05.22.15

Nothing Good For Texans Coming From The Lege

Posted in 84th Legislature, The Budget at 3:45 pm by wcnews

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The budget that The Lege is likely to pass is truly horrible.  The only lingering question is how many, if any, Democrats will vote against the budget?  There’s a mountain of bad stuff in the budget, that is, if you’re not a business or a corporation.

Of course the budget is doing nothing but bad things to health care, More Pay for Medicaid Doctors Lost in Budget Deal.

A House-Senate budget conference committee reconciling differences between spending plans approved by the two chambers voted for a compromise health and human services budget 9-1. State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, was the lone no vote.

Turner questioned the committee’s decision not to boost payments to primary care doctors who see patients on Medicaid, the joint federal-state insurer of last resort for the poor and disabled. In Texas, physician groups say Medicaid pays significantly below the cost of treating patients, making it unappealing for doctors to treat people in the program.

Turner noted that the number of primary care doctors seeing new Medicaid patients is low — about 34 percent, according to the Texas Medical Association. The House version of the budget would have raised Medicaid payments to the same level as payments from Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly. Texas Medicaid currently pays physicians about 65 percent of what Medicare does, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“One of the reasons we funded it on the house side was to try and stop the decline” in participating doctors, Turner said.

But state Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Republican of Georgetown and chair of the upper chamber’s Health and Human Services Committee, said boosting Medicaid reimbursements to doctors “does not significantly increase [the] provider network.”

“I don’t believe the provider network is going to be any more strained,” he said.

And there’s likely more trouble for those in need of health care coming, With Hospital Funds in Question, Who’s at Risk?

As Texas negotiates with Washington over how to pay for health care for the poor and uninsured — a tricky dance given the state’s opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage under President Obama’s signature health law — billions of dollars in federal funding are on the line. And the state’s safety-net hospitals and clinics are steeling themselves for an uncertain future.

Currently, Texas providers rely on a five-year, federally approved program called the “1115 waiver” that reimburses them for the care they provide to people who cannot afford health insurance. But the feds have indicated that “uncompensated care” money could be discontinued if Texas doesn’t expand Medicaid, the joint state-federal insurer of last resort, to include the poorest adults.

At the state’s largest safety-net systems in impoverished, urban communities, hundreds of millions of these uncompensated care dollars could be in jeopardy — in some cases, more than one-fifth of a hospital system’s annual revenue.

In fiscal year 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, more than 300 Texas health care providers received a combined $3.9 billion for uncompensated care by way of the 1115 waiver. Local funds made up roughly 40 percent of that total, with the rest supplemented by the feds.

A handful of public safety-net hospitals received the largest share of those payments.

[…]

When the federal waiver was approved in 2011, it was negotiated as a transitional move to protect Texas’ rapidly changing safety-net system. At the time, all states were expected to participate in the Medicaid expansion — a key tenet of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) — and Texas leaders were preparing for a huge influx of low-income people into the state’s health care system. Nearly a million additional people in Texas would have been eligible for Medicaid coverage under the ACA, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Medicaid expansion optional, and Texas leaders — who believe Medicaid is too broken to be expanded — soon announced they would not participate. That has left advocates for the uninsured wondering what Texas leaders intend to do once the waiver expires in 2016. The state must negotiate a renewal by Sept. 30.

Democrat Mike Collier has a blunt assessment of the proposed budget, Taxes Go Up While Schools and Roads Go Down.

If Dan Patrick wanted to, he could press hard to use the surplus of money we have in our bank account to finish some of the unfinished highway projects that are ugly, dangerous, and create huge traffic jams in our state. Dan Patrick could press hard to fix our broken public school system. Dan Patrick could put some effort into finding a way to improve access to affordable health care for the working poor in Texas. Dan Patrick could acknowledge that Republicans have lost control of college tuition costs and do something about that. In short, Dan Patrick could use his position as Lt. governor to improve the lives of the hard working men and women who live and work in Texas.

Instead, he is putting his political muscle behind a policy designed to allow him to perpetrate a fraud upon ordinary Texans, even Republicans. He is demanding a $10,000 property tax exemption which in the end will not reduce taxes. He will then assert that he provided Texans with meaningful tax relief, which just isn’t true. And for this, he is willing to sacrifice our public schools and transportation infrastructure. He will drive the state more deeply into debt as local authorities borrow money to do the work of building schools and roads and the other things the state is refusing to do.

