02.17.13

Sunday reading

Posted in Around The State, The Lege at 1:55 pm by wcnews

It appears the report on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s economic development schemes is falling short, just like the schemes themselves. Via the Laylan Copelin, ‘Lingering reservations’ about jobs report.

There was no news conference, no news release, no final public meeting for the 12-member committee of lawmakers and business leaders to tout their labors.

The 24-page report arrived with more fanfare than it deserves.

Actually, subtract the cover page and letter, a signature page, some charts borrowed from the governor’s website and three pages for the committee members’ resumes, and the report weighs in at closer to a dozen pages.

I read it one night for my insomnia, but it was too deceptively light to put me to sleep. I had to reach for the meatier copy of my AARP Magazine.

If you have a few minutes, you can read the report at:

http://governor.state.tx.us/files/ecodev/Select_Committee_Report.pdf

It tackled 23 — not the full 67 — economic development programs.

Compare the report to the Legislature’s statement of intent for the creation of the Select Committee:

“These incentives have evolved without a comprehensive review of their effectiveness, how they compare with other states’ efforts, whether they appropriately target the correct economic activity, how they should be evaluated, or how they can be coordinated with other incentives to be most effective.”

Before you think I’m just a curmudgeon (OK, I am), the guy in charge of writing the report has his own issues with it.

Andrew Card, a former White House chief of staff and acting dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, wrote a letter the the committee chairman outlining his “lingering reservations.”

To begin with, the committee was given just four months — not the 14 months dictated by law — because Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus Jr. didn’t nominate the committee members by the deadline.

The committee, given no staff, had to borrow Perry’s staff.

“Primarily because of time constraints and the lack of dedicated staffing,” Card wrote, “we were not able to answer some basic questions:

• How should the benefit to the state be measured — for example, increased tax revenue, job creation, so-called ancillary investment, and multiplier employment?
• At what point could it be quantified that the state’s investment is recouped?
• Are there methods of economic forecasting that could be used to measure the impact of the targeted incentive?
• Where should programs have interagency transparency?” (OK, he lost me on that one.)

Card also noted that the committee’s report “regrettably” does little to respond to criticism of some of the state’s economic development programs from the state auditor, comptroller and Legislative Budget Board.

I would argue the report reads like a wish list from the business lobby.

In other words it’s an incomplete report of an ineffective corporate welfare scheme.

Also this one on the legacy of the GOP’s overreach in 2011 in Texas, Courts erase some of Texas GOP supermajority’s biggest actions.

Much of the landmark legislation hailed two years ago by the Republican supermajority in the Legislature has been swept away by court rulings.

Voter ID, gone. Republican political maps, gone. Balancing the budget with cuts, mostly to public education, not so fast.

The blockbuster plans fed by sweeping electoral victories and tea party fervor two years ago have faded, and while the political drawbacks are few now, the partisan grab could reverberate in future years, especially among minority voters, experts said.

“They overreached,” said Steve Bickerstaff, a former top legislative aide, law professor and author of a book about Texas redistricting. “Both the voter ID and the redistricting cases indicated that the Legislature was sailing a bit close to the wind and crossed over.”

In both cases, the state lost before three-judge panels, with Republican-appointed federal judges in the majority.
“The state badly misjudged the attitude of the courts,” Bickerstaff said.

University of Texas-Pan American political science professor Jerry Polinard said that for Republicans, with two-thirds of the House, a big Senate majority and control of every statewide office, “there was no reason not to go big.”

“Other than losing in the courts, there are no penalties you have to pay,” he said, citing the safe partisan legislative districts lawmakers have drawn for themselves.

The third case, decided earlier this month, found that rigorous new testing standards coupled with a $5.3 billion cut to public education tossed the state into an unconstitutional realm of inadequate and inequitable funding.

An Austin state district judge found that the cuts mean the state is providing too little money to the schools in an unbalanced manner. The case will probably be decided this year by the Texas Supreme Court, which has already issued major rulings in six similar cases in the past 30 years. The state lost in all of them.

Republican leaders believe that if anything, it’s the courts that have stepped over their bounds, and they express confidence they can win cases on appeal.

In the voter ID and redistricting cases, the state is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires Texas’ election plans to be examined by the Justice Department to assure they are not racially discriminatory.

But if the Republicans lose, their strategy may have come at the expense of more modest gains that could have lasted longer. Democrats and others believe Republicans could have achieved their goals if they’d only heeded warnings, accepted a few amendments and been a little more moderate.

Only time will tell if the GOP’s policies were a mistake. I certainly don’t fault them for trying to pass their partisan agenda when they had the advantage. That is after all what our system is set up. But they shouldn’t be surprised if in the long run it turns out that the people really didn’t want some of these things or that they’re not legal.

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