Maldonado and Daniel make their case before Hutto EDC

Posted in Central Texas, Election 2008, HD-52, Hutto, Williamson County at 1:04 pm by dembones

At this morning’s “Power Breakfast” session of the Hutto Economic Development Corporation, Community Impact publisher John Garrett moderated a candidate forum between the Democratic and Republican candidates for Texas House of Representatives, District 52. Democratic candidate Diana Maldonado and Republican candidate Bryan Daniel made their pitch before a crowded room of local Hutto officials, small business owners and interested citizens.

Garrett posed questions about school vouchers, improving public schools, property appraisal caps, high-voltage transmission lines, transportation funding, state franchise and margins taxes, water management, re-regulating college tuition, the upcoming Speaker of the House race, voter identification and illegal immigration.

Please follow the link for a detailed report from the first head-to-head discussion between the candidates for House District 52.

(Ed. note: Community Impact reporter Patrick Brendel has provided us with links to the video from Thursday morning’s session. Those links have been added below.)

Education Funding

Both candidates are opposed to private school vouchers on the basis that they divert money from the public school system. Maldonado expressed concern about the number of measures by which a school district is rated, offering the example of the Round Rock ISD, which had scored 70 percent on two out of thirty metrics. As a result, the entire district was rated as unacceptable. She said that the state’s share of funding for public education has fallen. from 66 percent to “33 to 31 percent. We’re not doing our children a service by investing in their education.” “I want to make sure that our funding for public education gets better, because right now (the state’s share) is at a 33 (to) 31 percent, from 66 percent,” Maldonado said, “and so we are doing a disservice to our students by not investing in them.”

Daniel expressed concern about the level of stress induced by standardized testing in public school. “I have two kids in school. The stress level at home at testing time is great. I am not sure all that stress is really doing what we want to do in terms of accountability.”

Property Taxes

As a result of the state’s reduced share of funding for public education, school districts have had to rely more heavily on property taxes. To control the impact on homeowners, the legislature has mandated caps on tax rates and property appraisals. Maldonado said that the result is the loss of local control. Daniel said that appraisal caps unfairly impact homeowners because it limits the value of their family’s largest asset. “The value of my home is sixty to eighty percent of my net worth. Almost all the available resources we have are tied up in our home. If we cap, how does my equity continue to build?”

Instead, Daniel said that he favors spending caps as a tool to control spending. Maldonado said that spending caps make it more difficult for legislators to respond to the needs of our growing district. “In order to do business in Hutto, you are going to have to ask a legislator from Lubbock or McAllen for money for services needed here,” Maldonado said. The legislature’s complex process of writing the state budget conceals a great deal of back room dealing. “You don’t get any input and you have to ask permission,” Maldonado said.

Hutto high-voltage transmission line

On the locally sensitive issue of a high-voltage transmission line proposed to cut through Hutto, both candidates agreed that the lines need to be moved. Daniel suggested Texas highway 130 as a better route along which to run the lines, and advocated for a monopole design. Both candidates said that they would work with the Public Utility Commission to reach a workable agreement on the project, including moving the switching station away from downtown Hutto. “We need to make sure this stays a thriving community,” Maldonado said. Daniel said that two new PUC commissioners could affect the outcome, and mentioned an upcoming PUC hearing on Sep. 11 at 9:30am.

Texas Residential Construction Commission

Both candidates agreed with Garrett’s the Sunset Commission’s assertion that the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) is “fundamentally flawed” and “does more harm than good.” Daniel said that “some commission or watchdog group needs to be looking out for consumers.” Maldonado put the blame on large home builders who lobbied the legislature to create the TRCC as a way of avoiding accountability. “We have come to find out that the TRCC exists to protect the Lennar (Homes) and Bob Perrys of the world.” She then questioned Daniel’s independence on the question of what to do with the TRCC. “Bob Perry is a contributor to my opponent’s campaign,” Maldonado said.

Transportation Funding

On the issue of transportation funding, and toll roads in particular, Maldonado expressed concern about the design and routing of new roads. “We use tolls, gas taxes and bonds to pay for our roads. No matter how we pay for it, we need to look at our outcomes,” Maldonado said. “We’re all going to be stuck in traffic and it is not great.” Instead, Madonado said that the roads need to be built to better serve the local community. “I’ve spoken with voters in Thrall, Coupland and Granger,” Maldonado said. “They do not want a superhightway going through their property.” She expressed support for some toll roads. “Texas 130 is important to Hutto and it has been important for the local economy.” Maldonado summed up her position by saying, “If it does not serve the people of Williamson County, I will not support it. I-35 is good for business and the TTC is not. The roads we build here should be for the people who use them.”

Daniel mentioned the $1.3 billion shortfall in the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) budget. “The rural and urban constituents in House District 52 have different needs. Privatization is taking away taxpayer dollars,” Daniel said. “It is not as inefficient. There is no input from the people who are going to use the road.” Daniel also mentioned that the state should be more aggressive at obtaining federal money for our transportation infrastructure. “We need to make sure that we’re maximizing our federal dollars,” Daniel said.

State Business Taxes

Daniel appeared to confuse franchise and margins taxes in his initial statement. “Here’s the real problem: There are small businesses in this state whose tax bills have gone up four to five hundred percent because in the way we tax margins. You don’t have to make a profit to pay a tax.” In fact, the margins tax applies only to net profit; however, the state franchise tax applies to company’s top-line revenue.