To make matters worse, Dan Patrick is pushing through a major tax cut for the largest corporations who every day take wealth out of our state, many (if not most) of whose owners don’t even live in Texas.

It’s hard to imagine that Republicans are so willing to support Dan Patrick when his hostility to their economic interests is so obvious. But they elected Dan Patrick to run the Texas Senate, which means our taxes are headed up while our roads and schools are headed down.

Texas Forward on the budget.

“This deal will unfortunately lead us further down a path of reduced public investments in public services that both communities and businesses need to prosper,” said Will Francis, co-chair of the Texas Forward coalition steering committee and Government Relations Director for the National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter. “Texas cannot remain competitive without adequate support for our schools, health care systems, and infrastructure. And we know the Texas economy is cyclical, meaning these permanent revenue cuts will result in future legislatures dealing with massive budget shortfalls.”

Outside of the budget there’s a sweet tax deal for business in the works, Bill Increasing Unemployment Taxes Advances.

But the Texas House and a Senate committee have passed a bill that would trigger an increase in unemployment taxes to cover an $84 million hit to the unemployment insurance trust fund, according to calculations from the Texas Workforce Commission.

The legislation, pushed by a politically connected company in Kingwood known as Insperity, would give a tax break to about 150 Texas businesses that are licensed and specialize in human resources outsourcing services. Insperity (previously known as Administaff), whose founder sits on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s citizen advisory council, declined comment late Thursday.

Proponents of the measure, including two legislators who represent Kingwood, say the bill is necessary to eliminate what they describe as “double taxation” of the outsourcing companies, known as professional employer organizations, or PEOs. Critics dispute that characterization and say it’s not fair for other employers to be forced to make up the lost revenue by paying more into the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.

Which goes well with this Op-Ed, Legislature sold to biggest political donors.

If you hang around the Capitol long enough, this is what you’ll see: Legislators who are also insurance agents carrying bills that would reduce the rights of insurance claimants; legislators involved in the oil and gas industry voting on laws that will keep cities from regulating fracking; and legislators who own payday lending services leading the opposition to bills that would regulate their businesses. They’re using their offices to enrich themselves and their clients, often at the expense of Texas citizens.

In the past decade, public officials have been involved in more than a dozen major scandals and controversies – paybacks to political donors, conflicts of interest and the revolving doors between the public and private sectors. When you add up all the money lost in kickbacks, bungled contracts and sheer bad management, the cost to taxpayers is colossal – more than $1 billion.

It’s truly pathetic that we allow this to continue.

[UPDATE]:  Christopher Hooks on the budget, Congratulations, Texas, It’s a Budget Deal! You Lost.

05.21.15

Where Left And Right Come Together – Our Political System Is Rigged

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Corruption, Money In Politics, Taxes at 12:08 pm by wcnews

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The recent brouhaha surrounding hidden cameras around The Lege, and what could come of it, brings up some interesting issues.  If you’re not aware of what’s been going on check out R.G. Ratcliffe’s reporting on the American Phoenix Foundation (APF) here. After reading these posts, I’m left with the impression that these folks are extremely unhappy with our political system.

Their main frustration seems to be the age-old problem with politicians – these folks say one thing when running for office, and do something different once elected.

What I was trying t explain or get people fired up about is they are all, “Rah, rah, Republicans are doing what’s right!” And I’m, No, not necessarily. I look at both parties as a political class. I don’t see a lot of difference between Republicans and Democrats now that I see what’s going on at the Capitol.”

This is nothing new and has always been a large part of politics.  Saying, one thing and doing another.  Distracting the voters attention with some shiny object and picking their pocket when they’re not paying attention.

Obviously they’re not alone in their frustration. Their frustration is inline with a study from last year called, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Which makes this case.

