The GOP is in a bind, so they want to change the rules in the middle of the game. This goes good with the temper tantrum they thew on Medicaid expansion earlier in the week.
Erica Grieder in the Texas Monthly uses way too many words to explain, in a nice way, that the Texas GOP is scheming to change the budget rules on debt and taxes. The GOP wants to bust the spending cap, without having to pay, politically, for busting the spending cap.
Since former Gov. Rick Perry’s tax diversion schemes ares no longer politically feasible, the new guys have to find a new scheme. And the only thing the GOP has relied on while in power more than diversions is passing the buck to the voters.
[GOP state Sen. Jane] Nelson described the measures as “a no-brainer” and predicted they would have little trouble drawing support from a majority of the state’s voters.
She knows that constitutional amendments pass easy in those off year elections, when voter turnout is less than 10%.
House Speaker Joe Straus appears not to like the Senate proposals.
“For 36 years our state spending cap has helped enforce fiscal discipline, and we should be very cautious about any attempt to weaken it,” Straus, R-San Antonio, said in a statement.
Democrats should be against this as well. They should make the GOP play by the same rules they used when they gutted education funding. Of course, it’s tempting to go along with a scheme where it looks like they’re willing to give on some things. But unless the GOP is willing to give on expanding Medicaid and fully funding public education they need to steer clear of this.
Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, chosen by Patrick to replace him as education chair this session, said the upper chamber wants to “unshackle” innovative, successful schools while holding those that are underperforming accountable.
Of the six bills highlighted Tuesday, Taylor will carry the three likely to encounter the most vehement opposition. Each has received Gov. Greg Abbott’s stamp of approval.
Senate Bill 6, filed Tuesday, would require every school in the state to be assigned an A-F letter grade. Under current law, school districts and campuses are rated simply as “met standard” or “improvement required.” Taylor also is sponsoring Senate Bill 14, the so-called “parent trigger” bill, which would reduce from five years to two the amount of time parents would have to wait before they may petition to close or convert a failing school to a charter school.
Finally, Taylor’s Senate Bill 895 would create a new statewide school district into which underperforming schools would be shifted. The new entity, called the “Opportunity School District,” would focus on turning around the failing campuses. Similar districts are in place in Tennessee and Louisiana.
Perfect, nothing like having Tennessee and Louisiana as our education model. This is the same repackaged drivel the right wing been selling for decades. All they’re for is making sure public education fails and the school system is turned over to the corporations.
Monty Exter, lobbyist for the Association for Texas Professional Educators, noted some of the bills discussed Tuesday mirrored the agenda of Texans for Education Reform, an Austin-based education advocacy group at odds with teacher groups like his.
“That brand of reform is all about privatization to one degree or another,” said Exter, who said parent triggers, opportunity school districts and A-F grading have encouraged the proliferation of privately run, publicly funded charter schools in other states. “Part of the narrative of the privatization movement is ‘our traditional schools are failing,’ when they are not, by and large.”
Clay Robison, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, agreed: “The Taylor-Patrick agenda fails to meet the needs of 5 million public school students whose schools have been inadequately funded by the very legislators who are eager to declare schools a failure based on standardized test scores. Educators want legislators to demonstrate a genuine commitment to strengthening neighborhood public schools instead of handing them over to outsiders who have no direct stake in our students’ success.”
Of course what they should be focusing on, they’re not. This is not news to anyone who is a teacher, is related to a teacher, or knows a teacher, Where Have All The Teachers Gone?
Several big states have seen alarming drops in enrollment at teacher training programs. The numbers are grim among some of the nation’s largest producers of new teachers: In California, enrollment is down 53 percent over the past five years. It’s down sharply in New York and Texas as well.
In North Carolina, enrollment is down nearly 20 percent in three years.
“The erosion is steady. That’s a steady downward line on a graph. And there’s no sign that it’s being turned around,” says Bill McDiarmid, the dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education.
Why have the numbers fallen so far, so fast?
McDiarmid points to the strengthening U.S. economy and the erosion of teaching’s image as a stable career. There’s a growing sense, he says, that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment.
