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CONSERVATIVE INCREASES LEAD IN MEXICO'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
by Tom Pauken    Wed, May 17, 2006, 10:27 AM

226177-341063-thumbnail.jpg
PAN Candidate for President of Mexico Felipe Calderon
Felipe Calderon, the candidate of the conservative PAN party in Mexico, has increased his lead in the hotly contested Mexican presidential race over the leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.  The PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo is running well behind the two major contenders.  A new poll published this week in El Universal puts Calderon in first place with 39 percent of the vote, according to the Financial Times.  He has a four point margin over Obrador, but the trend is in Calderon's favor.  The leftist candidate Obrador has been hurt by his close ties to the Leftist leader Hugo Chavez of Venezuala who is rumored to be funding his candidacy.  Obrador also has lost support for his failure to participate in the televised presidential debates and for his personal attacks on President Vicente Fox. 

It is good news for the United States if Calderon can maintain his present lead and win election in July.  The Chavez influence in Latin American affairs is beginning to do serious harm to our relations with our neighbors to the South. 

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ABC POLL: BRING ON THE GUARD
by Scott Bennett    Wed, May 17, 2006, 09:42 AM

ABC New/Washington Post poll:  "Would you support using the National Guard to guard the US border with Mexico?  Support 74% Oppose 25%.  Is the US doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from coming to this country?  Yes 20%  No 77%.

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PERRY PRAISES SESSION RESULTS
by Will Lutz    Wed, May 17, 2006, 09:39 AM

Gov. Rick Perry praised the recently concluded special session at a news conference with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick. “I will be proud to sign this plan that will reward teachers and reform our schools, provide a record property tax cut that will make homeownership more affordable, reduce the net tax burden on Texans by nearly $7 billion, and improve our tax system so it is fairer because it is broader,” Perry said. “Because of this plan, our schools will improve, our economy will grow and our state will prosper.” When asked, Perry explicitly said he plans to sign House Bill 3, the revised franchise tax, despite calls in some Republican circles for a veto.

Also at the news conference, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he hopes to have a tax relief constitutional amendment for seniors passed early in the regular session in time for the May 2007 ballot. The House passed a constitutional amendment that would provide tax relief to seniors but it did not make it out of the Senate Finance Committee.

Perry held the news conference at the governor’s mansion and was flanked by representatives of the business groups that endorsed the plan. Several legislators attended the event with Perry, including two Democrats – Vilma Luna (Corpus Christi) and Patrick Rose (Dripping Springs).

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WHY ARE OUR EXPORTS TO CHINA SO LIMITED?
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Wed, May 17, 2006, 09:38 AM

Our resident economist Carl Pellegrini has these observations about our one-sided trade dealings with China:

"The United States economy is four times that of Japan, but the former's exports to China are only half of the latter. 

So what's up?  Are Japanese goods far more attractive than American products in China?

'No,'  says Charlie Martin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.  'All branches of the US Government need to recognize that our failure to take full advantage of the opportunity that China presents is contributing to our bilateral trade deficit.'

Martin made the remarks Tuesday when releasing the chamber's annual white paper on American business in China.  Both Japan and Germany have substantial government offices and industry organizations to promote trade; and the United States ends up ceding market share to competitor countries because they devote more resourses, Martin said." 

 

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HUNT, RASANSKY WORRIED HOME VALUE INCREASES COULD RAISE TAXES MORE THAN BOND PROGRAM PROJECTS
by Trey Garrison    Wed, May 17, 2006, 09:37 AM

The overall reaction by council members to the bond package was positive, but some were worried that Dallas voters needed to know how the bond would affect property taxes factoring in increased home values.

“It’s a good program, but people’s taxes, if this passes, are going to be close to 50 percent more in six years,” Councilmember Mitch Rasansky said, factoring in the estimated cost of increased home values.

“We should have some additional table to factor in what property value increases will mean to the bottom line,” Councilmember Angela Hunt said. “People need to have all the information if they are going to vote for this.”

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BIG DAY FOR BRIEFINGS AT CITY HALL
by Trey Garrison    Wed, May 17, 2006, 08:22 AM

The Dallas City Council has three major items on the agenda today, including the City Manager's recommended $1.28 billion 2006 Bond Program, the proposed FY 2006-07 Consolidated Plan Budget Amendments and Straw Votes, and the FY2005-2006 Action Plan Mid-Year Update.

