While most Texas newspapers (along with the Dallas Blog) have credited Gov. Perry and John Sharp for being the prime movers in getting the school finance plan passed, you sure wouldn't realize that if you read the Dallas Morning News weekend story on the passage of the Governor's bill to cut property taxes. Reading the News stories on Saturday, the uninformed observer would conclude that this was Sen. Florence Shapiro's bill and that she was the prime mover responsible for its passage. There are two favorable photo shots of the Senator, one on the front page and one in the inside section where the stories on the tax cut bill ran. The headline of the major story on page 16a of the News reads "After a tense time, Shapiro gets credit." The whole story is about how Sen. Shapiro was the key figure in getting the legislation passed. While the Senator deserves credit for protecting the Robin Hood-suffering districts from having to bear an even greater share of the tax burden, her amendment to the House bill which would have taken away even more authority from the elected State Board of Education jeopardized the passage of the overall bill. That amendment later was watered down and put in a form acceptable to conservative supporters of the State Board.
The real leader in the Senate in terms of getting this legislation passed was Sen. Ogden who, working with the Governor's office, held the Republicans together throughout the process. Sen. Shapiro's finest moment came when she fought off efforts to treat property-rich school districts in a punitive fashion. But, otherwise, the major credit for the ultimate passage of this school finance reform legislation has to go to Gov. Perry, John Sharp, Speaker Craddick, Rep. King, and Sen. Ogden. They held a majority of members together throughout this very difficult process to pass legislation which will lessen our dependance on property taxes to fund elementary and secondary education in Texas.
The US continued its slide this week, falling to its lowest level since October 1997. It now takes $1.29 to buy one euro which will make US travel to Europe far more expensive this summer. Concerns about inflation and huge account deficits have fueled the latest run on the dollar. The question is whether the fall in the dollar will continue or whether it will stabilize in the ensuing months.
Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a major policy initiative this week to halt the serious population decline in Russia. With a current population of 143 million people, some demographers predict that the population of Russia could decline to 100 million by 2050 unless drastic action is taken. Russia has been plagued by high death and abortion rates in recent decades. Life expectancy for Russian males has dropped to 59 years, fueled in no small part by heavy alcoholism in that country. Meanwhile, Russian families are having fewer children, resulting in a population decline of almost 700,000 a year. President Putin calls this "Russia's most acute problem today--the demographic problem."
To address his nation's demographic crisis, Putin has proposed doubling child benefits and providing additional economic incentives for women to have more than one child. The current birth rate in Russia is 1.34 births per woman, well below the 2.1 replacement level needed just to maintain the current population figures. Meanwhile, the Muslim population in Eastern and Western Europe is growing significantly due to high birth rates among Muslim families.
Scott Burns has an excellent column in Sunday's Dallas Morning News on the ticking time bomb of the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and the Social Security trust fund. As Burns notes, the Social Security trust fund will run out of money in 2040. The unfunded liability situation with respect to Medicare is much worse. The business columnist cites the 2006 trustees reports which "say the unfunded liabilities of Social Security increased by $600 billion. Medicare's unfunded liabilities ballooned a stunning $2.4 billion." Those increases reflect the figures for just a one year period.
Unfortunately, our Washington politicians all too often make decisions based on what will help them win the next election as opposed to what's in the long term interests of our nation. Clearly, these U.S. government debt obligations are unsustainable. What are we going to go about it?
With 42 of 45 precincts reporting, Carla Ranger is leading a seven-way race for the District 6 seat on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees. Ranger was endorsed by the Dallas Morning News and may have benefited from the endorsement in an election race that will probably have less than 2,000 total votes cast.
Ranger currently has 28.84 percent of the vote. The candidates with the nearest vote totals are teacher Carol Arnold and Elite News publisher Jordan Blair, each with 21.47 percent of the vote.
Election returns from the Dallas County Elections Administration are showing that former Minyard Food Stores CEO Sonny Williams has won the District 1 seat for the Board of Trustees of the Dallas County Community College District with 88.29 percent of the votes counted. Williams had a total of 2,598 votes.
Former Dallas City Councilman Chris Luna came in second with 31.83 percent of the vote and conservative professor Darrell Williams had 9.25 percent of the vote as of 8:46 PM.
Who will pick up the tab for the anticipated increase in security at the border? At the present time, the specific details of the President’s speech on Monday remain uncertain and defense department officials do not have estimates on the cost of deploying as many as 10,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Foxnews.com, states want the federal government to pick up a significant portion of the costs for the increased security. Interestingly, at least one border-state governor has said that he has misgivings about using National Guard troops at the border. While California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not say anything about the potential costs of deploying troops to the border, his comments were made at a news conference on the California state budget.
Last month, Time conducted a survey showing that 62 percent of Americans support militarizing the border, with 35 percent opposed. Another 75 percent said that illegal immigrants should be denied government supplied health care and food stamps and 58 percent of Republicans favored deporting all illegal immigrants (45 percent of Democrats agreed).
The Houston Chronicle reports that acting Representative Cheri Isett (R-Lubbock), who is filling in for her husband Carl Isett, gave an emotional speech to legislators about certain provisions of House Bill 1 on Friday. Isett criticized a part of the bill that reduces the number of electives that high school students can take by increasing the number of required math and science courses. Isett claimed that this would limit the time for students gifted in the arts to use electives as an opportunity to “blossom in (their) chosen art” .
The capital bond program the city manager's office recommends totals $1.28 billion.
"That's a lot of money, but then our capital needs are huge," City Chief Financial Officer David Cook told DallasBlog on Friday afternoon.
The program includes funding for most of projects that have been the talk at council meetings and town halls. Street improvements would get nearly a third of the money, and then park improvements with nearly 25 percent, flood control, flood control with 25 percent, with the rest spread among the southern sector inland port trade hub, the Cotton Bowl, Fair Park, public safety projects, and a good portion for the proposed decking and greening of Woodall Rogers.
Of note, there's no discretionary funds in the bond package.
The street funding alone would reportedly be a big help, bringing Dallas roads up to an 80 percent satisfactory level.
The council will back and forth the list between now and August, when they will vote on whether it goes on the November ballot.
The Senate today passed HB 5, the tobacco tax bill after removing two Senate amendments that the House disagreed with. The Senate stripped Sen. Frank Madla's (D-San Antonio) amendment that would have phased in the tobacco tax over two years. The Senate also removed Sen. Jane Nelson's amendment that would have dedicated five cents of the increase to smoking cessation programs run by the Texas Cancer Council. The vote was 14-13.