TPA Blog Round Up (February 23, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Uncategorized at 10:06 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant on the event of their wedding as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff took issue with the initial reactions to the SD26 special election runoff result.

Light seeker at Texas Kaos continues to take down Fox News and its cynical use of fear, divide, conquer and false equivalencies. Its tactics are literally tearing us apart. The Fear and Hate Chronicles (Part 2) Part I it can be found here.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees the Republican hatred of non-white people is stronger than their need to show off their manly (sic) military muscles. Their ignorance has a price and their plutocrat owners, unfortunately, are not the ones paying.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for everyone else, A Slow Migration – Patrick’s Tax Swap Scheme.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s Texas tour now includes College Station and Laredo, in addition to this week’s Monday evening and Tuesday appearances In Houston. PDiddie’s Brains and Eggs has more details.

Neil at All People Have Value took a nighttime walk. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


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

Unfair Park looks into some rather unconventional speakers for Earth Day Texas 2015.

RG Ratcliffe takes a deeper dive into Greg Abbott’s campaign finance reports.

The Lunch Tray finds another example of craven grandstanding at the expense of children’s health.

HOU Equality reminds us that discrimination happens all around us, all the time.

TFN Insider“> reports from the faith leaders’ rally for LGBT rights at the Capitol.

Grits for Breakfast does not see marijuana “legalization”, however one defines that, in the cards this year.

Finally, In The 84th looks at the current legislative session in the most logical way, with GIFs and snark.


A Slow Migration – Patrick’s Tax Swap Scheme

Posted in 84th Legislature, Around The State, Taxes at 11:53 am by wcnews


Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick finally spilled the beans yesterday on his proposed tax swap scheme – not it’s not a tax cut!  Via the HChron, Texas lt. gov. lays out transition from property to sales tax.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gave a rousing speech to the Texas Association of Business’ annual meeting in Austin on Tuesday…


Patrick’s draft budget would cut property taxes by about $2 billion and business taxes by $2 billion. Frankly, I think the $9 billion Texas Margins Tax on business needs to be scrapped completely and replaced with something new, but Patrick doesn’t appear to have that kind of ambition. He said there are proposals to cut taxes on inventories and equipment, but he added it is still early days in the session.

To pay for these tax cuts, Patrick said he would begin the slow migration away from property taxes to greater reliance on sales taxes, something he talked about on the campaign trail.

“The revenues we get at the state level are primarily sales tax,” Patrick said. “What we’ve done is a gradual transition from bringing more people in to help pay for what a handful of people – businesses and property owners – have been paying.”

There is no doubt that more people directly pay sales taxes than property taxes. But there is also no doubt that sales taxes hurt poor people more than rich people because more of a poor person’s income goes to buy goods and services than a rich person’s. That’s the reason why most governments use income taxes is to spread the burden based on the ability to pay. [Emphasis added]

Of course it’s no surprise that his plan is to lower taxes on the wealthy by raising taxes for everyone else.

BTW, here’s a list of items (see pages 7 & *) that are currently exempt from sales tax and will likely, as Patrick says, start the “slow migration” to being taxed. Things like baby formula, milk, and water just to name a few.


When They Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

Posted in Around The Nation, Bad Government Republicans, Social Security at 10:35 am by wcnews


The right wing in America, which now controls the Republican Party, has always wanted to destroy Social Security.  They believe it is a waste of money and turns people into moochers.

No matter that it has been the most successful government program ever created in the United States.  It has kept millions of elderly out of poverty.  And it has grown to include assistance for the disabled and survivor benefits. Helping to support those who cannot support themselves.

The GOP wants to start a fake crisis To Dismantle Social Security.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) issued a stark warning to supporters: Republicans are willing to create a crisis pitting “America’s seniors against America’s disabled” in order to gut Social Security.

“We’ve known for years that Social Security Disability Insurance is set to run low in 2016, and most people assumed that another bipartisan reallocation was coming,” Warren wrote in an email to supporters on Wednesday evening. “But now, thanks to the Republican ideological war on our most important national safety net, disabled Americans could suddenly face a 20% cut in their Social Security checks next year.”

House Republicans quietly passed a rule change last month that would block Congress from being able to make routine tax revenue transfers between the Social Security retirement and disability funds, commonly referred to as reallocation, unless the program’s overall solvency is improved.

