March 24, 2017      4:41 PM

Greenfield: State expenditures in FY17

In the second part of his budget analysis, our resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield takes a look at expenditures and says halftime growth = -0.3 Percent

Last July when state officials realized that state revenue growth was less than expected, the state’s leadership asked agencies to reduce their budget requests for FY18-19 by 4 percent.  In January, following the release of the Biennial Revenue Estimate, the Governor imposed a hiring freeze on state agencies.  These actions would either reduce future expenditures, the former, or reduce current expenditures, the latter.

Unlike FY17 when all funds expenditures grew by 7.7 percent, see Table 1, expenditures through the first six months of FY17 have declined by 0.3 percent.  These changes in expenditures differ from the LBB all funds expenditures change for FY16 and FY17 of 2.8 percent and -2.8 percent, respectively.  For the current biennium, the LBB expects a 2.9 percent increase in expenditures (209.1 billion).  Using all funds expenditures reported by the Comptroller indicates that the increase will be 11.0 percent, with expenditures totaling $228.8 billion for this biennium.

By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

March 24, 2017      4:11 PM

Smith: Abbott and Patrick – The Fratricidal Politicking of ‘The Brothers Grim’ Hurts Texas

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Dan Patrick are engaged in an escalating race to the right to protect themselves from one another. It’s bad for Texas.

It’s not unusual for tensions to increase as a legislative session enters its get-some-things-done stage. Spring training is over. Games now count and the standings matter. But something is different this year.

Despite his protests to the contrary, there’s continual Capitol chatter that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick intends to either challenge Gov. Greg Abbott for governor or bluff him out of the race in 2018. Abbott appears to take the challenge possibility seriously.

Abbott doesn’t appear all that vulnerable until one considers how hard-right voters control Republican primaries. And Patrick may be betting that President Donald Trump’s popularity with GOP primary voters is enough to neutralize Abbott’s sizable fundraising lead.

By Glenn W. Smith

March 24, 2017      11:41 AM

Sandlin: Governor Says His Voice Is the Only One That Matters

TML argues that “if Texans feel warm and comfortable under a patchwork quilt, those who seek to do business here – and our Governor – should recognize and respect that.”

Destroying city neighborhoods one step at a time requires too much effort. So, Gov. Greg Abbott wants one sweeping state law to ban city residents from having a say in protecting the health, safety, and property values in their communities.

While the Legislature is debating dozens of bills to overturn local ordinances and voter approved referendums, Gov. Abbott said last week: “I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to preempt local regulations, is a superior approach."

The Governor said this scorched earth approach was “more elegant.”  Maybe he meant more regal or more tyrannical.

By Bennett Sandlin

March 23, 2017      4:50 PM

Greenfield: State Revenue Situation, Improving, but Not Great

As the House and Senate stake out their positions on the budget, our resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield takes a look at the improving revenue situation. Tomorrow, he’ll look at the expenditure side of the equation

State revenue receipts, unlike Gaul, can be divided into two parts, General Revenue-Related (GRR) and non-GRR.  The former is the revenue stream that our legislators can appropriate with their complete discretion, while the latter, e.g., federal funds, is dedicated to a specific government activity, e.g., Medicaid, public education.

When Comptroller  Glenn Hegar released the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) for FY18-19 on January 9, 2017, all hands immediately turned to Table A-1 which shows the funds that the Comptroller certifies is available to the Legislator to appropriate.  Table A-1 shows $104.9 billion available for the 85th Legislature for discretionary spending.

This $104.9 billion is $5.4 billion less than the Comptroller stated in the Certification Estimate, released in October 2015, would be available for FY16-17 and $2.9 billion less than the amount for FY16-17 in the current estimate.  This reduction in available revenue was anticipated, and the Governor and Legislative Budget Board took actions, hiring freeze, to reduce state expenditures for FY17.

By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

March 17, 2017      3:58 PM

O’Donnell: Return of the Evil Empire!

