In 2006, former Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn sent a letter to state Gov. Rick Perry predicting a $23 billion shortfall over the next five years due to Perry’s tax plan. Local superintendents say they’re outraged that state lawmakers saw this coming and didn’t do anything to stop it.
Let’s be clear. It is extremely generous to state lawmakers saw this coming. When in actuality they created the tax swap in 2006 this way on purpose. It can’t be denied any longer that the reason the GOP created this structural shortfall is because they don’t believe in public education, publicly funded health care, or publicly funded anything. That was further reinforced by the Senate Education Committee’s vote yesterday to expand charter schools – which turns public education into a caste system.
More from the article.
[Clyde CISD Superintendent Dr. Gail] Haterius told KTXS she came across the letter six months ago and Governor Perry should have taken this warning seriously.
“You find something like this and you want to go, ‘they knew’,” Haterius explained. “Hopefully, this mess will cause us to look at the funding system and that’s what we want. We just want a plan that makes sense and is supported.”
Abilene ISD Superintendent Dr. Heath Burns said he is also outraged that state lawmakers blame the budget deficit on the current economy. He told KTXS in a written statement: “I believe that any politician that feigns surprise about this issue is likely being naive. To attribute shortfalls to spending means that the politicians must completely disregard the warnings of the comptroller. This is a revenue shortfall. It was predicted. It has arrived.”
Haterius also said she just wants lawmakers to come up with a plan that will prevent this budget shortfall from happening again.
“They’re the ones that created this structural deficit that we’re in now and they’re the ones that’s going to have to pass the laws to get us out of the structural deficit.”
Not to be too harsh on the superintendents – welcome to the fight, better late then never – but not only did they know, they planned it this way. And it’s too late for hoping this will cause the funding system to be looked at. No, no, you Dr. Haterius, have to make sure now that it gets looked at, or it won’t get looked at.
As for Dr. Burns, the one being naive here is you. As said before, they planned it this way in order to defund public education in Texas. Anyone who still believes differently is the one being naive.
There are only three possible ways out of this mess. Cuts only to balance the budget, raise taxes only to balance the budget, or a combination of the two. Since it was a purposeful and horrendous tax swap that caused most of the current shortfall, it only makes sense that raising taxes, on those with the most – wealthy and corporations – must be the first on the list.
That is the first thing that superintendents, like the good doctors, should start advocating for today. The last thing that should be on the table is cutting funds to the most needy Texans and to public education, which will drive prosperity in Texas in the future.
Somewhere along the line, over the last 40 years, we got our priorities backwards. As the saying goes, comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.
The letter from former Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn to Gov. Rick Perry can be read here.
The White House is basically an ally of the Republican Party. Even the president’s words chortle with delight:
“A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now, the same cooperation has made it possible for us to move forward with the biggest annual spending cut in history.”
It reminds me of the old Russian joke: “We were at the edge of the cliff. Now we’ve taken a giant step forward.”
President Obama’s words are incredible. The tax deal last December was perhaps the greatest domestic policy shame of our time. In that particular capitulation to greed, he agreed to extend the tax breaks for the richest Americans, slash their estate taxes, give other corporate tax breaks, and raise the deficit by nearly $1 trillion over 2011 and 2012. Now, he has agreed with the far right to slash entitlements spending for the poor in another “historic” act of cooperation. One more such historic act of cooperation and we’ll be completely ruined.
The president says yesterday’s accord “is an agreement to invest in our country’s future,” but that “needed infrastructure projects will be delayed.” He says that in tough times, families sacrifice to “afford what’s really important,” but that “programs people rely on will be cut back.” There is, of course, not a shred of sacrifice by Wall Street, Big Oil, the nation’s millionaires and billionaires, the health insurance industry, or any of the other lobbies that the president and much of Congress count on to fund their re-election campaigns.
In poll after poll, the actual views of the public about the budget are clear: cut military spending, raise taxes on the rich, and cut health care costs by taking on private health insurers. These are the policies put forward last week in the “People’s Budget” (which I recently wrote about) proposed by the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[Emphasis added]
Even though we don’t know the still secret details of the $38.5 billion in the cuts, we can be sure that not one of these sensible mainstream ideas is even remotely represented in the new “historic” agreement. The president and the congressional leadership of both parties are pursuing the opposite strategy: cut taxes for the rich; sustain record-high military spending and indeed a growing number of wars; turn over even more of health care to price-gouging private health insurers; and cut urgently needed help for the poor, the public schools, higher education, and the unemployed.