Of course there’s a simple fix for Social Security that will make it solvent far into the future, if not forever. Dems Brandish New Counterproposal In Social Security Fight: Tax The Rich.

The definitive Democratic counterproposal in the fledgling fight over Social Security is starting to emerge, and it has a familiar ring in the era of income inequality politics: tax the rich.

More specifically, Democrats are proposing to raise or eliminate the cap on Social Security taxes. Those taxes are currently collected up to $118,500 of a person’s income, and any income above that is Social Security tax-free. The liberal Center for American Progress said in a new report last week that the program had lost $1.1 trillion over the last 30 years because of it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced last week that he would propose eliminating the cap for income above $250,000. His office estimated that that would keep Social Security solvent until 2060; the program is currently projected to start running out of money in 2033.

“If Republicans are serious about extending the solvency of Social Security beyond 2033,” Sanders said, “I hope they will join me in scrapping the cap that allows multi-millionaires to pay a much smaller percentage of their income into Social Security than the middle class.”

In essence Social Security hasn’t gotten a raise in 30 years. Think of your household budget. If you were making the same money today, as you did in 1983, your household would be heading toward insolvency too.  It’s also extremely heartening to see the Democrats pushing hard on this.

This burned Reagan when he tried to do it, and the wing nuts are at it again.

When Ronald Reagan came to town back in 1981, he ran into an unexpected media buzzsaw named Spencer Rich, who was a colleague of mine at The Washington Post. A fellow Post editor dubbed Spencer Rich “the Ferret” because Spencer was a relentless digger of facts who repeatedly drove the Reagan White House nuts. His stories revealed insider details of what programs the new president intended to launch or old programs he planned to destroy. Spencer wasn’t really interested in the political horse race, but he understood the substance of government’s many parts and he did care about how government functioned. As it happens, so do ordinary citizens.

One of Spencer’s front-page exclusives revealed the Gipper’s plan to whack Social Security Disability Insurance. Republicans, he discovered, planned to denounce the liberal program as a scandal of fraud and waste. A fire storm of controversy erupted after his story appeared. The White House first denied it. Then the White House confirmed the story but said the facts were wrong. On the third or fourth day, the White House announced the program was snuffed.

This is what makes a free press so valuable to democracy—that is, if the reporters are truly free. I yearn to see a reporter with the courage to call out liars.

The GOP will always try to pull there budget gimmicks by making the poor and the voiceless pay, never will they ask those with more then they need to sacrifice anything.

When they show you who they are, believe them.


TPA Blog Round Up (February 16, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 11:35 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance sends warm thoughts to everyone in the Northeast digging themselves out from snow again as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff reports on opposition to the proposed high speed rail line.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos, is appalled by efforts to pass an open carry law in Texas. What should Texans fear the most? ISIS or Open Carry?

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is tired of Republicans using hurtful, hateful tactics to appease their racist base and cause harm to the people in the Valley.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about the ongoing federal cover-up of a plot to kill members of Occupy Houston in 2011. Occupy Houston protestors were peaceful people. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The Texas GOP plans to give the wealthy in Texas a tax cut – no matter what. The cost will be high for everyone else, The Cost Of Tax Cuts.

Texas Leftist reports on the most significant changes to the Houston region’s public transit infrastructure since the creation of METRO. With System Reimagining now approved and the final route maps in selected, transit in Texas’ largest city will never be the same again.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is coming to Denton this weekend, and Houston next week, as part of the kickoff to her bid for the presidency of the US. PDidddie at Brains and Eggs has the details.


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

Lone Star Ma calls on doctors to do a better job explaining the need for vaccinations.

Texas Vox would like you to tell President Obama to veto the Keystone XL pipeline.

Jef Rouner and his five-year-old daughter encounter an open carry demonstration.

Purple City sees cultural undertones in the opposition to the proposed high speed rail line in Texas.

Texans Together reports on the State of Black Houston 2015.

Jeff Balke goes back to high school to explore when kids and faith collide.

The Great God Pan Is Dead laments the loss of two cultural icons.

Grits for Breakfast is encouraged by the possibility of grand jury reform.

Austin Contrarian demonstrates how street design can lead to major traffic problems.