Not on tap, however, for today and probably not until early June is any discussion of the Wright Amendment or the mayor's task force on the subject. We shall see.

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POLICE WONDER: DO YOU KNOW THE MUFFIN MAN?
by Trey Garrison    Wed, May 17, 2006, 08:18 AM

They may be searching everywhere including Drury Lane, but what's strange is police are not releasing video of the man - said to be in his late teens or early 20s - who delivered what appears to be marijuana laced muffins to Lake Highlands High School on Tuesday, affecting up to 18 members of the faculty.

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BELL, STRAYHORN BLAST SESSION RESULTS
by Will Lutz    Wed, May 17, 2006, 07:36 AM

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn held a news conference with representatives of the Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas Federation of Teachers today to criticize the special session. She referred to the tax package passed by the legislature as a "$23 billion hot check" and called for higher teacher pay raises. "It took a court order to make Perry finally do something, but what he did does not work," Strayhorn said. "Perry's plan includes a paltry pay raise for teachers, provides a pittance of property tax relief that will evaporate almost immediately, punts our problems just past the November election and will postpone only temporarily additional court action.

“Carole Strayhorn has made $66.9 billion in promises to Texans but only offered $7.7 million to pay for it,” responded Perry spokesman Robert Black. “Her rapid-fire attacks have resulted in a white-hot check that she can’t pay for and the state can’t afford. The Strayhorn campaign slogan should be: Talks too loud, promises too much, delivers too little.”

Democrat Chris Bell called for higher teacher pay raises too, but also for Strayhorn to get out of the race. “With Rick taking away her only issue, Carole Strayhorn no longer has any reason to be in this race,” Bell said. “Her whole campaign was about Rick Perry’s inability to pass a school finance plan. Now the big issue in the race becomes not just funding education but improving education, and we’ve been talking about that from the start.”

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DEMOCRATIC LEADERS SLAM SESSION RESULTS
by Will Lutz    Wed, May 17, 2006, 07:35 AM

The Democratic leadership quartet – Reps. Jim Dunnam (Waco), Garnet Coleman (Houston), Pete Gallego (Alpine), and Scott Hochberg (Houston) – held a news conference Tuesday morning to criticize the recently-concluded special session. "By mandating that none of the new tax revenue will ever go public schools, local school districts will be forced to raise property taxes to keep up with their basic needs and cost increases like gasoline and electric bills—just basic inflation,” they said in a statement. "Under the Perry Tax plan, 50,000 new small businesses will be added to the tax rolls and businesses that lease their space will receive a net tax hike while a few big businesses, like Exxon Mobil, will get a $400 million tax holiday.

Dunnam said that the Republican leadership wants to starve public schools in the hopes that they will fail, building public support for vouchers. He also criticized the GOP leadership for failing to pass a constitutional amendment that would have provided tax relief to seniors or a homestead exemption.

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ERCOT CEO QUITS
by Will Lutz    Wed, May 17, 2006, 07:34 AM

The Board of Directors of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has accepted the resignation of CEO Thomas Schrader. ERCOT runs the electric grid in Texas and plays a critical role in ensuring the reliability of the system and a competitive electric market. Schrader had come under fire from Senate Business and Commerce Chairman Troy Fraser for not notifying the Public Utility Commission sooner when the state experienced blackouts last month. He has also had disagreements with some members of the Public Utility Commission over ERCOT’s budget.

In accepting the resignation, board chairman Mark Armentrout issued the following statement: "With regret, the ERCOT Board of Directors today accepted the resignation of Thomas F. Schrader as president and chief executive officer. For nearly two years, Tom has served the organization with dedication and a commitment to excellence. He took the reins of ERCOT at a very challenging time and has accomplished a great deal. Under his leadership, ERCOT has reduced its fee request by 8 percent and found millions of dollars in budget savings without sacrificing performance. ERCOT has made great progress in implementing business processes and internal control procedures that will enhance the organization’s long-term strength and credibility. Tom personally reshaped the ERCOT vision and mission to focus the organization on bringing value to Texas consumers, and has tied its activities directly to ERCOT’s Senate Bill 7 responsibilities.

ERCOT Chief Operating Officer Sam Jones will be the acting CEO until the board has found a successor to Schrader.

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