The Hammer Falls on Texas Budget

So, we knew it was going to be bad before we elected this legislature, and here it is, the hammer driving the first nail in the coffin that is the Texas budget.

Public schools, college students, Medicaid hammered in Texas House budget plan

AUSTIN – Texas would slash support for public schools, cut at least 60,000 college students from financial aid and decrease Medicaid fees by 10 percent to doctors, nursing homes and hospitals under a budget plan that House leaders unveiled late Tuesday. Source: Dallas Morning News

Mark these words…

No taxes would be increased, as GOP leaders have pledged. Nor would the state tap any of $9.4 billion in the state’s rainy-day fund.

I’ll hold on to that quote so I can pull it out when cigarette taxes or gas taxes go up.

This article goes on to articulate cut after cut. Legislators have until May to finalize the bi-annual budget, and I think it’s going to be a very lean 2012-13. Don’t forget we have to pay forward the debt of 2010-11. Those cuts are still being felt. Also, remember we are in a supermajority so there is a 99% chance of passing whatever lands in the budget.

Texas House Republican Supermajority [UPDATED]

The Republicans will have a “supermajority” in the Texas House when the new session starts January 11, 2011 (01/11/11).

The new Republican House members are expected to give the GOP 101 seats in the lower chamber in the 2011 Legislature, a number that will allow the party to exercise power not seen in the House since the early 1980s, when the Democrats had more than 100 of the 150 seats.

With a supermajority, House Republicans will be able to conduct business and approve constitutional amendments without Democratic support.

Soruce: Dallas Morning News | Second Democrat in Texas House announces switch to GOP.

What does this mean for the Texas Constitution or the bi-annual, balanced budget in Texas? It means the Republicans have carte blanche to amend the Constitution, raise taxes and slash the budget.

This is a perfect storm. The Democrats lost the majority of the U.S. Congress which means few things will change in the next two years. (Although the Senate just pasted legislation extending tax-cuts and unemployment benefits.) I expect Texas taxes will go up and the budget (jobs) to be cut. Then, in 2013, the trend will continue at the federal level.

I just wrote about La Niña and the drought Texas faces from that. Now it appears we are headed for an economic drought as well. I wonder if there is a connection?


How will the federal tax cuts affect you? As promised the next 24 months (or two tax seasons) will remain at current levels. This may sound like an early Christmas present or simply a good thing, but look closer, it reads like the fine print of a credit-card offer: no interest ’till 2013. By then we may be out of the “economic ENSO cycle”, but be prepared to pay more for this tax cut than we would have originally. On the flip side, Obama probably doesn’t care too much because in 24 months he’ll be packing his things.

NEW YORK ( — Now that Congress has passed the Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2010, it will be sent to President Obama for his signature. And taxpayers will have some certainty about their tax situation, if only for the next 24 months. Source: | Tax cut deal: How it affects you

Texas Winter Drought 2010-11 from La Niña

Back in July of 2009 I wrote about how one of the worst droughts in Texas was worsening.

Now it’s December, 2010, and we are staring down the barrel of another (winter) drought – one of the worst.

The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday indicated 85 percent of Texas is between abnormally dry and in extreme drought, compared to about 29 percent a year ago. Source: | Experts Fear Texas Heading Into Another Severe Drought

I appears to be the effects of La Niña.

La Niña causes mostly the opposite effects of El Niño. La Niña causes above average precipitation across the North Midwest, the Northern Rockies, Northern California, and in the Pacific Northwest’s southern and eastern regions. Meanwhile there is below average precipitation in the southwestern and southeastern states. Source: Wikipedia | El Niño-Southern Oscillation and | ENSO Diagnostic Discussion

This certainly appears to be true. For the past week – 2 weeks before winter – the North Midwest (Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo) has been buried by snow.

2010 Midterm Election in Central Texas

The midterm election is drawing near – one week to go – and the field of candidates has changed since I wrote about them in February. There is a new website done by the Texas Secretary of State,, that gives “simplified” information on the who, what, when, where, and how for this election. In particular it gives a list of candidates.

Aside from the facts, there sure is a lot of mud-slinging ads on TV for this election. I’ll be glad when November 2 is past.

Game Break Is A Bust

Well, it looks like Texas Game Break is a bust. Their Facebook was last updated on March 1 and today is supposed to be the second day of the Break – and nothing.

By contrast, ZFW Summer Sizzle has been going strong every other year since 2005. I made a video of the 2005 players.

So what’s the difference? We established a tight nit community before planning an event, then we planned an event with that community’s help.

A word to the wise: don’t start something you won’t finish and don’t ask people to help unless you follow through – no matter what. The first ZFW Summer Sizzle was a success because we all pitched in and helped. All of us were involved. Yes, it took money. But, those involved pitched in and did what was needed to make it happen. That is the moral of the story when it comes to events: everyone has to do something and something has to be done (by more than one person).