Our Senior Curmudgeon says Trump wants to take us back to the days of “atomic attack drills, ‘duck and cover,’ decontamination stations, fallout shelters, ICBMs, missile silos…and constant anxiety.”

About once a week these days I wake up and check my Mickey Mouse watch for the latest President Twump time. Too often I find that it has automatically turned back five or ten years. It was, therefore, no surprise when I found that it had turned back 60 years and a U.S. president was talking about our nation’s need to be at the “top” of the nuclear weapon food chain.

A recent New York Times report said we’re behind the Ruskies in nuclear weapons stockpiled. They have 7,300 atomic bombs while we only have 7,000. The remaining 1,000 dooms day devices available globally are sprinkled over our allies and foes. Most notably among the worrisome buggers are China with 260, Pakistan with 120 and the ever-popular North Korea with 10. Apparently having enough atomic weapons stockpiled to kill all living things on the planet is once again not sufficient to anyone’s national security.

By Edd O'Donnell

March 15, 2017      6:12 PM

Pauken Trump's personnel problem

From the Right: Former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken says “Trump will learn the hard way that ‘personnel is policy’ and that the failure to have a core of people in place who share his views will doom his initiatives

Donald Trump ran on a campaign of controlling our borders, opposition to bad trade deals, bringing jobs home to America, rebuilding our manufacturing base, and ending our unnecessary intervention in wars that were not in our national interest. 

He also wanted to end our adversarial relationship with post-Communist Russia and make common cause with President Putin against the growing threat of radical Islam. During the campaign, Trump was very critical of the Bush/Romney Establishment wing of the Republican Party.  He also positioned himself as an economic nationalist in opposition to the globalist, Wall St. financial elite.

As he will soon find out, it is awfully difficult to carry out your agenda unless you select people who believe in those policies to run the White House and the various departments and agencies.

By Tom Pauken

March 10, 2017      3:51 PM

Smith: From O-Care to No-Care

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues Paul Ryan revealed the GOP’s real goal when he said the healthy shouldn’t be asked to pay for the sick

When Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to explain his health care proposal he said something that many say betrayed his ignorance of how health insurance works. However, maybe Ryan knows exactly how health insurance works and he doesn’t like it.

Ryan, pointing to what he sees as the biggest problem with Affordable Care Act, said, “The people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick. It’s not working and that’s why it’s in a ‘death spiral.’”

Well, American health insurance was created in the late 1920s and early 1930s on exactly that premise.

By Glenn W. Smith

March 7, 2017      7:45 AM

Hotze and Woodfill: No Men in Women's Bathrooms!

In favor of SB 6: Dr. Steve Hotze and CRT PAC President Jared Woodfill argue that Dan Patrick is a “bold leader,”, the NFL has been “hijacked by the homosexual movement,” and the TAB “stands for men in women’s restrooms”

Editor's note: As the Texas Senate gets down to work on the bathroom bill, we wanted to make the Capitol community better aware of the arguments on both sides and who is making them.

So, today we present dueling op-eds. In favor of SB 6, anti-LGBT activist Steve Hotze and Jared Woodfill, both of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, make their case in favor of the bathroom bill. Meantime, we invited Texas Association of Business President Chris Wallace to make the case against it.

Here is the argument presented by Dr. Hotze and Mr. Woodfill – SB

It’s time for Texas to be the “shining City [state] upon a Hill” described in Matthew 5:14.  Who would have thought that we would be arguing over whether a man should be allowed to enter a women’s restroom?  Unfortunately, our country and state are now being inundated with the liberal left’s most recent social agenda, allowing those who are gender confused, i.e., biological males, to enter women’s bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms under the protection of law. 

When given the opportunity to vote on liberal Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s Bathroom Ordinance in Houston, Texas in 2015, voters overwhelmingly rejected the dangerous ordinance that would have allowed men into women’s bathrooms, 61% - 39%.  Not surprisingly, when the people have a chance to vote on this part of the LGBTQ agenda, it is overwhelmingly rejected. 

