Local & Consent Calendars
Williamson keeps a member on the Appropriations Committee (Schwertner was a member in the 82nd). Farney on Public Education and Dale on Energy Resources were likely assignments because of their resumés.
Well, today is the day that the Speaker’s honeymoon ends and the members’s complaints begin. Last session the Republicans held 25 chairs and the Democrats 10. This time around it’s Republicans 24 and Democrats 14. Of course, the Democrats picked up seats in the last election cycle, but I suspect that Straus will take heat for that decision.
TexasWatch lets us know, How they rank, on the Insurance and Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committees.
The Texas Tribune has some demographic information and says the new Public Education chair sets up an interesting alternative to the chair in the Senate.
Of the standing committees, 32 are chaired by men, six by women. That’s one more female chair than the 2011 session.
Among the committee chairs, 26 are white, five are black and seven are Hispanic, one more than last session.
State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock takes over the Public Education Committee as battle lines are already being drawn over accountability, student testing and school choice reforms. He is well-regarded in public education circles and has drawn support from advocacy groups that oppose private school vouchers — an indication that any legislation enacting such a policy — a priority for his counterpart in the Senate, Dan Patrick — might encounter a hurdle when it comes to the lower chamber.
This looming education “battle” has everything to do with the fact that Straus didn’t lose a GOP primary to a tea party wing nut, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst did.
Texas is a low tax state, for the wealthy. That is the more money you the less you pay in taxes, but the opposite is true too, the less money you make the more you pay in taxes. Better Texas Blog has the details, Study–Texas Has The 5th Most Unfair Tax System.
You have heard many times how Texas ranks 38th on state spending on public schools and 50th on state spending overall per resident. Well, finally Texas ranks 5thin something.
Unfortunately, it’s in the ranking of how unfair our state and local tax system is.
Texas asks its lowest income families to pay four times as much in taxes, as a percentage of family income, than it requires of the 1% with the highest incomes. And Texas asks its middle-income families to pay nearly three times as much in taxes as it does of the top 1%.
This ranks Texas as having the 5th most unfair (“regressive”) tax system in the country.
What’s worse is that, even though many Texas politicians brag about the state’s low taxes, poor Texas families pay a higher percentage of their meager family incomes in state and local taxes than to similarly poor families in all but five other states. That’s because even Texas’ relatively low taxes are distributed so unfairly that the poorest must still pay an unusually high percentage of their income to support public services.
It’s important to know this especially in the context of what Sen. Tommy Williams, the Texas Senate’s new budget chief said this week.
Williams, R-The Woodlands, said that in the total budget, including federal funds, the health and human services programs listed in “Article II” now run neck and neck with the education section that funds public schools and state colleges and universities: They each would cost about $70 billion over the next two years, if Senate GOP leaders’ starting budget were passed. (It won’t be.)
“We cannot continue to fund 14 percent annual growth in Article 2, which is what we had roughly over the last 10 years, and hope to build all the facilities that our institutions of higher education have asked, the highways that we need and the water infrastructure that we need for out state to continue growing,” he said.
Medicaid, other aid programs and various state supports and protective services are galloping along at “unsustainable” rates, Williams said. They threaten all other programs, he implied.
He did not mention, though, the budget pressures caused by the failure of a 2006 school finance and tax-swap package to produce as much money as expected. Or Tuesday’s call by Gov. Rick Perry for more tax cuts and haste in ending budget gimmicks, which if heeded also would compete for scarce bucks with schools, public safety and transportation. Nor did Williams, now chairman of Senate Finance, note for comparison purposes that his starting budget provides 2 percent growth in social services spending. He did say that the Senate withheld $400 million needed for Medicaid caseload growth, to force a discussion of assumptions behind the projections.
Still, Williams, a Methodist churchman and investment-company owner, has made strong statements recently about the state’s moral obligation to take care of completely helpless Texans.
“This is the heart of the budget, this is what decides how we look to the rest of the world because it says something about who we are, how we take care of these people,” he said Wednesday.