From the Dept. of Academics Confirming Something You Already Suspected comes a new study concluding that rich people and organizations representing business interests have a powerful grip on U.S. government policy. After examining differences in public opinion across income groups on a wide variety of issues, the political scientists Martin Gilens, of Princeton, and Benjamin Page, of Northwestern, found that the preferences of rich people had a much bigger impact on subsequent policy decisions than the views of middle-income and poor Americans. Indeed, the opinions of lower-income groups, and the interest groups that represent them, appear to have little or no independent impact on policy. [Emphasis added]

When voters, on all sides, never see the issues they care most about get addressed it makes them mad.  This recent TribTalk article on taxes is an example, Who really wants tax relief — and why.

If the implication is that the Legislature should make tax policy decisions based on what Texans want, what are we to make of the poll’s finding that voters are relatively indifferent to the business margins tax? It’s the one tax that the governor and the leadership of both chambers before the session even started were largely in agreement about cutting, and the only one of the proposed cuts that the governor has said would trigger a veto if not included in the budget.

While the assumption that taxes must be cut has defined budget politics in the Legislature, polling amply illustrates that most of the public doesn’t attach the same priority to tax reduction. In the same UT/TT Poll, only 2 percent of Texans cited taxes as the most important problem facing the state, and only 3 percent of voters (and 5 percent of Republicans) said that lowering business taxes should be the Legislature’s top priority. Even when asked about the subject in the narrower context of tax cut alternatives, a plurality of Texans have no opinion about the Legislature’s primary target (39 percent), and nearly as much of the public is satisfied with the business margins tax (29 percent) as is dissatisfied (32 percent). So much for the public clamoring for tax relief.

There are, of course, policy reasons to discuss at least revamping the business margins tax, just as there are reasons to consider revisiting the state’s reliance on property taxes. But the lack of formed opinions about the business margins tax, and the even division among those who express an opinion, suggests that responding to the popular will is only one of the factors at play in the debate. The consensus among the political class on cutting the business margins tax likely reflects the seemingly universal opposition to the tax among business groups large and small.  [Emphasis added]

And when one side (business, elites, and corporations) always get what they want, and the other side (the people) never do, the frustration just piles up.

While many may not like the way the APF is going about their business, their aim seems to be an attempt to shine a light on the hypocrisy in the Texas Lege.  When discussing the salacious aspects of their videos they make clear this is not a moral issue for them.

This isn’t about moral failures. This is about hypocrisy. That’s what we hope to show with the footage we have. It’s not going to just be this guy was having sex in the bathroom with this staffer … We all get it. That’s just a base human nature.

[…]

Our point is, men are not angels. So long as they understand who they are working with, this is a normal human being who just so happens to be making laws as to how I live my life. So if you can pull away the veil that they’re not a special class of humans just because they are making laws.

One way to think of it is that they want to have a fair fight on the issues.  The way our political system is currently configured, a fair fight on the issues is not possible.

This video helps make that clear:

More here, Study: Congress literally doesn’t care what you think. They’re also implementing a solution.

Damn near everyone knows that our political systems are rigged. Those on the left those on the right and everyone in between. That frustration is being shown in many different ways all over the political spectrum.

This is an area where left and right may be able to come together.  The left and right both agree that our system is rigged.

There is no candidate to advocate for around this issue.  No candidate or even candidates can fix this.  The only way this will change is if the people demand it.

Further Reading:
Politicians Think American Voters are More Conservative Than They Really Are.

05.19.15

Two Weeks To Go

Posted in 84th Legislature, Around The State, Commentary at 10:58 am by wcnews

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While the GOP Lege continues to work on tax cuts for business and scraps for the rest of us, let’s see what else they’re working on in the last two weeks of the session.  This is a short list and there is likely to be some surprises.

The budget is the only thing that must be passed, if not a special session will be required.  If the GOP needs a special session to get their more controversial, social issues passed, don’t be surprised if they use stalled budget negotiations to get that done.

So much for local control, especially as it pertains to oil and gas corporations, Texas Governor signs HB40 into law, guts community rights.

Today Texas Governor Abbott signed HB 40 into law. Written by former ExxonMobil lawyer Shannon Ratliff, the statute forces every Texas municipality wanting common sense limits on oil and gas development to demonstrate its rules are “commercially reasonable”. It effectively overturns a Denton ballot initiative banning fracking that passed last November.