In the end, we have gotten from President Obama what we feared from Senator McCain: an expanded war in Afghanistan, an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, sharp cuts in spending for communities and programs for the poor, a continuation of Guantanamo and military tribunals, unchecked bankers’ pay and bonuses, and enough loopholes to reduce corporate taxes to less than 2 percent of GDP this year, despite a boom in corporate profits.
America, sooner rather than later, will gear up for a new political movement, one that is dedicated to fairness and justice as in the People’s Budget rather than to corporate wealth as in today’s budget agreement. Sooner rather than later, perhaps even by next year, a presidential candidate and dozens of congressional candidates will succeed in doing what President Obama could and should have done in 2008: to win on the basis of small donations and social networks without the need to sell out to Wall Street, the oil industry, and the other lobbies. It can be done, though Obama in fact went for the big corporate donors as well.
Many in the Huffington Post community of readers and writers think that things are already too late for America. They believe that our democracy has been irretrievably lost to the special interests. I share their frustration but believe there is real reason for hope. We are at the stage of history when the curtain is being pulled back to reveal the Wizards of Oz. The political spin-masters in the White House and Congress, the media manipulators led by Rupert Murdoch, and the oil money led by the Koch Brothers will all come to learn that despite their vast wealth and cynicism, they will not stop Americans from reclaiming their democracy.
The memo laying out the “People’s Budget”, proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, can be read here [PDF]. Of course it didn’t get the same media attention by the corporate controlled media as other proposed budgets. This probably had something to do with it, an excerpt:
The Republican budget will wreak havoc on hard-working Americans. They have proven, once again, their unwavering commitment to taking trillions of dollars from the pockets of the middle class and giving ever more generous windfalls to millionaires and large corporations. They want to throw seniors off Medicare. Their slash-and-burn tactics will throw hundreds of thousands of people out of work. They will eliminate health care for children and those with disabilities. They will fire teachers, firefighters and police — some of the truest heroes of our society.
We must be clear — we will not and cannot stand for this recklessness. We must fight for the American
people. We need a tax system that is fair and stops the giveaways for millionaires and corporations that ship American jobs overseas. We need to close corporate tax loopholes being exploited at a great cost to taxpayers. We must cut subsidies to oil and gas companies currently reaping windfall profits at the expense of consumers. We must protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the safety nets that have made this country strong and prosperous. The Republicans have opened an all-out attack to privatize and destroy them
There is an alternative plan out there that helps working and middle class Americans. But it requires shared sacrifice and even the rich and corporations have to pay their fair share of taxes. We also need a budget like this in Texas.
From Bay Area Houston: Unlike the gop who believes the solution to teen pregnancy is duct tape and a $50,000 speaking engagement by Bristol Palin, PP actually provides education services, family planning services, and low cost birth control.
Barack Obama asked the question “Are You In?” last week, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs decided he wasn’t.
In September 2010 he said he could assure educators that public school spending would not be cut. He then made a lame attempt to try and blame those upcoming cuts, because of cuts in state education spending, on the local school districts.
[This is a post that was written on Tuesday. Wasn't sure if it would ever be posted, but since Kuff weighed in on Embry's article, might as well].
The budget that the Texas House passed last Sunday night was just part of The Show, which is about political cover. In Monday’s AAS Jason Embry wrote this column, Legislators bet that school funding isn’t voters’ top concern. There’s some truth to that but it’s not quite right. In reality they bet that the Senate will not pass this bill, but one that actually spends more money.
Here’s an excertp from the column:
Nearly every Republican in the Texas House placed a bet Sunday night that the residents of their district will support taking billions of dollars out of the public school system.
In voting for the House’s proposed state budget, 98 of the chamber’s 101 Republicans supported a plan giving school districts about $7.8 billion less than the state owes them under current law. That’s about $870 less per student for schools to spend each year.
The budget cuts funding for pre-kindergarten, school technology, teacher incentive pay and programs that aim to stoke student interest in math and science. Most significantly, it is the driving force behind the elimination of thousands of jobs in school districts across the state.
Lawmakers made deep cuts across state government because the state faces a huge budget shortfall caused by a variety of factors, some of them outside state lawmakers’ control and some a result of their decisions. The House’s decision to leave more than $6 billion sitting in the state’s rainy day fund added to the severity of the cuts.
That a majority of lawmakers supported such reductions shows that they think voters, first and foremost, want them to cut spending and fight tax increases.
It’s the logical conclusion to draw from the 2010 elections. Republicans in Texas and across the country didn’t beat Democrats because they promised to do the most for public education. The national Republican wave that swept into Texas was driven by voter anxiety about high unemployment and the Obama administration’s spending habits.