Maldonado pointed to her 20 years of experience in the comptrollers office, including her work on the sales tax application and supervising of a division that “set up 30 percent of the sales tax accounts, set up the online sales tax registration system, … and analyzed the impact (of business tax law changes) on manpower at the agency.”

“People want a fair way and a responsible manner to pay taxes,” Maldonado said. “We need to close the loopholes in the existing franchise tax. Businesses were changing their designation status to make sure they were getting out of paying their fair share of taxes.”


Daniel demonstrated a good grasp of issues communities face in securing supplies of fresh water to promote continued growth. “I spent six years professionally doing financing for water systems. Mostly rural, some good sized water systems in terms of customers, fresh water and sewer systems.” Daniel stressed increasing the efficiency of these systems as a way of dealing with greater demand. “Increasing the efficiency of those systems would go the longest way to protect our water resources, There are new technologies out there to do that. With all the growth, local governments need to be in control of those resources.”

Tuition re-regulation

Both candidates expressed concern about the skyrocketing cost of college tuition since the legislature deregulated it. Daniel said that tuition has gone up 58 percent in that time. He feels that colleges and universities need to have some autonomy to set their own tuition rates, but that parents, taxpayers and students borrowing money need a limit so they can budget for higher education.

Maldonado mentioned the meeting of the University of Texas Democratic club she had attended the night before, related their concerns and praised their multifaceted strategy that includes petitioning the legislature for help and training students how to set budgets and live within their means.

Maldonado promised to help. “I am going back to the drawing board and make sure that we make college more affordable. As a single parent, I know how important affordable college is. The tuition has gone up 58 percent. Can you afford to send your kids to college? Your grandchildren? It is going to take an extraordinary effort to get your student to college and get them to graduation.”

Speaker of the House

If elected, the representative from District 52 will cast a vote for Speaker, an issue that rose to prominence in the 2007 session. Speaker Tom Craddick maintained control, with the support of most Republicans and 14 Democrats. By the end of the session, many Republicans, including retiring District 52 Rep. Mike Krusee, had second thoughts, and unsuccessfully sought to replace Craddick mid-session.

Maldonado looks forward to electing a new House Speaker. “For the past ten years,” Maldonado said, “my opponent’s party has dominated the House, the Senate and the Governor’s mansion; and we are not better for it. I will work across party lines to make sure we have a choice for the citizens of our district. (I will support) an individual that is cognizant of the issues in the State of Texas and someone that will help me champion the issues that I support for the citizens of House District 52.”

Daniel said, “I am not even sure that we know who all of those candidates for speaker are.” He said that he hasn’t made a decision and won’t until after the election. “On November 5,” Daniel said, “if I am so fortunate as to get elected, I will start evaluating those candidates at that time.”

Voter Identification

The candidates hewed their party line on the issue of requiring voters to present state-issued identification when registering and voting. Studies have shown that in states where such laws are implemented, the effect is to suppress Democratic turnout by as much as three percent. Both candidates agreed that the incidence of voter fraud that would be addressed by such legislation is insignificant. “This is a solution looking for a problem,” Maldonado said. She pointed to her 78-year-old father as an example of a voter who may be disenfranchised by Voter ID laws, saying “It will disenfranchise senior citizens. No, I do not support photo ID.”

Daniel expressed support for Voter ID laws, saying that “our vote is a precious right” and we must “protect it at all turns.” Garrett then asked Daniel if he thought Voter ID would decrease fraud, and Daniel revealed that he agrees with Maldonado that fraud is rare. “Outright fraud would see a decrease; although we know that is a very small problem,” Daniel said.

Illegal immigration

Maldonado called illegal immigration “a complex and federal issue that needs to be handled at that level.” Daniel agreed, adding “it is a federal issue, and they have had very sharp elbows with the state legislatures.”

Both candidates have lived near the U.S.-Mexico border and said that experience sensitized them to the issue. Daniel shifted the focus to crime, saying that border regions experience unique needs that are often overlooked by the federal government.

Maldonado’s position on the issue is shaped by her brother’s experience in the U. S. Border Patrol. “My brother, a former marine, is a border agent,” Maldonado said. “His partner died in one of the operations they had going on. We need to address the problems of drug and human trafficking. We need to put our resources to address that issue.” Border fences, however, are not part of the solution. “I am not for fences,” Maldonado said. Critics say that fences are expensive, ineffective, harm property owners’ rights and divert resources from other border needs. “We must protect the rights of U. S. citizens who have their property along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Maldonado said.


More analysis of this debate, and hopefully a video link, will be provided on Eye On Williamson soon. You can view the video now (parts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8). The race for District 52 is attracting a lot of attention around the state. Because of that, a great deal of money will likely be raised and spent by the campaigns of the two candidates appearing here today.


  1. Susan Garry said,

    September 5, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for the great coverage of this forum. I think it is very helpful to voters who couldn’t get there for you to post such detailed views on issues. During the primary campaign, when all of the candidates came to the forum in Coupland, they all expressed opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor. I’m glad to hear that these nominees still hold this position.

  2. Eye on Williamson » As Election Approaches Sen. Ogden Talks TTC, Transportation said,

    September 17, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    [...] for 50 years? Oh well, with the GOP’s insurance salesman candidate in HD-52 showing an inability to say he’s against the TTC, Ogden’s probably trying to shield him as much as he can. The Democratic candidate in HD-52, [...]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.