“HB 40 was written by the oil and gas industry, for the oil and gas industry, to prevent voters from holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its impacts,” said Earthworks’ Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. Wilson, who played a key role in the Denton ballot initiative, continued, “It was the oil and gas industry’s contempt for impacted residents that pushed Denton voters to ban fracking in the first place. And now the oil and gas industry, through state lawmakers, has doubled down by showing every city in Texas that same contempt.”

By a 59-41% vote, including 70% of straight ticket Republican voters, the residents of Denton banned hydraulic fracturing within city limits. The ban was a last resort after more than five years of fruitlessly petitioning oil and gas companies, the city, and the state for help.

The wild, wild, west could be coming to a shopping center near you, After Waco Shootout, Lawmakers Continue Open Carry Push.

The day after a deadly confrontation between rival biker gangs in Waco, top Texas lawmakers defended a proposal to loosen the state’s handgun laws.

“This bill does not have anything to do with what went on yesterday,” said state Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican who leads the Senate State Affairs Committee, during a previously scheduled hearing on gun legislation.

Some critics told the panel Monday that a proposal to allow concealed handgun license holders to openly carry the firearms would have made the Waco shooting worse. But the panel approved the bill and sent it to the full Senate, where it is likely to have enough votes to pass.

GOP Lege continues their assault on voting rights, Texas lawmakers are busy making it harder to vote.

Another legislative session, another unfortunate attempt by Texas politicians to make it harder to vote. While other states move their registration systems into the 21st century — by putting the onus on the government to add eligible voters to the rolls, or letting citizens sign up online, for example — Texas maintains its sad tradition of disenfranchisement.

One measure (HB 1096) that would make it more difficult for voters to confirm their residency recently cleared the House. Another bill approved by the Senate (SB 1934) would eliminate nonexpiring photo identification cards for the state’s senior citizens. Because unexpired photo IDs or IDs that have been expired no more than 60 days are required to vote, this change would make it even harder for Texas seniors to get their ballots counted. Do we really need to wonder why lawmakers are making these changes?

PDiddie discusses several more issues, Final two weeks of the Texas Lege.

[UPDATE]:  This from Christopher Hooks at the Texas Observer is damn good, The Legislature’s Never-Ending Primary.

And this from a former member of The Lege Ted Lyon, Pulling the covers back in Austin.

05.18.15

TPA Blog Round Up (May 18, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:06 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance doesn’t need hindsight to know that invading Iraq was a tragically stupid decision as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is pleasantly surprised to hear that the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority and US Rep. John Culberson have reached an accord in their longstanding feud over funding for light rail in Houston.

Letters from Texas provides a step-by-step guide to using your hypocrisy to justify your bigotry.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos calls it as she sees it when the U.S. Congress cut Amtrak’s budget within hours of the train wreck outside of Philadelphia last week. Republican Austerity Kills. Literally.

Nonsequiteuse asks you to consider the long game for progressives in Texas, and explains why she’s building progressive infrastructure and working the next generation of leaders through New Leaders Council.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The GOP’s end of session plan for tax cuts is getting near completion, Give It All To Business – The GOP Tax Compromise.

In a roundup of events, Socratic Gadfly says this week in Texas politics was probably even nuttier than normal ? a high bar to clear.

Julian Castro is Hllary Clinton’s pick for running mate, according to Henry Cisneros. That suggests a Latino will also be the vice-presidential nominee of the Republicans. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks that might be the most interesting thing that could liven up an otherwise completely predictable 2016 presidential season.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is surprised that a Republican was so honest about tax cuts being just for the business cronies. Who needs roads, schools, or safety inspections. The rich can buy their own. But, the shrinking middle class and the poor must pay for what’s left.

Neil at All People Have Value posted about 11 pictures he keeps in his phone that involve death. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Texas Clean Air Matters examines what Tesla’s Powerwall home energy storage battery means for Texas.

Better Texas Blog names the least worst way to under-invest in schools, college access and health care systems.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs documents her efforts to get the Legislature to require insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids for children under 18.

The Lunch Tray calls self-regulation of kids’ food advertising a “doomed effort”.

Paradise in Hell warns us that the anti-gay crowd isn’t going anywhere.

BEYONDBones explains why you should care about endangered species.

The Texas Election Law Blog tracks what has happened to election law-related legislation so far this session.