Unfortunately, the will of the people has never been an impediment to the LGBTQ liberal social agenda or radical political movement.

By Steve Hotze and Jared Woodfill

March 7, 2017      7:42 AM

TAB: Discriminatory Legislation Hurts Texas

Against SB 6: Texas Association of Business President Chris Wallace argues “We have far more to lose than gain from the passage of any legislation that would encourage discrimination.”

Editor's note: As the Texas Senate gets down to work on the bathroom bill, we wanted to make the Capitol community better aware of the arguments on both sides and who is making them.

So, today we present dueling op-eds. In favor of SB 6, anti-LGBT activist Steve Hotze and Jared Woodfill, both of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, make their case in favor of the bathroom bill. Meantime, we invited Texas Association of Business President Chris Wallace to make the case against it.

Here is the argument submitted by Mr. Wallace – SB

Texas has one of the strongest business climates in the world. It is not strong enough, however, to avoid being damaged or destroyed by implementing discriminatory legislation. We would argue that it is already being damaged just by the talk of such legislation at our State Capitol.   

Last session, we fought the expansion of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

At that time, Indiana also had approved similar legislation that caused widespread economic boycotts of that state. That law was soon modified, but the economic effects went on for months. Our state lawmakers saw what was happening in Indiana and considered what kind of damage could have resulted in Texas, and the legislation died.

This session there are a number of “bathroom bills” that are similar to legislation passed in North Carolina. Since that legislation was enacted, the negative economic impact has been severe. 

By Chris Wallace, TAB President

March 3, 2017      1:02 PM

Smith: Want More Economic Freedom? Turn to the Democrats

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues the GOP has pulled off a long con, reducing economic opportunity and making Americans less free, while Democrats forgot to remind voters their own policies are aimed at economic security and opportunity.

Ever notice how Republicans describe institutions, policies, and programs they don’t like as a job killers?

Let’s make a list: Environmental protections, the Affordable Care Act, a path to citizenship for immigrants, unions, a mandatory living wage, equal pay for equal work, prohibitions on the use of taxpayer funding for elite private schools – all these things cost us jobs, according to the GOP.

The opposite, of course, is true.

By Glenn W. Smith

February 24, 2017      3:43 PM

Smith: “Jim Crow, June Crow, Jose Crow Laws”

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the anti-gay marriage movement is just one way today’s Republican leadership is trying to divide America by law

The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, apparently alarmed at political threats from the far right, will rehear a case that would make second-class citizens of public employees in same-sex marriages.

The Court rejected the Houston case last September by an 8-1 vote. Then came a flood of emails from members of sects once part of a religion of love. The emails more or less threatened to unseat the judges unless they voted to diminish the lives of the targets of their hatred.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, engaged in an undeclared war over who can best pander to the extremists, filed briefs urging the court to reverse itself and take up the case. Attorney General Ken Paxton did, too. He wasn’t about to miss the party.

By Glenn W. Smith

February 23, 2017      3:47 PM

Pauken: A new sheriff in town

From the Right: Former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken says “what worries Liberals is that they no longer will have control of the Department of Justice where they can use the threat of legal action to force their social agenda on America.”

Liberals are going crazy. There is a new Attorney general at Department of Justice and his name is Jeff Sessions.

Heather Digby Parton over at Salon says that Jeff Sessions is “an angry man” and a “hanging judge” who “has not mellowed with age.”

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Otis Taylor, Jr. makes an equally “reasoned” point in a recent column: “Since the country elected a clueless president it’s the people in his Cabinet, like Jeff Sessions who will be wreaking havoc as they storm the halls of justice.”

By Tom Pauken

February 17, 2017      1:49 PM

Smith: Sanctuary from GOP Lies About “Sanctuary Cities”

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that GOP leaders are misleading voters about so-called sanctuary cities and terrorizing Hispanic families and communities with unconstitutional actions

U.S. Homeland Security Director John Kelly recently said he doesn’t “have a clue” what a sanctuary city is. It’s refreshing when someone in Donald Trump’s cabinet tells the truth. So far, the American public could use a little sanctuary from Trump & Company lies.