One of the more interesting developments to watch this session will be what’s likely to be an evolving definition, as the money constraints become ever-tighter, of who are Texas’ worthy needy — the vulnerable with no one to help them, the true and rightful heirs to one of the nation’s least-generous social safety nets.
As I read that Sen. Williams is saying if we want more money for infrastructure spending for higher education, roads, and water then we can’t have a safety net too. It’s a threat, don’t make me cut your funding by keeping benefits for the needy in tact. As Garrett does a great job of showing, it looks like William laying the groundwork for cutting benefits for those deemed “unworthy”. When that will be determined and who will make that determination presumably will be decided by the time the budget is finished.
What we know is that Texas has always been a low tax, low service state. And those at the lower end pay a disproportionately high amount of their income to keep the system going. The wealthy… not so much. Obviously those who currently run our state government have no intention of fixing this problem. And any plans they have for so-called “tax reform” will only skew the problem more in the wealthy’s favor. The Texas Tribune has more on a plan to shift costs to local governments, Senators Take On Health Care Costs, Medicaid Expansion. Which would mean higher local property taxes.
It’s hard to imagine this changing anytime soon in Texas. It would take a complete political and culture change for their to make funding things like public and higher education, health care, and infrastructure a prirotiy. The main problem with our tax system in Texas is that it’s unfair. And until that unfairness is fixed, we will have to keep making these least bad choices for middle class Texans on down, while the wealthy escape without any sacrifice. There is an alternative, (see here and here).
The entire ITEP study “Who Pays?” can be found here. And the Texas numbers are here.
Paul Krugman’s been taking a lot of undeserved s&#t for years now. Mainly because he’s been right about the economy. This has come up again because he was on “Morning Joe” on Monday and they didn’t like what he had to say.
Paul Krugman went on Morning Joe and challenged the Grand Wisdom of the Austerians. Joe Scarborough went and had aconniption fit worthy of a medieval prelate being confronted with heliocentrism for the first time. In Scarborough’s world, to believe that the deficit is anything less than a sword of Damocles is to be insane and unworthy of polite society. And yet, Krugman’s understanding of the economy is widespread, basic Keynesianism that has been proven right time and time again.
How is it that Scarborough lives in such an ideological bubble that standard Keynesianism is so shocking?
Here at Hullabaloo we call it the Kool Kids Table, a pathway to power and social acceptance inaccessible to those who don’t hold the “right” views.
Do I believe that everyone in Joe Scarborough’s sphere of influence knows that Keynesianism is accurate and that Krugman is right, but chooses to say otherwise because it pads their bank account? Of course not. It takes a conspiracy theorist and an idiot to believe that. Washington is corrupt, but it’s not that corrupt.
No, most of these people believe what they say. I don’t doubt that Scarborough’s perplexed shock is genuine. Just like I believe that most of the conservative theologians who burned Giordano Bruno at the stake believed that our solar system was the only one of its kind. After all, anyone who believed otherwise wasn’t taken seriously and didn’t advance in the Church hierarchy. Everyone who was anyone knew better, and since Bruno refused to accept the conventional wisdom he had to be shunned and ultimately silenced. Bruno’s ideas were unserious and dangerous. The man had his head in the sand and couldn’t see what seemed obvious to everyone else.
Perhaps one day the Church of the Austerians will belatedly apologize to Keynes, Krugman, Stiglitz and all the other great economists whose names have been dragged through the mud. But not likely soon, and not during their lifetimes. In our own sordid lifetimes, Popes Simpson and Bowles will continue to bestow favors upon their cardinals, giving communion only to the Kool Kids who deserve it.
Krugman’s and the Keynesian argument is that most immediate issue we have is to put people back to work, not the deficit. Once the unemployment rate is back down to around 5% then it’s time to start working on the deficit. In other words were in a Depression – not a great one but one nonetheless – and if we don’t put people back to work will stay in it, or as today’s news shows, fall back into recession. (See this from a few years back from Robert Reich, My Father and Alan Greenspan).
The thing is Joe Scarborough and his friends at the Kool Kids Table can scoff at Krugman all they want. But that doesn’t change the fact that he is, and was, right.