05.15.15

It’s Time To Stop Believing The Lie Of Trickle Down

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Taxes at 9:17 am by wcnews

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Yesterday I was talking with a few people about the current legislative session.  The consensus was that nothing of any consequence has been, is being, or will be done this session. My response was that they don’t want to do anything.

The people that run our state’s government are self-proclaimed government haters, believe it’s evil, and wrecks everything it touches. So what they’re doing, or rather not doing, makes perfect sense.

The GOP is likely to compromise on their signature economic proposal of this session, tax cuts.  The compromise will likely be that the biggest share of tax cuts go to business, with a mere pittance going to the rest of us.

Negotiators have proposed ditching the House’s preferred sales tax cut in favor of property tax relief that would cost about $1 billion less than the version passed in the Senate, according to sources in both chambers. It would give homeowners an additional $10,000 in homestead exemptions, enough to save the average homeowner about $125 annually.

Abbott praised the $10,000 homestead exemption as a “way that we can reduce the property tax burden for Texans.”

The deal would take the House’s preferred approach to cutting the business franchise tax — a 25 percent across-the-board cut — rather than the Senate’s approach, which would combine a smaller cut in rates and a provision freeing a large number of businesses from paying any tax at all.

Ten bucks a month for the “average” homeowner. It’s not worth the future misery it will likely cause, (see below).

This sessions attempt to help public education died yesterday.  Supporting public education is too liberal an issue for the Texas Senate.

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, began presenting his proposal Thursday, calling it a near-total tear down of the school finance system.

But he scrapped it after only a few minutes, saying that debate would take too long and derail too many other important bills. Aycock also noted that the Senate “almost certainly” wouldn’t even consider his measure.

“For a bill we already knew wasn’t going anywhere on the other end of the hall, there was no reason to kill all the rest of the bills on the counter to talk about that bill,” said Aycock, who also serves as the House Public Education Chairman, after he pulled the bill.

“Yes. I had suspicions that we were not going to be taking this bill all the way. I know there’s resistant on the Senate side for sure, but certainly, I thought it merited much more discussion than we were able to have with it today,” said Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who supported the bill and Aycock’s efforts. “We spent hours last night talking about abortion and we couldn’t even spend 15 minutes it seemed like talking about how we’re going to be funding our public schools.”

Anyone who’s been paying attention since Reagan knows the reason why the GOP cuts taxes is not to give money back, but to force cuts the next time there’s a budget deficit. Via Will Francis in the FWST, Tax cuts undermine services, economy.

While Texas House and Senate budget conferees finalize the state budget, most legislators have chosen to ignore the state’s many neglected needs, focusing instead on enacting shortsighted tax cuts.

Tax cut packages range from $4.6 billion in the Senate to $4.9 billion in the House.

If approved, these tax cuts mean that, at best, the current low levels of funding for public services and programs will continue for years to come, leaving the most vulnerable Texans to pay the price.

What would happen in a worst-case scenario, if an economic downturn occurs? No one would propose raising taxes during a recession, so tax cuts now could equal budget cuts later as drastic as those in 2011. [Emphasis added]

That last part is the kicker. There’s no way our current state government, in it’s current form, would ever raise taxes in an economic downturn. It would just be more pain for most Texans.

Francis finishes by highlighting the shortsightedness and cruelty of our current state leaders.

Legislators who claim that tax cuts will stimulate the economy are overlooking the fundamentals of economic prosperity.

Tax cuts will leave our classrooms overcrowded, our colleges unaffordable, our parks deprived, our roads in disrepair and other public services neglected, which will neither spur economic growth nor provide our communities with the resources to flourish.

Tax cuts only make it more difficult to meet the needs of our growing population.

If an economic downturn occurs, the tax cuts of today will leave our future legislators with only harmful options, such as cutting funding to public services from which we all benefit.

Why would we leave the many challenges facing Texas for our children to fix, when we can get started on these very real issues now?

There are certainly much higher priorities than tax cuts, and future cruel budget cuts, for the state of Texas.

Supply side/Trickle-down economics never worked and never will for anyone but the wealthy. It’s only caused pain for everyone else. It’s long past time we stopped allowing anyone, especially our elected leaders, to continue peddling these lies.