The list of potential headaches for new teachers is long, starting with the ongoing, ideological fisticuffs over the Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing and efforts to link test results to teacher evaluations. Throw in the erosion of tenure protections and a variety of recession-induced budget cuts, and you’ve got the makings of a crisis.
The job also has a PR problem, McDiarmid says, with teachers too often turned into scapegoats by politicians, policymakers, foundations and the media.
“It tears me up sometimes to see the way in which people talk about teachers because they are giving blood, sweat and tears for their students every day in this country. There is a sense now that, ‘If I went into this job and it doesn’t pay a lot and it’s a lot of hard work, it may be that I’d lose it.’ And students are hearing this. And it deters them from entering the profession.”
It’s long past time we valued education, and key to that is making sure teachers know they’re valued. Tax cuts, vouchers, and charter schools are not the answer. Getting by on the cheap is not the answer if we want a quality public education system in Texas.
The knee-jerk reaction after the election in 2014 was to blame “the left” for the Democrats ineptitude in 2014. Of course in Texas “the left” really doesn’t exist in any way that’s meaningful in the current political process. But this is not about going off on a Death of the Liberal Class rant.
Why this comes to mind is because there was another “will Battleground Texas (BGTX) survive?” article recently. This one from Texas Monthly, The Future of Battleground Texas. And this is the part that stood out. It was in the section talking about how BGTX meshed, or didn’t mesh, with the Wendy Davis campaign.
Battleground and Davis also differed ideologically—which is to say that the former was to the left of the latter. That’s unsurprising, given that Brown and some of the other upper-echelon staffers were alumni of Obamaworld, while Davis had won her two state senate races in part because of the support of the Fort Worth business community. But the difference seems to owe more to inevitable opposition between the granular outlook of a field operation and the 30,000-foot view of campaign uber-strategists. Battleground’s volunteers reported up the chain that the voters they contacted responded well to progressive themes like raising the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid. But Davis’s senior advisers, led by J.D. Angle, were understandably reluctant to cast their candidate as anything resembling a liberal. (Of course, that’s how the Abbott campaign painted her anyway.)[Emphasis added]
If no one running for office is speaking to the issues that are important to the citizenry then there’s not reason for them to vote. Which is why they didn’t. In an election about tax cuts for the wealthy, border security and guns, no one should be surprised that the vast majority of people who showed up to vote were for those issues. And voted for Republicans.
Will BGTX survive? They will if they offer something people want. It’s not like BGTX is a far left group. Let’s be honest, health care and a decent wage are not radical left wing ideas. And Obama never would have been elected without money from corporations and Wall Street banks. But if they at least work on getting health care to the uninsured and raising wages for working Texans they may be onto something. Democratic candidates for statewide office should also be willing to run on those issues.
This discussion parallels what’s going on at the national level. What Elizabeth Warren knows, and more Democrats are starting to realize, is that the “New Democrat/DLC” corporate Democrat spin doesn’t work anymore.
The Hill notes that the NDC’s [New Democrat Coalition] policy proposal is aimed at pushing back against a progressive agenda announced last week by Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The Facebook video of Warren discussing the plan and hammering the unfairness of the current economy for hard-working Americans has received just short of 2 million views.
Warren speaks to kitchen-table issues in plain English working people understand.
My wife spoke last month with a Fox News-watching brother of a friend. He’s white, registered unaffiliated, disenchanted with both parties, and didn’t bother to vote in the 2014 mid-terms. Neither party has done anything for the working man for 40 years, he told her. Yet he liked “that woman” who’s taking on the big banks. He couldn’t name her, but thought it a miracle that she’s still alive.
He’s a conservative from North Carolina, where Third Way’s Kay Hagan — running an Obama-style field campaign, but selling herself as the “most moderate” senator — narrowly lost her U.S. Senate seat to “Typhoid Thom” Tillis.
Centrist Democrats, don’t be too proud of that political battle station you’re constructing.
The article about this latest New Democrat instance in the Hill would be funny, if they weren’t so serious.
The Democratic Party, Texas and our nation needs pushback form the left. That’s how to break the right wing fever. Issues like higher wages and health care are great movement type issues that Texans can get behind. It’s also the only way to get the kinds of changes we need to our political and governmental systems.