Krugman was also on Washington Journal this morning, watch it then you’ll understand what’s going on.
Researchers at the University of Texas back up what we’ve been saying at Construction Citizen for years: far too many construction workers in Texas are the victims of payroll fraud.
They released a study this morning in Austin called “Build a Better Texas”.
Among the study’s findings:
Wage theft results in lost tax revenue: at least $117 million in lost wages and $8.8 million in lost sales tax revenue impact cash-strapped state and local governments.
Texas construction workers are forced to fall back on public safety nets to support their families. Low wages and wage theft contribute to economic instability for construction workers and their families. Fifty-two percent of Texas construction workers report that they were unable to meet the basic needs of their family at some point.
Injured construction workers account for a disproportionate share of uncompensated care costs in Texas hospitals. While construction workers make up roughly 6% of the workforce, hospital data suggest that they account for nearly 20% of work-related uncompensated care costs in Texas emergency rooms.
Rampant payroll fraud results in an estimated $54.5 million in lost unemployment insurance tax revenue and hundreds of millions more in federal income tax. With over 40% of the construction workforce misclassified as independent contractors or paid under the table, Texas – and the federal government – are losing out on critical revenue.
And he points out that legislation has bee,n and will be filed, this legislative session to try and fix the problems. Here’s the link to the report, Building a Better Texas, by the Workers Defense Project.
Even during the depths of the national financial crisis, Texas led the country in home construction, and the industry employed more than 950,000 people in Texas.
But many in the industry say it is also a breeding ground for payroll and tax fraud, and rife with employers who knowingly misclassify their employees, a practice that perpetuates the hiring of illegal workers. Industry moguls and researchers discussed such issues Tuesday at the Capitol, addressing the results of a yearlong research project on conditions in the industry by the Workers Defense Project and the University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.
The study, titled “Build a Better Texas,” said that more than 40 percent of construction workers in Texas — about 300,000 — are either misclassified or paid under the table. The result is more than $54 million in lost unemployment tax revenue. Payroll fraud in Texas translates to about $1.06 billion in lost federal income tax revenue, according to the study. [Emphasis added]
The study comes at a time when construction leaders have been busy lobbying lawmakers to address what they claim is a loophole that allows employers to purposefully misclassify their employees as independent contractors or subcontractors, also called “1099” employees — named for the employment form they fill out. Employers can use this subcontractor classification to avoid paying payroll taxes, workers’ compensation and overtime.
[Stan Marek, the president and CEO of the Marek Family of Companies] has testified before the Texas Workforce Commission several times, hoping the commission will push lawmakers to fix the problem. He said Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has increased its inspections of I-9 forms, the federal employment eligibility verification. But workers found to be ineligible to work here are not always deported. Instead they’re often forced to go into an underground, cash-based economy if an unscrupulous employer is willing to misclassify the employee as an independent contractor.
Marek said a key component in solving the issue is comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. He acknowledged, however, that if state lawmakers address the construction industry’s concerns but immigration reform fails to occur, it could mean a shortage of workers.
This is an issue that both sides can agree needs to be fixed. The only one’s that will fight these laws are the ones currently profiting from breaking them – bidness cheats. And we all know if this was this was a safety net program for poor Texans Perry and the wing nuts would be screeching, and want to drug test those involved. This drives wages down for all workers in Texas and profits up for the cheaters.
This is a litmus test issue for our elected leaders in Texas. If they continue to stay silent on this, then we’ll know they think it’s alright for these people to scam the taxpayers of Texas.
A Constitutional amendment to approve tax rebates..
He re-asserted he’s still against expanding Medicaid and setting up a state run exchange, instead opting to let the federal government handle it…
He said, “Our surging arts communities are yet another reason so many people and employers are choosing to come to Texas.” Is this true? It seemed odd and out of place…
He wants to spend $3.7 billion from Economic Stabilization Fund (aka, Rainy Day Fund), for water and infrastructure (transportation)…
He said he wants to end tax diversions, blah, blah, blah…
He professed his support for public school vouchers…
And lastly reaffirmed hi support for $10,000 college degree, (doesn’t say how he’ll pay for it)….