05.13.15

Give It All To Business – The GOP Tax Compromise

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Inequality, Taxes at 12:31 pm by wcnews

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Yesterday Joe Straus’ tax henchman alerted everyone to what the House GOP is willing to deal away to make a deal with the Senate GOP, Bonnen: I’d Scrap Sales Tax Cut for Larger Business Tax Cut.

As the Texas House and Senate appear at an impasse over what tax cuts to approve this session, House Ways and Means Chairman Dennis Bonnen said Tuesday that he’d be fine with replacing both chamber’s proposals with an even larger cut in the franchise tax paid by businesses.

“I would love to put it all into reducing the franchise tax,” Bonnen said. “I am beyond comfortable with that.”  [Emphasis added]

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, authored the House’s $4.9 billion tax cut proposal, which would cut the state sales tax rate and the franchise tax. The Senate has backed a proposal from Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that would cut the franchise tax and increase homestead exemptions to lower local school property taxes. Bonnen has repeatedly dismissed the Senate’s proposal as an inevitable letdown for Texans, predicting most won’t see their property tax bills decrease because of increases in property appraisals and local tax rates.

That’s right, screw the sales tax and the property tax, they just want to give it all away to business. They should be given credit for telling the truth this early in the legislative session.

As noted last week (The Texas GOP’s Tax Trap), there really is nothing of any significance the GOP can do in this realm for the vast majority of Texas without raising taxes on the wealthy and big business. Therefore they might as well just give it all to their real constituents.  It’s the same at the national level as well.

Yesterday the Roosevelt Institute released a report called Rewriting the Rules.  Via Our Future.

The report calls for:

● “Taming the top” through such measures as ending the phenomenon of “too big to fail” banks, working to narrow the gap between CEO pay and that of average workers, and changing the tax code so that the wealthy and corporations pay a greater share of their income in taxes.

● “Growing the middle” through focusing both fiscal and monetary policy on full employment, particularly through public infrastructure investment; empowering workers by strengthening collective bargaining rights; and a broad range of economic security and justice issues, including universal preschool, affordable higher education, Medicare for all, universal paid sick and family leave, pay equity, a path to citizenship for undocumented residents and expanded Social Security.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who no doubt inspired the title of the report by her popularizing the understanding that “the rules were rigged” against working people by the rich and powerful, said, “We know who trickle-down works for, and we know that if we want a strong middle class, it is time for new rules.”

“This country is in real trouble,” she said. “The game is rigged and we are running out of time. We cannot continue to run this country for the top 10 percent. We can’t keep pushing through trade deals that benefit multinational companies at the expense of workers. Government cannot continue to be the captive of the rich and powerful. Working people cannot be forced to give up more and more as they get squeezed harder and harder. … We know what we have to do.”

It’s obvious our state leaders could not care less about what most Texans need. If they did they could, at the least, set aside their ideology and expand Medicaid. But not only do we need to rewrite the rules, we need to elect people that will fight for what we need. But first a movement must be built, outside of a political party and it can’t be about one candidate.

Once the movement is built candidates will take on these issues as their own and then change will happen. That’s why the more publicity Bernie Sanders gets in his run for the Presidency the better off we’ll all be. Look at the issues that are being talked about just because he’s in the race.

Bernie Sanders’ 2016 website is nothing but a fundraising page. It says we can expect the real thing on May 26, the day of the Vermont senator’s formal 2016 launch in Burlington. But make no mistake, Sanders is already the real thing. And there’s no denying the lure of that.

Sanders is that unique White House hopeful who calls himself a socialist and habitually warns that “the forces of greed” are afoot in the land. He talks out loud about a single-payer health system and redistributing wealth, about what we can learn from Scandinavia and about economic trends that are “immoral” and “wrong.” He skips the sentimental Mother’s Day tweets and videos and marks the day by calling U.S. child care “a total disaster.” For Democrats weary of operating in the “reality-based community,” this is like diving into an icy pond on an oppressively hot day.

Those are issues the media and the corporations that own them don’t want to be discussed. It would be best if candidates would get on the correct side of these issues. They’re popular and they’re want the people want.

Further Reading:
Analysis: Making a Tax Deal Voters Might Not Care About.

05.12.15

How Do You Get Cornyn And Cruz To Agree With Obama?