It’s also important to remember that most legislators, because districts aren’t usually meant to be competitive between the parties, only have to worry about winning their primaries. A reasonable legislator could easily conclude that Republican primary voters will applaud a budget that cuts overall spending by $23 billion.
There are several things in there. First of all logic has nothing to do with it. Because this budget will do nothing but make unemployment worse, likely cause higher federal deficits, and larger state budget shortfalls. This budget would have never passed if many on the Republican side actually believed it would be enacted “as is”. They know it’s going to the Senate, where enough GOP members are more than willing to take the blame for more spending.
While it’s true that the GOP’s wave wasn’t “because they promised to do the most for public education”. It’s also true that they didn’t promise to cut $8 billion from education either. The wave was due to a combination of may things, an over excited anti-Obama sentiment on the right, a dispirited base on the left, a very frustrated rest of the electorate, and the historically low turnout mid-term election.
Embry gets closer to reality at the very end of his column.
But it may not matter at all politically. House members have now gone on record either supporting or opposing what would be the first reduction in funding for the Foundation School Program, the main source of state money for education, since the program was created in 1949. Some will seek to justify their vote as necessary to keep the budget process moving so that the Senate could weigh in with a more generous plan. They may have a point, but the campaign trail has little use for legislative nuance.
The legislators have made their bets.
The vote on Sunday was about House GOP wanting to have it both ways. They want to be able to use this vote to burnish their conservative credentials, while later saying they we’re forced, because of the Senate, to vote for a budget that spends more money. It’s unlikely that the thoughts and concerns of teachers and administrators concern them much, if at all. Their constituents are big donors and they will “bet” that their vote on this bill, that will never be enacted, won’t hurt them.
With the Senate as a backstop this was a “safe” vote for most of them. The tough vote for them will come when the actual budget is passed later in the year. The bet that legislators made was that there will not be a well-funded and well-qualified opponent running against them that will be able to exploit this issue in 2012. They also, at this point, don’t think that Obama and the Democrats will be able to produce the electorate they did in 2008. We would all be better off it they were wrong but at this point it would be unwise to bet against it.
Yesterday thousands of working Texans showed up a the state Capitol to ask the Legislature and Governor to not forget about them and their families when passing a budget this year. From Postcards.
Led by union workers from across Texas, thousands rallied on the Capitol’s south steps this afternoon to protest the recently passed House budget that included deep spending cuts to education, health care and state jobs.
“We are all in this together,” Judy Lugo, president of the Texas State Employees Union, told the raucous, cheering, chanting crowd. “Every Texan, now and for years to come, will suffer the consequences if the Texas Legislature does not change course.”
Lugo pushed for spending the state’s $9.5 billion rainy day fund and asked legislators to find additional revenue to repair a budget shortfall caused by “decades of bad public policy” and a recession brought on by financiers, speculators and corporate leaders.
Workers, she said, “did not cause this problem, and we are not going to pick up the tab for it.”
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, told the thousands of protesters that there was an “evolving catastrophe” in the Capitol threatening families, children and the future of the state.
“These cuts are a tragic failure to meet Texas’ priorities,” Watson said. “We all know that rhetoric is overshadowing responsibility in our state Capitol.”
Those opposed to the House plan chanted “No cuts” and sang “We shall not be moved” as they converged upon the Capitol. They demanded lawmakers stop balancing the budget on the backs of the state’s neediest citizens.
“If education and health care are the machine of progress, then the cuts proposed will pull the plug on that machine,” said Becky Moeller, president of the Texas AFL-CIO. “I wouldn’t burn down my house to get rid of the hole in my roof, but the House budget slashes and burns the jobs of millions of families in Texas.”
Religious leaders from across the state also gathered to urge lawmakers to write a budget that prioritizes the state’s neediest residents.
“We want to see a balanced approach with a clear priority for vulnerable citizens and new sources of revenue,” said Rev. Michael Mulvey, bishop of the diocese of Corpus Christi. “We are disappointed in the House budget and call on the Senate to use all of the Rainy Day Fund and create new sources of revenue.”
Faced with a multi-billion dollar revenue shortfall and a growing population, state leaders are confronted with unavoidable choices in balancing needs and resources. The state budget is a moral document that reflects the priorities and values of our state. We urge our state leaders to look at these choices from the “bottom-up,” by protecting and defending the life and dignity of the poorest and most vulnerable, who have little legislative presence or representation.
In Hebrew Scriptures the prophet Isaiah calls on God’s people to feed the hungry and give shelter to the naked (Isaiah 58:6-11). This message is echoed in the Christian scriptures with the story of the Last Judgment (Mt: 25) when Christ instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. The call to care for the most vulnerable in the community is echoed in Islam, Hinduism, and every other major world religion. The message is for the entire community, not just the individual. It is our belief that the state government has a vital role to play in providing for the common good by ensuring access to certain basic services for those in need.