First of all this is not news. This is a temper tantrum plain and simple. Does anyone in their right mind actually believe that 20 GOP state Senators “demanding” – stomping their feet – is really going to change anything? They even acknowledge this is all just for show.
Patrick complained about “overreaching federal mandates” and demanded the leeway to “manage our own Medicaid.”
He and all of the chamber’s Republicans sent President Barack Obama a letter demanding flexibility to revamp Texas’ version of Medicaid, a state-federal health insurance program for the poor, elderly and disabled.
Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, quickly acknowledged at a Capitol news conference that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services probably is not going to give the Texas Republicans what they want.[Emphasis added]
Uh..no. He knows they won’t get what they want.
These GOP politicians either don’t realize, or don’t care, that there are people suffering because they’re unable to get health care. People in need of health care don’t have time to play ideological games. But these folks blocking Medicaid expansion all have health so…
Low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly, and Texans with disabilities don’t need more hoops to jump through. Like all Texans, they need to be able to see a doctor when they’re sick, fill their prescriptions, and get other critical medical care.
Texas already has one of the most bare bones Medicaid programs in the country, denying coverage to nearly all low-income parents and workers despite the availability of federal funds intended to cover them.
The officials’ announcement decries increased enrollment in Texas Medicaid, despite the fact that enrollment growth has been almost entirely through coverage of children, dropping the uninsured rate of Texas children from 25% in 1997 to 13% of all kids in 2013. The authors ask to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s “maintenance of effort” requirements, which are designed to protect children’s health care coverage.
The real health care crisis in our state is that so many Texans don’t have access to health insurance, putting them and their families at risk while forcing other Texans to cover unpaid hospital bills through higher premiums and property taxes.
Health Savings Accounts and other requirements have been included in the plans conservative states have negotiated with the federal government for extending coverage to low-income adult workers, but these requirements are ill-suited for the vulnerable Texans served by the state’s current bare bones Medicaid program.
The proposal to squeeze a few extra dollars out of low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly, and Texans with disabilities, announced the same week the Senate Finance Committee plans to consider tax cuts for some of the state’s largest businesses, represents the wrong priorities for Texas.
Rather than casting blame on the federal government, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and Texans with disabilities, we encourage our state leaders to listen to Texas doctors, Chambers of Commerce, county judges, and others who are calling for a plan to accept our share of new Medicaid funding for uninsured workers and parents.
Texans who agree that state leaders should develop a plan to close the Coverage Gap are invited to join business leaders, health care leaders, uninsured Texans, and others at Cover Texas Now’s Advocacy Day at the state Capitol on March 12. More information is available at texaswellandhealthy.org.
People are suffering and they decide to throw a political temper tantrum that they know won’t work. That’s cruel at best.
Here at EOW we’ve written about the GOP’s neglect of this state for quitesometime. The “tax cut not matter the cost” schemes the GOP has concocted over the years are the cause. There’s been money to fix these things, they’ve decided that tax cuts are more important. Via the Texas Tribune, Signs of Neglect, Wear and Tear in State Government.
It didn’t happen overnight. The deterioration in state parks, hit by a series of budget cuts and outright raids on its supposedly dedicated funding by lawmakers, has been a running plot line in the papers for several years.
Likewise, the deferred maintenance at state buildings, which could cost almost $1 billion assuming the work begins now, dates backs a generation in some cases.
But with a new crop of leaders taking the reins at state agencies, stories of neglect and bureaucratic woe are spilling out into the open more than ever — in testimony before the Legislature, interviews with the media and dry agency reports.
Newly elected Comptroller Glenn Hegar has seen it firsthand. In his earlies days on the job, he learned that a hole in the bathroom wall at the Lyndon B. Johnson building had to be patched with toilet paper. He found out a female employee had to get rabies shots not long ago after coming into contact with one of the numerous bats flying in the building. And he discovered the real purpose of a quilt on the wall of an employee’s office.
“I thought it was decoration, but, no, that’s to muffle the sound of the bathroom behind her wall, so you can’t hear people that are on the toilet,” Hegar told The Texas Tribune on Friday.
The maintenance problems are not confined to the comptroller’s office.