Posted in Around The Nation, Trade at 3:11 pm by wcnews

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Why a huge boon for multinational corporations of course, Trade Deal Backed by Cornyn, Cruz is Blocked in U.S. Senate.

Despite the support of nearly every Republican in the U.S. Senate, including both from Texas, economic legislation seek as key to President Obama’s legacy was blocked on the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday.

Senate Democrats united against the proposal authorizing Obama to negotiate with Pacific Rim countries on a massive trade deal that has been years in the making. And the Obama-Republican coalition was unable to pull together enough votes to meet the 60-vote threshold to stop a filibuster.

Fifty-one Republicans and a single Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, backed the authorization. Forty-five senators voted to block the measure.

The debate over whether to give Obama that power splintered the Texas delegation in recent months, creating strange alliances between liberals and conservatives on both sides of the issue.

U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, is the chief vote-counter for Republicans and a key proponent of the legislation. Both he and fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz backed the authorization.

Great news and kudos to Democrats for standing as close to unanimous as possible against this legislation.

05.11.15

Business As Usual

Posted in Around The State, Money In Politics at 2:35 pm by wcnews

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Our current state leaders have never hid the fact that they believe corporations and business are models for how our government should be run.  Profit-taking ahead of everything else.  So this should not surprise anyone, New call-in line helps business leaders shape Texas laws.

In Texas, where the wall between big money and government is like the low cattle fencing that pens the state’s ranchland, new Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s new invitation-only calls have provided an especially direct connection between the state’s business elite and the Legislature’s agenda.

“Why wouldn’t I want to learn from and communicate with the job creators? Why would we want to pass legislation that might impact our economy in a negative way?” said Patrick, who schedules bills for action, explaining the calls.

Though many politicians have kitchen cabinets of advisers or issue task forces, Patrick’s private call-ins are considered unusual.

“It’s the first of this type of thing we’ve heard about,” said Edwin Bender executive director of the National Institute on Money In State Politics, which is based in Montana.

Patrick dismissed the idea that undue influence could be applied on bills. “I’m smart enough to filter that out,” he told The Associated Press.

A former conservative talk show host and state legislator from Houston who was elected last November, Patrick picked 56 prominent Texans at the outset of the session to give their thoughts on what the Legislature should be doing.

It’s unlikely that they really have to twist Patrick’s arm much. And Patrick’s intelligence in not is question regarding this issue. They’re just checking up on their investments to make sure they’re being handled well, and their needs are being met.

Those invited to the conference calls include Tilman Fertitta, a Houston restaurant magnate whose chains include Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., energy pipeline builder Kelcy Warren and railroad executive Bob Albritton. About 70 percent donated to Patrick’s campaigns for Senate and lieutenant governor, amounting to about $2 million in contributions, and many also gave to other top Republicans, such as Gov. Greg Abbott.

Panel members and Patrick say they mostly discuss big-picture issues, like transportation or energy. The invitees include those with backgrounds in various areas. Patrick said he mostly sits back and listens. But the sessions are having an effect.

These folks are Patrick’s biggest constituents. This is how our government works now. This is just business as usual.

TPA Blog Round Up (May 11, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:00 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance is busy designing its own TexMoji as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is busy popping popcorn so as to fully enjoy the Jonathan Stickland soap opera.

Letters from Texas guest blogger Russ Tidwell explains what the SCOTUS ruling that invalidated Alabama’s Congressional redistricting means for Texas.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos examines the Texas founders’ vision for public education. As a teacher and scholar Lightseeker laments how far we have strayed from this noble goal. Why Texas Puts the Stupid into Educational Reform.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. It impossible to lower taxes in a way most Texans will actually notice without raising taxes on the wealthy and big business. That is The Texas GOP’s Tax Trap.

There’s a message from the last socialist mayor of a major American city to the various Republican and Democratic socialists running (in a so-called non-partisan race for) mayor of Houston. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wants everybody to understand that we are all socialists of a form or fashion. And that’s not a bad thing.

Socratic Gadfly talks about how the New Democratic Party win in Alberta might have lessons for American Democrats, even in Texas.