Even A Great Case For Medicaid Expansion Can’t Trump Ideology

Posted in Health Care at 2:13 pm by wcnews

Medicaid Expansion

Philip Martin has a great article on expanding Medicaid in Texas in the Texas Monthly, On the Evidence for Medicaid Expansion.  In it he makes a well reasoned and logical case for Medicaid Expansion in Texas.  He also shreds the case right wing Texas Public Policy Foundation has been making. The economic case he makes is the most striking and would seem to be one that would sway those on the right.

First, the economic impact. A state auditor’s report from September 2014 found that Rick Perry’s much-touted Texas Enterprise Fund created just over 48,000 jobs over a 10-year period. Abbott says he wants to be “ bigger and bolder” on job creation than Perry. Medicaid expansion is his best chance at that legacy. Former Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton’s 2013 study projected that Texas could create as many as 236,000 jobs by 2016. Another study, by economist Ray Perryman, finds the total could rise as high as 300,000 jobs over ten years. Even in a worst-case scenario where Hamilton and Perryman’s studies are off by a whopping 75%, expanding Medicaid would do more for job creation than a decade of Perry’s ill-managed Texas Enterprise Fund. Beyond the projected job creation totals, Hamilton’s study concludes that expanding Medicaid offsets the $1 billion borne by local governments to cover uncompensated care costs and would significantly lower the extra $1,800 in higher premiums Texas taxpayers pay each year to cover the uninsured.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s John Daniel Davidson, who offered a piece on the economics of Medicaid expansion on January 16 for Texas Monthly, doesn’t believe Hamilton or Perryman. He argues that Texas will lose jobs if Medicaid is expanded. However, their information is based on a flawed study from a center-right group, the American Action Forum. The study is anchored in the assumption that more people enrolled in coverage increases the premiums everyone pays, thus stifling economic opportunities. The study Davidson cites reflects a long-existing argument TPPF has made itself in the past – that “the federal deficit is going to absorb most of the increase in insurance costs,” a problem TPPF argued “is perhaps the single most crucial fact about the entire law.”

Fortunately for Texans, though unfortunately for TPPF, that’s not the case. First, the U.S. deficit is shrinking. As a percentage of GDP, the deficit is at its lowest point since President Reagan, and long-term debt is primarily driven by Bush-era tax cuts, not any laws passed by President Obama. Finally, premiums are growing at a much, much slower rate than before ACA went into effect. Here in Texas, 85% of those who bought health insurance through the exchange used a subsidy to lower the costs. As a result, their average premium was $72-per-month after a 76% discount provided by the subsidies – which was “ the seventh lowest out of the 36 states” utilizing the federal exchange.

The doomsday economic scenarios conservatives at TPPF wished for just aren’t coming true, which is no surprise to anyone who followed TPPF’s budget shenanigans in 2013. And it turns  out a lot of other Texas businesses aren’t believing what TPPF is selling, either.

For the last year, Texas’ chambers of commerce have invited different groups to speak about Medicaid expansion. TPPF met with those chambers to argue against Medicaid expansion, while local officials and statewide health advocates met with chambers to advocate for expansion. For the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the result was not pretty.

Unfortunately this will likely have little impact in swaying current policy.  Even the moral case for Medicaid Expansion holds no sway with the right wing.  This is about ideology.  These folks don’t believe health care is a human right.  They believe anyone deserves health care unless they can pay for it themselves.  And they definitely don’t believe the government should be doing involved in any way.

Texas GOP Border Skirmish

Posted in 84th Legislature, Immigration at 10:35 am by wcnews


There may be a GOP border skirmish brewing in The Lege. Gov. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made a show of his wishes to extend the border surge yesterday.  Texas House Speaker Joe Straus reminded him that it’s not his call to make.  Greg Abbott had no comment.

Patrick, flanked by several Republican senators, said at a Capitol news conference that $12 million will be appropriated to keep the Guard on the border through May. He also expects additional funding to maintain the presence for up to two more years.

While current funding was supposed to keep the Guard in place through March, Patrick said, “now is not the time to remove the National Guard from the border.” He cited a “significant decline” in the number of people apprehended trying to enter the country illegally in recent months.

In addition, he said, $1.87 billion worth of cartel drugs have been seized during the operation.