Oh well, maybe we will see something come of Texas Game Break next year.

2010 Election Information for Central Texas

Since today, February 15, is the start of early voting in the Texas Primary, I thought I would list the candidates so I know who is running and who to vote for. The following is the most current information I could find as of January 30, 2010.

Texas Secretary of State website lists Important Dates for 2010 Elections in Texas:

  • Primary election day: March 2, 2010
  • Primary runoff day: April 13, 2010
  • May uniform election date: May 8, 2010
  • November uniform election date: November 2, 2010

The Secretary’s website also lists What is on the ballot.

U.S. Congress:

First, look at the congressional district map for Texas. I live in the 17th congressional district for the U. S. House of Representatives; south central Texas including Waco and Bryan.


Representatives (District 17):

Election Candidates:

Texas Legislature:

I live in the Senate’s 5th district and House’s 14th district.

Texas Senate (District 5):

Election Candidates:

Texas House (District 14):

Election Candidates:

Texas Governor:

Rick Perry (R) Next Election: 2010

Election Candidates:

Here is some interesting news. Texas Senator Steve Ogden (R-District 5) is Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. This position has an automatic seat on the Legislative Budget Board (LBB). The LBB decides, among other things, the State’s support to public universities. So, one of the people that lowered property taxes (temporarily) and raised cigarette taxes (permanently) in the name of education* will help decide how that money is spent. It’s good to be in Finance.

* From Steve Ogden’s website, I’m Proud of What We Accomplished in the Special Session: “Other tax changes included revising the calculation of sales tax on used cars and raising the cigarette tax by $1 per pack effective January 1, 2007.At the end of the day,this means state tax revenues will now fund about half of public education, up from approximately 38 percent today.”

Budget cuts for Texas’ universities

In 2009 I said the recession isn’t over. I guess it needs to be said again – for future reference: history repeats itself! This is the third time I’ve gone through a recession or slow-down or bubble-burst in the 15 years that I’ve lived in Texas. In the public sector, especially higher education, I think the recession doesn’t really hit until 2 years after the worst of it hits the rest of the world. If we say the recession started in 2008, it was at its worst in 2009, then higher education can expect the worst (at least in Texas) in 2010-11. It’s no coincidence that the Texas legislature is deciding the biennial budget for 2010-11, and universities are facing huge budget cuts – some as much as $14 Million each year. The worst is still to come.

Texas A&M may have to cut $28 million out of its budget over two years. Source: Texas A&M looking for funds to cut after state mandate | The Eagle.

What does it mean to be the worst for an institute of higher education? It means the legislature cuts state monies going to the university systems. In Texas there are at least 6 major university systems: University of Houston System, University of North Texas System, University of Texas System, Texas A&M University System, Texas State University System, Texas Tech University System.

Texas A&M-College Station is in the early stages of identifying potential cuts. Officials have asked departments to prioritize projects in case the state doesn’t provide all the requested funding. Source: Texas universities to cut back after endowments hit | Dallas Morning News.

Second verse same as the first

Back before Thanksgiving I said Texas gubernatorial race is like musical chairs. Well, here’s the second (or third or fourth) verse. It’s the same as the first. On November 23, Houston Mayor, Bill White held a press conference to announce he will announce his decision to run for governor by December 4. As promised he announced yesterday that he will run for governor. After he made that announcement, Hank Gilbert dropped out of the race and endorsed Farouk Shami.

Meanwhile, Governor Rick Perry, the longest serving governor, made his announcement for an unprecedented third term.

Like Paul Burka says, “Perry is now fighting a two-front war.” One with Democrats in the general election and one with the Republicans in the primary. While most people think the primary will be a joke, Perry still has to be careful. The issues Perry raises in the primary wont be the same as the issues in the general election.

If you’re keeping a score card:

Republicans: Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Larry Kilgore, Debra Medina

Democrats: Bill White, Kinky Friedman, Farouk Shami, Felix Alvarado

Less than a year away and the dance has begun for Texas governor

This isn’t the Texas two-step, more like musical chairs. Continuing what I wrote about having a web site to be a candidate, those web sites will come and go and they may switch focus before we vote in November 2010.

Just as soon as Tom Schieffer announced that he will not run for governor, Houston Mayor, Bill White, had a press conference to announce that he will decide by (Dec 4) if he will run for governor or stick with his original plan and run for a US Senate seat – the one presumably vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison – but White wants to hear from the people of Texas as to what he should do. You can tell him what to do at his web site.

Seeing as how KBH said she will not vacate the Senate while health care is up in the air. I don’t see White filling that seat. The others on the Republican dance card are Larry Kilgore and Debra Medina.

The Dem-dance so far includes Farouk ShamiFelix Alvarado, Kinky Friedman, Hank Gilbert.

Looking at their web sites, I want to scream, “Neeeext?!”