Watch the Democratic response here. Here’s the statement from TDP Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa:
We must do better for this great state of ours. The best way to create jobs and secure a strong economy for Texas is to invest in our future. We need to educate our children and increase the success of our public schools. We need to make sure that Texans have health insurance. We must allow for the Medicaid expansion that could save the lives of 5,700 adults and 2,900 children every year. These are not issues to play politics with. These are issues that demand leadership. Gov. Perry made clear, once again, that he lacks the leadership ability required to move Texas Forward.
More than a dozen other protestors with the Texas Organizing Project, wearing teal-colored t-shirts, were escorted from the statehouse.
Not long after Perry began his State of the State speech, Caldwell stood in the House gallery and shouted: “Gov. Perry, what are you going do about the 7 million uninsured people in Texas?”
Other protestors sitting around him began chanting as troopers hustled to the group, and began escorting them out of the chamber. Perry, who had just announced a tax-rebate plan when the protest exploded, went on with his speech.
We need much more activism and organizing like this, to shed light on these and other issues. Great job TOP!! [More here.]
Just before Perry’s speech today Public Policy Polling (PPP) released the resluts of a poll they recently did on Perry’s approval in Texas, Perry looking highly vulnerable.
Texas voters- even Republicans- have had enough of Rick Perry.
PPP’s newest poll finds that only 31% of voters think Perry should seek reelection next year, compared to 62% who think it’s time for him to step aside. He’s among the most unpopular Governors in the country, with only 41% of voters approving of him to 54% who disapprove.
Perry could face great peril in a primary challenge next year. Only 41% of GOP primary voters want him to be their candidate again, compared to 47% who think it’s time for someone else. And in a head to head match up with Attorney General Greg Abbott, Perry leads by only a 41/38 margin. What makes those numbers particularly worrisome for Perry is that Abbott only has 59% name recognition at this point with primary voters. Among voters who are familiar with Abbott- whether they like him or not- he leads Perry 55/33. That suggests the potential for things to get worse for Perry if Abbott does indeed go forward with a bid.
The Abbott threat to Perry does not represent the typical Tea Party insurgency that has endangered many Republican office holders over the last couple election cycles. GOP voters describing themselves as ‘very conservative’ want Perry to be their candidate again by a 53/33 margin. But moderates (77/15) and voters identifying as just ‘somewhat conservative’ (49/38) are both ready for a change.
There’s been some speculation recently that Perry might be interested in making another bid for the White House. But only 14% of Texans think Perry should run again, to 79% who are opposed to the idea. Even among his fellow Republicans only 22% think Perry should run for President again with 66% against the concept.
It’s never smart to totally rule out Rick Perry. In 2010 he ended up faring much better in both the primary and general elections than where he started out. But at least for now most Texas voters are ready to move on.
I really don’t care what the polls say at this point, I’ll believe Perry’s vulnerable the day he loses an election. That being said CPRIT has the potential to finally wound Perry, and Abbott is an acceptable alternative – in a way that Kay Bailey Hutchison wasn’t – to the wing nuts who think it’s time for Perry to “get on down the road”.
That’s why Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party’s 2008 presidential nominee, says it is imperative that his fellow Republicans support comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Needless to say that some in the national GOP have realized that they need to change their tune on immigration reform. Few, if any of them, are from Texas. See GOP freshmen Congressman Steve Stockman.
“The crush of illegals have bankrupted local governments, shut down hospitals, overwhelmed schools and crashed local economies, hurting largely Hispanic citizens,” Stockman said. “That failure has fueled the growth of violent gangs, like MS-13, that prey upon illegals and target the children of Hispanic citizens.”
It’s important to understand why the change has come at the national level and why it hasn’t in Texas. At the national level the GOP paid for their extremism on immigration at the ballot box, in Texas they have not. Until that changes little will change regarding the Texas GOP’s extreme stance on immigration in Texas. More from the HChron:
Likewise, the Texas Republican House delegation — the largest group of GOP lawmakers in Congress — did not produce a single voice supporting the bipartisan Senate framework. If Texas Republicans are naysayers, they could limit their ability to shape the House version of immigration reform.
