deficits.

We may have “budget challenges,” as Perry termed them in his inauguration speech. They may be challenges that require more than $30 billion in cuts. Those cuts may lead to, among many other things, the elimination of nearly 10,000 state jobs and as many as 100,000 public education jobs, loss of financial aid for 60,000 students; and $2 billion in cuts to programs like Medicaid, CHIP and food stamps that keep our most vulnerable citizens alive.

But, hey, no biggie.

Lost jobs and health insurance aren’t exactly urgent matters. And investing in our state’s future through the education of our young people is no emergency.

No, in the great state of Texas we reserve that term “emergency” for much weightier matters. Like cracking down on voter fraud that doesn’t exist, outlawing sanctuary cities that never were, and supporting a federal balanced budget amendment that has no hope of passing.

And, of course, allowing the government to barge into a medical exam room and order a woman considering an abortion to submit to a procedure that will compound her emotional distress. You know, important stuff like that.

The governor recently bestowed upon the above issues emergency status while he was in Las Vegas peddling his book at a hunting and shooting trade show. I think this is what the governor would call “multitasking.”

[...]

It really all comes down to a simple exercise in prioritization. Some things count: the governor’s Enterprise “deal closing” Fund for businesses. And some things don’t: Early childhood education.

The last sentence sums up the problem perfectly. I’m tired of my tax money going to corporations, that don’t pay a living wage to their employees, don’t offer benefits, or a pension, but who make unfair profits because of tax breaks that the rest of us have to pay for. I much prefer my taxes go to educating our youth, providing health care to all, and taking care of the elderly and the sick, then padding a fat cats bank account.

01.26.11

Texas budget proposal morally bankrupt

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, Take Action, The Budget, The Lege at 4:43 pm by wcnews

We’ve heard it a million times, budgets are moral documents.  We hear it so often because it is so true.  What’s been on display these first few weeks of the 82nd Texas Legislature has shown exactly how immoral the current budget proposals in the House and Senate would be if enacted.  The morality of every society is judged by how it treats the “least among us”. So let’s take a look at that.

A new report shows that from Texans Care for Children, A Report on the Bottom Line: Conditions for Children and the Texas of Tomorrow, states that, “Conditions for Texas Children Endanger State Economy”. To call this report bleak is an understatement. (Tip to SAEN, New study finds dire reality for children).

A new comprehensive report on the status of Texas children finds that, if the state fails to change course, what the governor is calling the “Texas Century” is likely to bring declining prosperity, skyrocketing health costs and a workforce unable to compete with those of other states. (Emphasis added).  A Report on the Bottom Line: Conditions for Children and the Texas of Tomorrow draws on demographic forecasts and national and state data sources to support the finding that Texas is alone among states in its wide gulf between ability to deliver improvements for children and actual outcomes.

“By how our children are faring, one would think Texas is one of the nation’s poorest states. We aren’t yet, but continuing to neglect the needs of Texas children will soon make us one.” said Eileen Garcia, CEO of Texans Care for Children, the nonprofit policy organization behind A Report on the Bottom Line. “This legislative session provides a clear opportunity for us to start to right our course and prevent costly lost potential in the youngest Texans, beginning with our state’s approach to services and education.”

Findings in A Report on the Bottom Line include:

  • Texas children start life unfairly behind other American children: Children in Texas are almost twice as likely as other U.S. children to go without health insurance, two-thirds more likely to be born to a mother who didn’t get adequate prenatal care and 50% more likely to be born to a teen mother. A Texas child is also significantly more likely to drop out of school, more than one-third more likely to grow up in poverty and one-third more likely not to receive needed mental health services.
  • Inadequate state funding drives the state’s poor outcomes for children – immigrants do not: Statistical analysis of different factors’ predictive value in a state’s conditions for children showed that education, health care access and levels of investment in public services are significantly linked to a state’s overall child wellbeing. Nine out of the 10 states that share company with Texas for having the lowest per-capita taxes also rank among the nation’s worst states for children. By contrast, Texas is the only state to have both high levels of child poverty and a high population of children in immigrant or illegal immigrant families.
  • On multiple measures, Texas ranks worst in the nation for children: Texas ranks 50th among states in health care coverage for children; mental health services for children with diagnosed challenges; preventing childhood homelessness; preventing childhood food insecurity; and preventing obesity among adolescent girls. The state also has the most fatalities from child abuse or neglect among states and ranks 50th in per-capita spending on child abuse prevention.

[...]

“If Texas fails to reverse current trends, the state is on course to pay a high price for inaction,” noted former state demographer Steve Murdock of Rice University. “Higher welfare and incarceration costs and lower levels of educational attainment and prosperity are what lie in the forecast today for Texas, if we fail to close the gaps facing different groups of Texas children. Our state’s economic competitiveness hinges on preparing these children for college and for success, beginning in the very early years.”

That, to put it mildly, is despicable.  There’s more of the same regarding mental health, Mental health centers face big cuts in state budget. (Tip to Grits).

Bill Gilstrap has bipolar disorder.

He’s not in prison, not in a hospital, not living under a bridge. The Bastrop man is just a regular guy, a 53 -year-old welder who keeps his illness under control with help from his local mental health center. Without that care, he says, he’d be in big trouble.

“The stark reality of my situation is that if I wasn’t getting quality outpatient services, I’d be in a psychiatric hospital or I’d be in jail,” said Gilstrap, who has been going to Bluebonnet Trails Community Services since 1997.

The state’s budget crisis has put Bluebonnet Trails, Austin Travis County Integral Care and 37 other public mental health centers in danger of serious funding cuts. Legislators have unveiled a 2012-13 budget that proposes a decrease of about 20 percent in funding to outpatient mental health services for children and adults.