“The word got out that Texas was serious about securing our border,” Patrick said, adding that he and Gov. Greg Abbott are in agreement on the course of action. “You don’t stop doing something that is working for the safety of Texans.”

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, reacted with caution to Patrick’s pronouncement.

“I appreciate Governor Patrick’s remarks,” Straus said. “But Governor Abbott is the commander in chief and he will decide whether to extend the National Guard’s deployment.”

Abbott’s office declined to comment on the matter Tuesday.

Patrick making a show of his wishes shouldn’t surprise anyone. That’s what right wing talk show hosts do. It has put Abbott in a precarious position. He can either go along/follow Patrick’s lead or go against Patrick and give him an easy campaign ad for the 2018 GOP primary. Decisions, decisions.


The Cost Of Tax Cuts

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Public Schools, Taxes at 3:58 pm by wcnews


It’s becoming pretty clear what the cost Lt. Gov. Patrick’s “no matter what” tax cuts will be. There’s public education of course, a favorite punching bag of conservative Republicans, Early tax cut promises have education advocates worried.

The starting budgets of the state House and Senate, released last month, are similar on many fronts, but not with respect to education. Faced with $4.5 billion in additional revenue from increasing property values, the House has chosen to reinvest a portion of that in public education while the upper chamber is focusing on tax relief, a decision not sitting well with educators.

“I don’t know how you could say that budget prioritized public education,” Lonnie Hollings-worth, governmental relations director at the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, said of the Senate budget. “We think the priority should be to fund our public schools and not to do tax cuts.”

A cursory glance at the Senate’s document indicates the upper chamber wants to provide billions more this biennium for public education funding. But the promises of many senators, including new Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, to provide $4 billion in tax relief leave only around $200 million available for schools.

Here’s the interesting thing about the property tax cut that Lt. Gov. Patrick is proposing. The reason property taxes are out of control is because the state hasn’t increased revenue in a long, long time. Without increased funding from the state cities and counties have been forced to raise local taxes to keep up with needs.

City and county officials say they will work to educate lawmakers on the problems caps could bring. The messages vary across the state.

The Texas Municipal League has argued that cities and counties don’t deserve the blame for growing property tax bills. City taxes make up only 16 percent of the taxes levied across the state, while schools account for 55 percent of all property tax bills statewide, the organization says.

“Our message is that we are not the problem,” Sandlin said.

And leaders of fast-growing cities and counties say they need property tax revenue growth to pay for new roads, sewers and other infrastructure. Caps on how much appraisals grow could simply force cities to increase the tax rate, opponents of the bills say.

And the schools need that money because of the cuts to public education the state made during the budget “shortfall” in 2011. Which was not restored once prosperity returned in 2013.

The most egregious part of this is who will benefit and who will pay for these purported tax cuts.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he worries that the caps would mostly help the rich. Property values tend to rise faster in the wealthier parts of town, he said, so those homeowners are the ones who would benefit most from a cap on appraisals.

“It is disguised as a tax break for all, but it is actually a shift from the upper class to the rest,” Jenkins said.

It’s the age-old story. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

The cost of these tax cuts are not just to our pocket books.  But they are to the future of Texas.  The needed investments in education and infrastructure will be forsaken so the wealthy, who already have more then they need, can have even more.

TPA Blog Round Up (February 9, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:53 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance will be more than happy to never hear the word “sequestration” again as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff provides his four part Mayoral manifesto for the 2015 election in Houston.

Letters from Texas turns the blog over to Russ Tidwell for an update on redistricting litigation and the question the judges in San Antonio will be ruling on.

light seeker at Texas Kaos takes Fox “News” to task for its fear mongering, distortion and misrepresentation. The Fear and Hate Chronicles.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: It’s amazing to me how little Texans care if corporations waste their money. Privatization Corruption Is Common In Texas.

The games people play with money when they are our elected representatives in Austin gets more disgusting by the legislative session. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs really thinks there’s got to be a better way to run state government than with the wheels greased by the lobbyists.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes Larry Taylor is so encrusted in the Republican bubble he brags about giving the insurance industry perks at the expense of Texans.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about the rip current warning sign on the beach in Galveston. Sometimes we do have to swim against the tide. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.


