Here is a quick update on the status of the bills in the Perry-Sharp tax plan as of 2 p.m. Sunday, May 14:
HB 1 (School funding and property tax relief): Awaiting signature in the presence of both chambers, then off to the governor. HCR 48 makes technical corrections.
HB 2 (dedicates new revenue sources to property tax relief and later schools): Conference report adopted in the Senate. Awaits adoption of conference report in the House. (Conference report dedicates all revenue to property tax relief until the maintenance tax rate of $1.00 per $100 of valuation is reached. Thereafter, two-thirds is dedicated to property tax relief and one-third to schools.)
HB 3 (revised franchise tax): Off to the governor.
HB 4 (liar’s affidavit – sales tax change on private used car sales): Off to the governor.
HB 5 (Cigarette tax increase): Passed both Houses. Senate amendments await further action in the House.
SB 6 (changes to HB 3): Pending in Senate Finance Committee
A border security plan that involves lasers, unmanned drones, and cement barriers may be unveiled by President Bush on Monday night, according to the New York Post. The Post article also features a map from Representative Duncan Hunter’s office that shows the areas where 854 miles of fencing will be put up along the U.S.-Mexico border.
A 57 year old man who spent decades telling people that he was a POW in Vietnam has turned out to be a fraud. The San Antonio Express-News reports that the man tried to get a fishing boat under the guise of being a former POW, but was investigated by veterans who discovered that the man had never served in Vietnam.
If the favored Spurs are ousted from the NBA Playoffs, will Eva Longoria go down in history as basketball's Yoko Ono? That and nine other grab-baggy thoughts as we find a seat for Monday night's San Antonio-at-Dallas Game 4. Click into the 'School of Fish':
Local businesswoman Leigh Ann Ellis and her supporters did not expect to do as well in the election as they did on Saturday. Ellis, who just unseated Dallas ISD Board of Trustees President Lois Parrott for the district 3 seat, collected 57.19 percent of the vote to Parrott’s 42.81 percent. The final vote total was 1,332 to 997.
“We did much better than we thought,” said Ellis, speaking on the phone to DallasBlog. “I was told in the beginning that we couldn’t do this, that I couldn’t unseat a 10 year incumbent. We changed history tonight.”
Lois Parrott’s campaign issued a statement thanking all of her supporters and campaign workers. “We had a great grassroots campaign,” the statement read. “I was outspent by my opponents but I am proud of the dedication, determination and perseverance of my supporters. Unfortunately, at the end of the day the almighty dollar proved to be more powerful.” Parrot was endorsed by a number of groups, including the MetroTex Association of Realtors.
When asked by the DallasBlog how much money she raised, Leigh Ann Ellis did not have an exact figure or a range on how much she spent, but she did say that she sent out “four mailers”. Ellis attributed the Parrott campaign’s reaction to the defeat as “sour grapes”.
“She couldn’t raise any money,” said Ellis. “No one wanted to donate to her campaign.” As of January 16th, Parrott’s campaign had raised $5,000 dollars according to her profile on vgt2004.org. The profile for Leigh Ann Ellis states that Ellis had raised $10,000, with a campaign goal of $25,000.
There was evidence of negative feelings on the Parrott campaign in late April. According to Parrott’s campaign manager, organizers on the PTA at Bryan Adams High School did not send an invitation to Parrott about a District 3 candidate’s forum that the PTA had organized for the school. Parrott campaign manager Brill O’Brien said that Parrott had scheduled another event for that same night and that the forum was being moderated by an impartial person.
Ellis emphasized that her success in the election was attributable to the desire for change that voters in the district have. “People want DISD to move forward,” said Ellis. “They’re tired of being stuck in all of these accountability problems. People want to feel good about the district.”
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?