“The congressional Republicans from Texas sidelined themselves with their anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric, which has no place in a fast-moving debate in which suddenly the debate has shifted to ‘how much citizenship,’” said Democratic consultant Harold Cook of Austin. “The result is a shameful outcome in which these members of Congress, representing a state with tremendous border real estate, have sidelined themselves completely. That’s not leadership, and it’s not even adequate representation. It’s just ideologues telling far-right voters what they want to hear, at the expense of mainstream Texans.”
Some Republican strategists say that the GOP must find a way to play a constructive role in the ongoing debate — or suffer the consequences at the polls for years to come.
“Comprehensive immigration reform is going to happen this year and Republicans should embrace it and work to improve it,” said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. “At stake is re-branding the Republican Party with Hispanics, an absolutely critical and urgent task, especially so in border states like Texas.”
Key House Republicans to watch in upcoming debates are Reps. Ted Poe of Humble, who angered some on the right by advocating comprehensive reform (without “amnesty”) and Lamar Smith of San Antonio, the former chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and a leading hawk on “amnesty.”Though many Texas Republicans responded cautiously to the latest developments, some were outspoken in their criticism.
“The Senate’s proposed plan does not fix our nation’s broken immigration system,” said Rep. Steve Stockman, a Republican from Friendswood. “It rewards law breaking and encourages a new flood of illegals, perpetuating the very problems it claims to solve. Our nation’s failed experiments with amnesty have proven it only encourages more illegals willing to wait it out for their turn at free citizenship.”
We get the government we deserve, and in Texas we’ve been allowing the extremists to win much too often.
Progress Texas lays out a different path then what we’re likely to hear from Texas Gov. Rick Perry in this State of the State (SotS) speech today. Take a look, Investing in Our Future – The State of the State in Texas.
Today, Governor Rick Perry gives his 7th State of the State address. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to catch up on what is going on in the Texas Legislature, brief you on the latest news on the major issues, and point you towards resources where you can learn more. Hopefully, this will give you a better starting point for learning about some of the major issues facing the 83rd Texas Legislature.
If there is an issue area you would like to learn more about, or more information on the topics below you believe should be included, please do not hesitate to e-mail me and let me know. You can reach me at phillip-at-progresstexas.org, or leave a comment below.
Below you will find information on the following topics – clicking on the links take you straight to that issue:
A state audit has revealed that transparency problems at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas extend beyond the improper review of an $11 million commercialization grant that sparked criminal and civil investigations.
State auditors found business and professional relationships between CPRIT’s management, CPRIT’s commercialization review council, and donors who contributed to the CPRIT Foundation, a non-profit association that supplements the salaries of CPRIT’s executive director and chief scientific officer. They also found three grants that were approved without proper review — the executive director recommended the applications receive grants, but the peer review council did not — for a total of approximately $56.3 million. CPRIT also broke a state constitutional requirement by allowing grantees to report matching funds spent on other projects, rather than the CPRIT-funded research project, according to the audit.
“Weaknesses in CPRIT’s processes reduce its ability to properly award and effectively monitor its grants,” the State Auditor’s Office report concludes. The report recommends that CPRIT address deficiencies in: making award decisions, evaluating grant applications, verifying compliance with matching fund requirements, processing payments to grantees, monitoring grantees’ expenditures, assessing and measuring research progress and managing contract agreements with grantees.
This comes on the eve of his State of the State speech, will CPRIT be mentioned? One reason Perry stays in office is because he always makes money for his partners.
It’s not just education. There’s an inter-connectedness of education, poverty, and the expansion of Medicaid in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The GOP members of The Lege have a mixed message on school finance. From an article by Peggy Fikac over the weekend, GOP waits and sees on school funding. When reading this keep in mind that schools talked to The Lege and lobbied hard to keep their funding in 2011.
A state judge is expected to rule next week on whether the school finance system is broken, but lawmakers aren’t anywhere near ready to launch repairs.