The term “sanctuary city” is loosely applied to political jurisdictions who honor the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment guarantees against unlawful searches and seizures and Fifth Amendment guarantees of due process. Seems rather dutiful of local officials, doesn’t it?

Immigration officials sometimes issue “detainers” – administration requests – that city or county jails keep someone imprisoned until ICE officers can drop by to pick them up.

By Glenn W. Smith

February 14, 2017      5:59 PM

McCaig: Texas Legislators Must Reform Insurance Litigation

Houston attorney Mark McCaig says his advocacy has been to “protect the legal rights of those who have been harmed by the wrongdoing of another, not to protect the income stream of greedy lawyers who seek to game the judicial system.”

As an attorney who has represented many homeowners in disputes with insurance carriers, I know the importance of strong consumer protections that deter and punish bad behavior by insurance companies.

Unfortunately, a small group of unscrupulous attorneys, contractors, and public adjusters have abused these important consumer protections for financial gain at the expense of not only insurance companies, but the homeowners they represent.

There has been a proliferation of insurance litigation in recent years in the wake of weather events such as hailstorms and hurricanes. In many cases, this litigation is the result of solicitation efforts targeting unsophisticated consumers with promises of assistance with an insurance claim or additional money.

The questionable nature of many of these lawsuits has come under scrutiny from regulators, Judges, and juries. One prolific hailstorm attorney recently agreed to a one year suspension from the practice of law after the State Bar of Texas alleged he violated several disciplinary rules, including improperly soliciting cases. In the lawsuits that have gone all the way to trial, juries have typically issued verdicts in favor of the insurance companies.

By Mark McCaig

February 9, 2017      5:52 PM

Pauken: Passing on Executive Privilege

From the Right: Former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken shares some personal history with the family of the man Trump has nominated to the highest court in the land

The recent nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court by Donald Trump led to a flurry of attacks on the nominee, even going so far as to attack his mother Anne Gorsuch, for her troubled history at EPA in the Reagan Administration.

The Washington Post recently ran a story on Anne Gorsuch which noted that she resigned from EPA “after being cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents to a House subcommittee investigating a Superfund toxic waste program”. What is not mentioned is the story that the real culprit in her demise was Ted Olson, an assistant Attorney General in the Reagan Administration.

By Tom Pauken

February 3, 2017      3:57 PM

Smith: Of Bigot Burgs and Shock-Jockery

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that an unseemly pattern is emerging among some Republican leaders. Why are all their targets people of color?

The Russian military is advancing in Ukraine. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a real estate wheeler-dealer, helps his daddy-in-law approve an ill-conceived and impetuous military adventure in Yemen that ended in tragedy. One hundred thousand visas have been revoked by the president’s unconstitutional Muslim ban.

There are some significant things happening in national and global affairs. There are some not inconsequential things happening in Texas, too, if we look past the debate over Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s obsession with bathrooms.

For instance, Gov. Greg Abbott is threatening to hammer Travis County for defying his order to create Bigot Burgs or non-sanctuary cities where the racial profiling by local law enforcement of brown-skinned people is mandated by law. After hours of testimony, nearly all of it from citizens opposed to Bigot Burgs, a Senate committee approved it this week.

By Glenn W. Smith

February 1, 2017      5:23 PM

O’Donnell: Marching was great fun, now what?

QR’s Senior Curmudgeon Edd O’Donnell says protests are great but the other side won’t care when ‘They have control of all three branches of government at both levels”

Euphoria, Esprit de corps. Camaraderie. Incredibly witty signs, placards and costumes. Fiery speeches. Impassioned pleas for a new resistance. A renewal of the power of American women united against a common foe. Fifty thousand marchers in Austin.  Heady stuff in Texas and in locations around the world.