Appropriations decisions have real consequences. Legislative choices to reduce services, cut education, increase costs or erect barriers result in burdens and sacrifices for all Texans, but especially for those who start from a disadvantaged position. The faith community supports policies that strengthen the safety net and opposes proposals that weaken it in this time of increasing needs and rising poverty.
Of course many in the SCLM “So-Called Liberal Media” are trying to give equal time to the Koch-funded, astroturfing “counter protest”. Where a true handful of wing-nuts showed up to say we should defund our government even further. We are not buying it.
More pictures from yesterday can be seen here and here.
There’s a misconception that many Americans have that both parties want an efficient government that will promote the general welfare of the people, but that’s simply not true. But the Republicans have been saying for decades that the government IS THE problem. Therefore it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Republicans are destroying our government.
The same reason why they are defunding anything that is funded by our tax dollars. They don’t believe in public education (including higher education), Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and on, and on. They believe all of those things should be done by the private, for profit, sector. And the more someone can afford to pay the better of each of those things they will get. And if someone can’t afford it, well, too bad. So much for the general welfare!
It’s always been a mystery why anyone would vote people into government that only want to destroy it, and think it can’t be used to help people.
There are many things the government can do to help people. But it won’t be done as long as Republicans, who hate government, have power in our government. What’s going on now is just part of the plan. Republicans believe that corporations can do everything better, and will destroy our government to prove it.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, said he is open to looking at the business tax, but noted it is late in the session. He said he had planned a comprehensive study on the business tax after the session ends.
“We don’t have that much time in the session. We’ve got some very difficult challenges, and the political climate’s probably — with the short period of time we have, we probably don’t have the time to do the education of the membership,” Hilderbran said.
There’s not enough time left for a tax increase in the regular session, is what they’re trying to say. Which would lead us to conclude that it’s likely we will need at lease one special session to resolve the budget. They need more time, and maybe a ‘looming deadline”, to bring enough in the GOP around.
Also state Sen. Steve Ogden, who has been out front on this, is now getting crap from under taxed corporate lobbyists. The way the lobbyist talks down to Sen. Ogden it sounds like they believe they run the state.
But a veteran business lobbyist, who’d testified against an Ogden bill not long before the senator sounded off, said it isn’t fair to label the business lobby as obstructionist on the question of sound tax policy.
“Yesterday, Senator Ogden was feeling a little bit beat down,” said Bill Allaway, senior adviser to the business-backed Texas Taxpayers and Research Association. “He got voted down two or three times on the Senate floor and then people didn’t stand up and salute his [tax abatement limitation] bill [in committee]. He was feeling a little down at that point.”
Allaway, though, said business groups are willing to discuss how the state should raise money for “legitimate needs.” He continued, “Part of the problem is that the Legislature has systematically spent more money than it had for the last few years … digging a deeper and deeper hole.” [Emphasis added]
“I’m not quite sure what he wants the business community to do that it hasn’t done — to volunteer to bail the state out?” Allaway said, referring to Ogden. “… The guy’s gotta lot of strain on his shoulders. And I’m not sure that he’s getting all that much help from his colleagues.”
Most Texans believe we elect legislators to determine “legitimate needs”, not corporate lobbyists. The corporate lobbyists are telling Ogden what they’re willing to allow their taxes to be raised to pay for. That’s incredible, the audacity these lobbyists have! They have a reason to be so bold, there hasn’t been a an elected leader in Texas willing to challenge them in decades.
The House’s chief budget writer said Tuesday that representatives may be open to adding $5 billion of spending to the budget they just passed.
Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said Texans “are waking up” to the magnitude of proposed cuts to public schools, nursing homes and other programs.
He said unidentified freshman Republicans, who entered the session saying “we came here to cut,” have privately told him this week that they’d like to undo or ease certain spending reductions.[Empahsis added]
Even some tea partiers are getting cold feet. Looks like some of them would like another term after all.
Of course, where Perry fits into all of this is anyone’s guess and that’s the way he wants it. He’s on the record saying he won’t sign, notice he didn’t say he would veto, a budget that uses the RDF. WE should assume he’d have the same answer regarding higher taxes.
The Republican Party and US Rep. Paul Ryan made a major mistake yesterday. But it will only be a mistake if the Democrats will make it one. Medicare and Social Security are extremely popular, and for the GOP to make it their cause to destroy both is a free gift to the Democrats, if they will take it. We should take Ryan at his word.
“This is not a budget,” Paul Ryan said as he introduced the Republicans’ 10-year budget plan. “This is a cause.”