Texas Leftist attended the first ever Houston Artist Town Hall— a meeting of nearly 200 artists from across the region. As Council prepare a new Cultural Plan for the Bayou City, artists themselves met to make sure they contribute to those plans.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled that Texas Republicans are using our taxpayer dollars to publicly bash gay people.

Neil at All People Have Value observed Jade Helm operations in Houston. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Better Texas Blog reads a headline from the future about the short-sighted tax cuts of today.

Texas Vox mourns the passing of the anti-fracking ban bill.

Newsdesk puts on its tinfoil hat for a look at Jade Helm 15.

Paradise in Hell is amused by the effort to video stalk members of the Legislature.

The Current reports on Scouting for Equality and their crowdfunded work to get the Boy Scouts of America to repeal its ban on gay parents and adults.

David Ortez complains about Harris County’s role in killing the online voter registration bill.

Robert Rivard recalls the legacy of William Velasquez and wonders what he’d make of today’s turnout rates.

05.07.15

The Texas GOP’s Tax Trap

Posted in 84th Legislature, Around The State, Taxes at 11:43 am by wcnews

Tax-Trap

As the tax cut debate continues in Texas we must remember that this is a fight for the heart and soul of the GOP Primary base, aka, the semi-sane GOP vs. the wing nuts.

Efforts by legislative leaders to find common ground on cutting Texans’ taxes is complicated by political considerations much bigger than the financial impact to individual pocketbooks.

Each side is making overtures that appear aimed at resolving the impasse between the Senate’s plan to give a break to homeowners from school property taxes and the House’s plan to instead cut the state sales tax rate.

But there’s little evidence that the Senate is willing to budge from its position – despite Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s designation of five senators to informally negotiate with the House on the issue.

House leaders also tout the overwhelming support of their chamber for their own plan.

The disagreement could set up the potential for a special session that carries a new risk: the possibility of less money for tax cuts if the economic forecast dims.

The only folks that care about the issues being debated is a narrow slice of Texans that vote in the GOP Primary, Bonnen says Patrick holding border security bill “hostage” to get his way on tax cuts.

House Speaker Pro Tem Dennis Bonnen said late Wednesday that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has held up passage of border security legislation in an attempt to force the House to accept the Senate’s tax-cut proposals.

Bonnen, R-Angleton, said in an interview that Patrick has inappropriately linked the two matters.

Spokesmen for Patrick did not immediately comment.

Bonnen spoke just hours after the two chambers finished a two-day process of making token gestures of good will. Their GOP presiding officers referred the other chamber’s tax-cut bills to committees, amid pledges by committee chiefs that they’ll be heard. Patrick appointed a sort of shadow team of Senate negotiators to talk tax cuts.

Bonnen, who heads the House’s tax-writing panel and has emerged this session as Speaker Joe Straus’ pit bull in dealings with the Senate, was unimpressed.

While Bonnen thinks border security is the number one issue in the state, most Texans would likely disagree. I’m sure education, a good paying job, health care and transportation are more important to most Texans. Also the current tax cut schemes that have been proposed – where most of the cuts go to business and the wealthy – will make little difference in most Texans lives.

Here’s the tax trap the GOP is in. Texas is a low tax state for the wealthy and big business. That makes it impossible to lower taxes in a way most Texans will actually notice without raising taxes on the wealthy and big business. Since that’s not going to happen, the GOP is stuck in a trap.

So far there’s only one thing the House, Senate and Gov. Abbott agree on, and that’s a tax cut for the constituency they all share. And Abbott’s only veto threat so far.

He has said he will reject a state budget unless lawmakers also approve business-tax relief. That appears a near-certainty.

That should inform us all as to who and what is most important to them.  And that’s not going to do anything for the vast majority of Texans.

It’s still a shame that the Democrats did not try and distinguish the party from the GOP on this issue. They showed some life yesterday when the other Bonnen tried to pass a tax break for yachts, House Rejects Tax Break for Pricey Boats.

Several House Democrats decried the measure as a giveaway for rich people, though many Republicans also voted against it.

“A pig is still a pig no matter how you dress it up, and this is a big fat pig for wealthy people,” state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, said. “The mere notion that we’re doing this to save jobs is a joke.”

As has been said here repeatedly, little will change for most Texans when it comes to taxes until the wealthy and big business pay their fair share. And that won’t happen until we have a state income tax.

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