At worst, it was a phenomenal demonstration that at least three million Americans are really angry about Donald Trump’s presidency. At best, it was a phenomenal demonstration that at least three million Americans are really angry about Donald Trump’s presidency. Lotsa sound. Lotsa fury. Significance? Not so much in a time when forty-year old Star Wars plots or the seventy-year-old Rolling Stones can draw those kinds of crowds.

Returning home, marchers still marvel at the glory of being there for the event. Soon the reality that this march, and more to come, will be met with a dismissive chuckle (and later with cops and water cannons) by the power structures in Washington and Austin. It’s simple. They don’t care. They have control of all three branches of government at both levels. They have, and further intend to dismantle everything they find odious in government policies and institutions.

By Edd O'Donnell

January 30, 2017      6:40 PM

Fullerton and Lee: The reason for rising property taxes may not be what you think

In this op-ed, leaders at the Texas Association of Realtors argue that “it will take a lot of work to revamp our school finance system, but we believe Texas schoolchildren and taxpayers are worth it.”

Has the shock worn off yet?

Property tax bills are due January 31, and you’re probably still amazed at how much your bill increased from last year.

It’s no longer a matter of if your property taxes went up, it’s how much … but this doesn’t have to be the case.

Take a second to review your property tax bill and you’ll likely see that the largest portion goes to your school district.

By Vicki Fullerton and Jaime Lee

January 27, 2017      2:01 PM

Smith: In Contempt of America

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that if leaders were required to treat citizens with the respect and deference afforded our judges, today’s Donald Trump-led GOP would be found in contempt of all of us.

Imagine the U.S. citizenry sitting as one 320 million-strong tribunal. Elected leaders sit at various advocacy tables before us. Immediately we notice difference between our imaginary tribunal and a court of law: those “officers of the court” before us possess the power to tell us, their judges, what to do.

We grant them that authority conditionally. The most important condition or requirement is that they tell the truth. Another condition – a meta-condition, you might say – is that they honor our requirements in all matters.

That compact is breaking down, and it has reached a point of crisis as the Donald Trump era begins. Parenthetically, we should hope that the Trump years are so few that the word “era” won’t apply.

By Glenn W. Smith

January 26, 2017      6:50 PM

Pauken: Trump inaugural speech outrages the elites

Former Republican Party Chair Pauken says “We haven’t had a President since Ronald Reagan who meant what he said. Donald Trump is off to a great start…”

President Donald Trump made it clear in this inaugural address that the issues he campaigned on in the election will be prominently featured in his policy agenda as President: no more endless wars in the Middle East, bringing jobs home to America, and controlling our borders.

The neoconservative/neoliberal policies, which have driven the public policy agenda from the Clinton Administration, through two terms of George W. Bush, and eight years of Barack Obama, is over.

Here are Trump’s words on those issues:

By Tom Pauken

January 25, 2017      5:07 PM

Grusendorf: The School Funding Dilemma

Former Texas House Public Ed Committee Chair Kent Grusendorf, who also recently left TPPF, offers his thoughts on the challenge of addressing school finance

Pre-session Speaker Joe Straus indicated a desire to revisit the education finance system –a noble and critical issue to be addressed.  This week Sen. Jane Nelson also indicated school finance as a session objective.  This is encouraging news as the courts have found the system to be overly complex, outdated, and failing in meeting student needs.

The finance system is a maze of complex formulas which few people understand. Each of the various formula elements are sold on the basis of some logical reasoning, however; in the end they are implemented because they flow money to districts in a sufficient manner to garner votes necessary for passage.  As everyone knows, the computer runs indicating how funds flow to districts a critical to passage of any school finance legislation.

Upon arriving in the House in the late 80’s I represented both the Arlington and Fort Worth school districts and quickly learned that tweaking certain formulas one way helped AISD but harmed FWISD.  Since most of my voters resided in the Arlington school district the FWISD folks were constantly upset over my school finance votes.

By Kent Grusendorf