“People who rely on that care and can’t get it are going to be devastated,” said Lynn Lasky Clark, president of Mental Health America of Texas.

[...]

Gilstrap says he could very easily have been one of those people. Without treatment, he hears voices, has visual hallucinations, can’t sleep and becomes suicidal.

But for more than 13 years , he has been going to Bluebonnet Trails, where he receives medication and case management. He works, owns his home and serves on an advisory committee for the center. None of that would be possible without ongoing support from Bluebonnet, he said.

“I’m a taxpayer, and I have a real sense of belonging in the community,” Gilstrap said. “You can actually measure this in dollars and cents.”

It’s much cheaper to keep a mental health center open, than it is to incarcerate them. And that’s not even factoring in that it’s also the right and moral thing to do.

Of course there are also massive cuts coming to local school districts, in the form or layoffs and school closings.

And there is an unfunded snowball steamrolling toward cities and counties in Texas, Texas budget cuts may shift burden to locals. (Tip to Kuff who says, “There’s no “may” about it“).

Conservative lawmakers who dominate Texas politics make their political careers on promising to cut state spending and block new taxes. But when the budget slashing is done, city and county officials must pick up the pieces — and possibly raise taxes.

State legislatures across the country are facing budget problems brought on by the economic recession. California, Illinois and Georgia face shortfalls just as bad as Texas, but they plan to raise taxes to avoid dramatic cuts. The Texas governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker — all Republicans — have promised to make the state live within its means without new taxes.

When the legislature released the first draft of the new budget this week, the proposed cuts were staggering. All told, if lawmakers want to avoid raising taxes, they need to cut $27 billion from what it would cost to maintain the current level of state services.

Texas lawmakers from both parties have always been fiscally conservative, explained Sherri Greenberg, interim director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School for Public Affairs in Austin. Texas spends less per person on state services than any other state, and the Texas Constitution forbids a personal income tax.

“It’s one thing to say `no new taxes,’ however, that doesn’t mean there won’t be all kinds of fees increased,” Greenberg said. “Things are just pushed down to the local level.”

And last, and by no means least, let’s look at what is coming for the elderly. This from state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), What the Republican Budget Means to Texas Families.

HB 1 proposes a number of cuts that will hurt Texas families, especially seniors and children.
HB 1 would kick nearly 200,000 children out of Pre-Kindergarten Early Start and Early Childhood School Ready Programs. In total, $740 million would be cut. This, despite a study on the Texas Education Agency saying that Pre-K is a “fundamental part of educating disadvantaged children.”

[...]

The budget also proposes to reduce funding for nursing home payments by $1.57 billion less than what the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) requested for the biennium. The average nursing home resident is a woman over the age of 80, who has used all of her assets to pay for a nursing home. This is a case of the Republicans balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable and those who can least afford it.

There it is. So far the Texas Republicans are asking for sacrifices from working and middle class Texans and families across the board. Asking for sacrifice from the least among us – children, the mentally ill, the sick, and the elderly. But notice who they are not asking to sacrifice and contribute in this time of need. Nothing is being asked from the wealthy and the corporations who have profited so much over the decades  from low taxes, and cheap labor in Texas. Because the leaders of our state refuse to even ask the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share, the rest of us will be made to pay the wealthy and corporations share (with cuts), so that they can continue as if nothing has happened. If that’s the “Texas Century” Gov. Rick Perry intends for Texas, I want no part of it.

(Please  take time to contact your elected officials and let them know what you think about how the budget should be balanced in Texas.)

Texas Blog Round Up (January 26, 2011)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Uncategorized at 11:28 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates the Packers and the Steelers as it brings you this week’s roundup.

WhosPlayin helped organize a cleanup for an historic African American cemetery dating back to about 1845 that had been the target of litterbugs and illegal dumpers. Respect for the dead, and respect for the land are still values that people from left and right can agree on.

Off the Kuff analyzed the initial Republican budget proposal and the utter havoc it would wreak on the state.

TXsharon reported on two important developments on hydraulic fracturing: 1) the EPA is confident gas in Parker County water wells is from Barnett Shale, and 2) the media took a lie about the EPA and regulating diesel fuel and repeated it without fact checking.

At Letters From Texas, Harold points out that Rick Perry keeps calling things “emergencies” that aren’t, and continues to ignore emergencies that are.

Capitol Annex takes a look at a study showing that Texas gets an “F” when it comes to reporting outbreaks of food-borne illness and wonders why the media wasn’t paying attention last year when candidates were making an issue of food safety in Texas.

There’s a muddy, grunting scrum developing among the Republicans coveting the US Senate seat Kay Bailey is vacating, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs posts an update at a safe distance from the bottom of the pile.

Exactly why does Governor Perry want to insist that you can cut spending and maintain services? McBlogger’s pretty sure it’s a case of cognitive dissonance.

Libby Shaw gets it dead right whem she tells Goodhair to Man Up Governor Perry. Of course he won’t. He has already double-downed on completing the demoliiton of Texas public education according to everything coming out about the new state budget.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know why Republicans hate people so very much.

TexasVox welcomes guest blogger Jim Hightower as part of a one-two punch on the nuclear waste dump in West Texas: Hightower’s Dumping on Texas for Fun and Profit and an expose of Harold Simmons’ last minute contributions to Texas politicians in 2010.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote on the massive budget deficit in Texas. In this fine post, Neil offers up the view that Republican mismanagement of Texas is not the only reason for the shortfall. Neil also cites poor citizenship by the many Texans who don’t want to pay taxes in a state with no income tax, but who at the same time kick up a fuss when government services they use are cut.