“We have leaking roofs that have caused damage to servers. We have elevators that don’t work,” Attorney General Ken Paxton, who recently took over the top state attorney job from Gov. Greg Abbott, testified recently. “I’ve been surprised at some of the issues that we’ve already had to deal with.”
Nowhere is the deferred maintenance more dramatic than at the Texas School for the Deaf. Its fire safety problems got so bad last year that the state fire marshal’s office threatened to shut down the historic South Austin school. To keep it open, the Texas Facilities Commission agreed to patrol parts of the campus 24 hours a day to ensure buildings don’t go up in flames — a sort of human fire alarm system to replace a mechanical one that doesn’t work in a wide swath of the campus.
“We didn’t see that as a necessity,” Peter Maass, a deputy at the Texas Facilities Commission, said of the fire checks. “[But] we said, okay, we’re not going to argue.”
There’s at least one member of the Texas Senate who’s speaking out about what the real priorities of The Lege should be. It’s not tax cuts and the Senator in not a Democrat, Republican rains on tax-cut parade.
As state lawmakers clamber aboard the tax-cut bandwagon, one Republican is raining on the parade that has been so enthusiastically arranged by his party’s leaders.
Sen. Kevin Eltife points out repeatedly, publicly and with rhetorical flair that the state has a list of long-neglected problems whose solutions would mean more to Texans than even a couple of hundred more dollars in their pockets from tax relief.
His position puts him at odds with Republicans and some Democrats who are championing big tax reductions. They say there’s enough money in these relatively flush times to both meet state needs and cut taxes by billions of dollars.
The list of problems comes easily to him: troubled pension funds, infuriating road congestion, growing state debt, long-running litigation over public education funding, state buildings going without basic repairs and universities in need of facilities.
“I just can’t jump out there and support tax cuts — as politically popular as that would be — I cannot do it until I know for a fact we have solutions to state problems,” said Eltife, R-Tyler. “Most of my constituents want us to solve problems.”
Most, if not all Texans want that too. And threats aside Eltife is sticking to his guns, and driving the wing nuts crazy.
Eltife said he doesn’t think about elections when he’s doing his work of the session, which possibly would make him unique among lawmakers.
“I don’t know why anybody would worry about elections right now in the middle of session when we are trying to solve the state’s problems,” Eltife said. “If this is the end of my political career, so be it. It’s not going to keep me from talking about the problems of the state.”
Most in The Lege are worried about what their funders want, those are their true constituents. So to them the next election is what the only thing the legislative session is about. They don’t want to be kicked out of the club.
Despite the good financial situation Texas is in, we can’t forget that the surplus we have was been built through neglect. Taxes have been cut and much needed items have been neglected. The bills are coming due and we have money to pay them. Instead we’re going to give that money to the wealthy and big business who already have more then they need.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled at the anti-citizen ignorance of McAllen City Commissioner’s candidate, Debbie Crane Aliseda, who equates early voting to voter fraud. What’s worse? Other candidates echoed her ignorance.
A hot rumor about Adrian Garcia declaring for mayor of Houston turned out to be only that, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs — as someone really well-connected once said — “ran the traps on everything”. (A city council candidate did announce at that same breakfast meeting, for whatever that might be worth.)
It’s key for everyone to understand how we got to the budget situation were in today in Texas.
The money that was cut from the budget in 2011, and not replaced in 2013, is responsible for the surplus we now have that the GOP wants to give back to the wealthy and big business in tax cuts. Both budget estimates turned out to be way off base.
That original deficit in 2011 was caused by the GOP Tax Swap Scheme of 2006. Everyone knew, when it was passed, that it would create a structural deficit.
Teachers lost jobs, schools were de-funded, and many were forced to sacrifice so taxes on the wealthy and big business would not be raised.
Just think about that.
The money was never intended to be replaced. The GOP used the ruse of a tax swap in 2006 and the budget crisis it created in 2011 to gut public education. And since then, with the surplus it created, their main concern is to give more tax cuts to the wealthy and big business.
The problem with the current tax cut schemes being discussed in The Lege is that there’s little relief being offered to those who pay the most, as a percentage of their income, in taxes. Via QR.