Putting more elderly Americans into poverty and and taking away their health care is his cause. It has been the Republicans cause to destroy both Social Security and Medicare since they were created. No matter how beneficial they are to Americans, how well-run, and popular Ryan and Republicans don’t care. They believe to save Medicare and Social Security we must kill them. It’s insane, mean, and despicable.
That is what headlines would look like if the United States had an independent press. After all, this is one of the main take aways of the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis of the plan proposed by Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee. Representative Ryan would replace the current Medicare program with a voucher for people who turn age 65 in 2022 and later. This voucher would be worth $8,000 in for someone turning age 65 in that year. It would rise in step with with the consumer price index and also as people age. (Health care expenses are higher for people age 75 than age 65.)
According to the CBO analysis the benefit would cover 32 percent of the cost of a health insurance package equivalent to the current Medicare benefit (Figure 1). This means that the beneficiary would pay 68 percent of the cost of this package. Using the CBO assumption of 2.5 percent annual inflation, the voucher would have grown to $9,750 by 2030. This means that a Medicare type plan for someone age 65 would be $30,460 under Representative Ryan’s plan, leaving seniors with a bill of $20,700. (This does not count various out of pocket medical expenditures not covered by Medicare.)
According to the Social Security trustees, the benefit for a medium wage earner who first starts collecting benefits at age 65 in 2030 would be $32,200. (This adjusts the benefit projected by the Social Security trustees [$19,652 in 2010 dollars] for the 2.5 percent annual inflation rate assumed by CBO.) For close to 70 percent of seniors, Social Security is more than half of their retirement income. Most seniors will get a benefit that is less than the medium earners benefit described here since their average earnings are less than that of a medium earner and they start collecting Social Security benefits before age 65.
Furthermore, the portion of income going to health care costs will increase through time according to the CBO analysis. This is due both to aging of individuals and to increasing health care costs through time. As noted insurance for older beneficiaries will cost more than insurance for younger beneficiaries, but Representative Ryan’s voucher would still only pay the same amount for their care. This means that if the average 80-year-old cost twice as much to insure as the average 65-year-old, then the premium that would come out of a seniors’ pocket would be twice as large. This implies that if the program had been in effect for 15 years in 2030 then the average senior would be paying $41,400 for a Medicare equivalent insurance package in 2030, 25 percent more than the medium earner’s benefit in that year.
The other reason that Representative Ryan’s plan will lead to rising health care costs for seniors through time is that the voucher payment does not keep pace with health care cost inflation. As costs continue to rise relative to the voucher, seniors will be required to pay a larger portion of their health care costs themselves. It is worth noting that 2030 is only 8 years after the voucher program kicks in.
It’s obvious that Ryan plan has nothing to do with ending the national debt, it will only make it worse. It’s like any Republican plan, it hurts working and needy Americans and gives more money to the rich and corporations. That is their cause.
This is a crossroads for the national Democratic Party and President Barack Obama. If they can’t stand up and fight to protect and enhance these popular and well-run government programs then they might as well step aside.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “The Republican budget is unfair because it ends the Medicare guarantee for seniors while giving away tens of billions of dollars in tax subsidies to Big Oil.”
Her top lieutenant, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) didn’t hold back either. “[T]he Republican budget shifts costs to seniors by ending Medicare as we know it and dismantling Medicaid.”
Ogden wants the state to revisit the tax, but many lawmakers have signed pledges saying they won’t raise taxes, making them particularly nervous about doing so.
“Our system is out of balance, and we’ve got a significant structural deficit, which today we haven’t really come out with any positive solutions yet to fix,” Ogden, R-Bryan, said in a wide-ranging gaggle with reporters after Tuesday’s Senate session.
He added: “The issue is not to single out businesses as some sort of villain. They already pay most of the taxes. The issue is having a tax system that, in my opinion, is uniform and equitable and as low as possible.”
He said a Senate subcommittee that is looking at ways to raise revenue is looking at the business tax.
While that comment about business paying most of the taxes is debatable, they likely reap most of the gain from the state too, so it’s a wash. But the reason we’re likely headed for at least one special session this summer is because of this.
But there are considerable hurdles to doing so. Tax bills must start in the House, but House leaders have shown no interest in revisiting the business tax. Ogden has suggested, and he reiterated Tuesday, that lawmakers could work around that by pursuing a constitutional amendment that would be put before voters to clarify the constitutional ban on a personal income tax. Then the Legislature could turn to a tax on business income instead of the current margins tax, which critics say allows the state to tax a business even when it loses money.
It will take a little while longer to bring the House on board. That’s all part of The Show.