Instead, Republican leaders plan to wait for an appeal and a final Texas Supreme Court ruling so they know exactly what they are forced to do.
In a twist, some of their rhetoric seems to suggest school districts have only themselves to blame for the postponement of hopes of restoring funds cut back from education two years ago.
The delay in acting is business-as-usual for the Legislature, which as an institution typically waits as education funding problems get bad enough to prompt a lawsuit by school districts. Then lawmakers wait some more, until the state’s highest court outlines the parameters of the mess they must fix.
Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said at a hearing last week that lawmakers should pay attention to those who want funding restored for key education programs.
But Williams also stressed the need to weigh that against other education-related funding demands, and he repeated his belief that the ongoing lawsuit makes it difficult for lawmakers to put in additional money for anything other than enrollment growth.
He also seemed to suggest that school districts used the courthouse as an alternative to discussion, odd to those who remember quite a school funding debate in the 2011 legislative session.
“I wish the school districts would sit down and talk to us,” Williams said. “It really ties our hands when they file a lawsuit.”
The reality is, and everyone involved knows it, is that The Lege will not act on school finance unless they’re forced to by the courts. One only has to go back to 2006, the last time they acted on this issue. It’s not in their political interest to act unless they can use the excuse that they were forced to by the courts.
Texas’ high child poverty rate is beginning to make demands on the state’s budget, and experts warn the state needs to spend more on education or the state’s economy could slow.
About 60 percent of Texas children live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census, and many of those children are unprepared and need extra attention when they start school. If they do eventually get into college, the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board says they are relying on a shrinking pool of financial aid.
Public schools and state universities are calling for more money as the state’s Republican leadership pledges to dramatically limit government spending. In 2011, the Legislature reduced funding for public education by $5.4 billion, cut pre-Kindergarten programs and cut funding for college scholarships.
Conservatives argue that low taxes and low government spending have helped the Texas economy grow by leaps and bounds since 2000, but the percentage of Texans living in poverty has grown also. According to 2010 Census data, 15.3 percent of Texans live in poverty and most are under 40 and Hispanic, the fastest growing segment of the Texas population. The poverty rate among Hispanics is 26.8 percent.
Hispanics account for 38 percent of the population and 48.3 percent of Texas children. This same group has the highest percentage of people aged 25 years or older without high school diplomas, at 40.4 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of poor students has gone up 45.9 percent to 2.85 million children.
A report issued today provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the costs and benefits to local taxing authorities (including cities, counties and hospital districts) and state government if the Legislature chooses to extend Medicaid benefits to low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Click here to read the full report.
Texas Impact Executive Director Bee Moorhead said, “Our analysis shows conclusively that extending Medicaid to low-income adults is the smart, affordable and fair choice for the state–and that passing up this opportunity will place local taxpayers, low-income Texans, and the entire state health care system at a significant disadvantage going forward.”
The report demonstrates that local property taxpayers and hospital charity programs already spend about six times as much on low-income health care as it would cost the state to extend Medicaid coverage to adults who have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)–$15,415 for a single adult and $31,809 for a family of four. Under the Affordable Care Act, Texas could cover adults aged 18 to 64 whose incomes are below 138 percent FPL, with the federal government paying an average of 90 percent of the cost of coverage for low-income adults over the next ten years.
“For years, Texas has had the highest uninsured rate in the country, with 6 million Texans lacking health insurance. Now we have a chance to change that, and there is no excuse for any other course of action than extending Medicaid to low-income adults,” said Kevin C. Moriarty, President and CEO, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc.
Certainly bringing down the amount of children, and adults, without health care would lower the number of Texans in poverty. Which will in turn improve the education of Texas children. It’s time for Texas, for all it’s boasting of prosperity, to make sure that all Texans are prospering.
Rick Perry and Greg Abbott threatenedhugged each other at the big Anti-Woman Rally in Austin this past weekend. There is obviously a lot more on each man’s agenda than ending womens’ reproductive freedom in Texas. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks they’re circling each other like a couple of rabid dogs.