Texas earns dubious distinction, 3rd worst state for taxes inflicted on average Americans
Current tax cut bidding war means nothing to most Texans
While the Senate and House are in a bidding war for the biggest headline number of tax cuts that most Texans will not feel, the online financial publication “Marketwatch” named Texas the third worst state for taxes inflicted on average Americans.
The analysis reports that the Lone Star State has the fifth highest effective tax rate on the state’s bottom 20% at 12.5% and the 8th lowest rate on the top 1% at an effective tax rate of 2.9%.
From the story, “…the state relies heavily on sales and excise taxes. These consumption taxes accounted for nearly 32% of the state’s revenue, the ninth highest nationwide in fiscal 2012. The state also doesn’t provide low-income residents with any tax credits, which help offset sales, excise and property taxes in other states.”
Darren Hodges, a Tea Party Republican and councilman in the windy West Texas city of Fort Stockton, is a fierce defender of his town’s decision to ban plastic bags. It was a local solution to a local problem and one, he says, city officials had a “God-given right” to make.
But the power of Fort Stockton and other cities to govern themselves is under attack in the state capital, Austin. The new Republican governor, Greg Abbott, has warned that several cities are undermining the business-friendly “Texas model” with a patchwork of ill-conceived regulations. Conservative legislators, already angered by a ban on fracking that was enacted by popular vote in the town of Denton last fall, quickly followed up with a host of bills to curtail local power.
So-called pre-emption laws, passed in states across the country, have barred cities from regulating landlords, building municipal broadband systems and raising the minimum wage. In the last two years, eight Republican-dominated states, most recently Alabama and Oklahoma, have prevented cities from enacting paid sick leave for workers, and a new law in Arkansas forbids municipalities to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. Already this year, bills introduced in six more states, including Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina, seek to do the same. At least five states have pre-empted local regulation of e-cigarettes. And in New Mexico, the restaurant industry supports a modest increase to the minimum wage only if the state stops cities from mandating higher minimums.
Often these efforts are driven by industry, which finds it easier to wield influence in 50 capitols than in thousands of city halls, said Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which opposes the pre-emption of public health measures.
The strategy was pioneered by tobacco companies 30 years ago to override local smoking bans. It was perfected by the National Rifle Association, which has succeeded in preventing local gun regulations in almost every state.
More recently, the restaurant industry is leading the fight to block municipalities from increasing the minimum wage or enacting paid sick leave ordinances in more than a dozen states, including Florida, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Continue reading the main story
“Businesses are operating in an already challenging regulatory environment,” said Scott DeFife, the head of government affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “The state legislature is the best place to determine wage and hour law. This is not the kind of policy that should be determined jurisdiction by jurisdiction.”
This year, a combination of big money in state politics and a large number of first-time state legislators presents an opportunity for industries interested in getting favorable laws on the books, Mr. Pertschuk said. Increasingly, he said, disparate industries are banding together to back the same laws, through either the business-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, or shared lobbyists. “There is going to be a feeding frenzy all year long in the state legislatures,” he said.[Emphasis added]
It’s cheaper and easier for them to buy state legislators than it is to buy city council members in every city. And it’s obvious that the GOP never cared about local control, it was just a catch phrase that business lobbies like the Chamber of Commerce and ALEC made up.
While cities and counties always devote energy at the Legislature to warding off what they deem as meddling, the challenge this time appears different to many.
“There are some items that might not have been on the agenda before,” said Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas. “With the strength of the movement conservatives, my concern is that we might be taking away some local control authority from our communities.”
A new slate of statewide leaders — including Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — spelled uncertainty from the get-go for Texas municipalities.
But Abbott, in a speech before his inauguration, hammered away at cities for “unchecked overregulation” and argued that they’re causing Texas to be “California-ized.” He pointed specifically to shopping bag ordinances — such as the one Dallas just implemented — and Denton’s fracking ban.
Patrick’s push to effectively reduce growth in the amount of property tax revenue cities can collect has local budget-writers concerned. Supporters say that effort will provide Texans with long overdue property tax relief.
Some lawmakers are echoing the state leaders, even while trying to be diplomatic in addressing the cities they represent.
The Texas GOP only likes local control if the local entity does what they and their donors want.
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.