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

Lone Star Ma puts out a call to action to oppose the so-called Teacher’s Protection Act, H.B. 868.

Cherise Rohr-Allegrini catalogs the latest measles outbreak and proselytizes for vaccinations.

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle stands, as a Christian, a person of faith, and a pastor, with her Muslim neighbors and all people who work for justice, peace and reconciliation.

The TSTA Blog calls vouchers “a tuition break at your expense”.

Cody Pogue reviews “Building a Better Teacher”.

Concerned Citizens reports from the first Mayoral debate in San Antonio.


TxTag/TxDot Follow Up

Posted in Privatization, Transportation at 11:35 am by wcnews


KXAN, interviewed the head of TxDOT Joe Weber about the problems they been having with privatization and Xerox, TxDOT director addresses TxTag issues, promises fixes. FWIW:

Xerox’s $100 million contract with the State of Texas includes handling customer service and the TxTag website.

“Am I happy with Xerox? No. I’m not happy with myself. I’m not happy with TxDOT,” said Weber. “Anytime that the people of the state of Texas are giving us their tax money, they expect us to perform and provide them good services and in this particular case we haven’t. But we’re going to make it better and we’re going to work very hard to make it better. Again, it’s been a very difficult transition in the data transfers, but we’re going to work through it.”

But what about all of the customers still struggling to pay their bill or figure out if they were billed in error? Weber says TxDOT is going to make it right.

“Because as our constituents, as people of the state of Texas who have entrusted us their tax money to build these roads and pay tolls, we owe it to them to make it right. And we are. So be patient with us, we’re sensitive, we’re working very hard. We have some of the greatest people in the staff here working with Xerox and we’re going to make it better.”

The one question the interviewer didn’t ask is why don’t you return our calls?

I knew this story hit a fever pitch when a local GOP lawmaker finally go on board.

The problems also have one Cedar Park lawmaker calling for an audit into whether TxDOT has been collecting money from customers who may have been billed in error.

“This entire situation has gotten completely out of hand,” said State Rep. Tony Dale. “I wonder how many thousands of dollars of erroneous toll violations have been assessed and collected.”

In addition to the audit request, Dale sent a letter to TxDOT officials asking for an emergency meeting. Dale wants to know just how much money TxDOT has made in violation fines from toll users.

“When a person gets five, six or seven bills in the mail that all have violations attached and they never received a letter before in the first place, that’s unacceptable. It has to change.”

Better late then never.  See EOW’s previous post, TxTag/Xerox Toll Issues Continue.


Tax Cuts Equal Spending Cuts

Posted in 84th Legislature, Taxes at 2:12 pm by wcnews


Whenever the GOP wants to cut taxes all of us that aren’t rich need to grab our wallets.  What are you willing to do without to get a tax cut? Tax cuts have a cost and we must make our politicians tells us what we will have to sacrifice to give wealthy Texans more money. Here’s some of what’s likely on the chopping block if the Texas GOP gets it’s wish, Some senators not so gung-ho for tax cuts.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, said the Senate “base budget” unveiled last week by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson jumped to the conclusion that $3 billion in school property tax cuts and $1 billion in business-franchise tax reductions were possible.

Eltife, though, said the state also faces demands that it should spend more on highways and water infrastructure; shore up teachers’ and state workers’ pension funds; and preserve some money in case it loses the latest round of school-finance lawsuits.

Eltife said that like everyone, he is for tax cuts.

But he said he can’t support “removing $4 billion from the revenue stream until I know for sure that we can meet the needs of the state.”

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, cited a major push that’s under way to shift around existing tax dollars, to increase transportation spending. It involves sales tax collected on cars, money that now supports schools, colleges, health care, prisons and general functions of state government. The Senate budget would shift $1.2 billion of the money into roads over the next two years. [Emphasis added]

Whitmire also talked about another idea popular with many business lobbyists — using some of the state’s expected surplus and “growth money” in 2016-2017 to retire state road bonds.

It should be no surprise that the GOP would sacrifice these things to get tax cuts for their campaign donors.

It may be hard to fathom for some but the purpose of these tax cuts has nothing to do with the timeworn wing-nut drivel that “you know better then government how to spend your money”.  It has do with starving government, especially those things highlighted above, of money to continue.  That’s always been the target for them.

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