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Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
February 6, 2013     Hays Free Press
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February 6, 2013

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Hays Free Press February 6, 2013 OPINION Page 5A Texas is stronger than A ever, Gov. Rick Perry said CAPITAL early in his 36-minute HIGHLIGHTS "State of the State" address to i the 83rd Texas Legislature on Jan. 29. Perry praised lawmak- ers, saying the line has been held on taxes and the state is spending within its means, delivering on his priorities, by "making the tough decisions separating wants from needs." He called for an amend- ment to the state constitution "so when we do bring in more than we need, we'll have the option of returning tax money directly to the people who paid it." And he said employ- ment is robust, with nearly 1.4 million low, medium and high-paying jobs added in the last two years. As for the environment, Perry said that from 2000 to 2011, ozone levels decreased by 23 percent and industrial nitric oxide and nitrogen diox- ide gas emissions were cut by 60 percent. In a pushback statement aimed at Washington, D.C., Perry said Texas would not expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act and would not set up a state health care exchange- part of phased-in "Obama Care" intended to aid citizens in finding affordably priced health insurance. Education, Perry said, is progressing, with graduation rates at an all-time high, the third highest in the nation. Perry noted that some higher education institutions are offering the $10,000 four-year degree program that he asked for, and he spoke proudly of increases in charter-school enrollment, but he did not mention the $5 billion stripped two years ago from the public education budget. WHAT TO DO WITH SURPLUS Even though state finances are off to a running start in 2013 with better-than-expect- ed tax collections that might allow the state to avoid major funding cutbacks like those adopted in 2011, there is room for improvement, Perry sug- gested. "We're in a position today to put our financial house in order, and it's time to do so," he said. "We have an opportu- nity this session, an opportu- nity to true up our budget and move away from the budget- ary techniques we've come to depend on all too often .... We need to make the franchise tax exemption for small business- es permanent .... We also need to do awaywith the practice of using dedicated funds and specific fees for anything other than the purpose for which they were intended. If we don't need taxpayer money for that purpose, let's not col- lect it at all." Perry added, "I think pro- viding tax relief of at least $1.8 billion over this biennium is a good place to start." GUV HAS PROJECTS IN MIND Perry mentioned the state's Economic Stabilization (or "rainy day") Fund - a sav- ings account to be used for emergencies, disaster relief and to maintain a high credit rating. He said the fund will soon hold nearly $12 billion, and he supports the use of $3.7 billion from the fund for a one-time investment in infra- structure programs, which he defined as "critical water and transportation systems." STRAUS NAMES PANELS, CHIEFS Speaker Joe Straus on Jan. 31 publicized his list of the state representatives to serve as chairs and members of 38 House standing and three select committees for the cur- rent legislative session. With that task accomplished, hear- ings on proposed legislation will begin. Some of those standing committee chairs include: Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, Appro- priations; Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, Ways and Means; Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, Calendars (the com- mittee that decides which bills advance to the House Floor for debate); and Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, State Affairs. Also: Tracy O. King, D-Eagle Pass, Agriculture; Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, County Affairs; Abel Herrero, D- Robstown, Criminal Jurispru- dence; Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, Energy Resources; Govern- ment Efficiency and Reform, Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving; Dan Branch, R-Dallas, Higher Education; Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, Human Services; John Smithee, R-Amarillo, Insurance; and Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence; And, Joe Deshotel, D- Beaumont, Land & Resource Management; Allan Ritter, R- Nederland, Natural Resources; Jimmie Don Aycock, R- Kllleen, Public Education; Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, Public Health; and Larry Phillips, R- Sherman, Transportation. In announcing the chairs and committee assignments, Speaker Straus also recog- nized Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, as dean of the House, a title given to the member who has the most years of continuous service as a state representative. Crad- dick, first elected in 1968, served as speaker in the 2003, 2005 and 2007 legislative ses- sions. Straus also appointed Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, as speaker pro tempore. Ed Sterling works for the Texas Press Association and follows the Legislature for the association. Wearing seat belts saves over 14,000 lives a year in the U.S. Stay in the game. Buckle up. Click It or Ticket seatbelt stock, corn ~Saye a Life + "f you're like me, it's dif- ficult acclimating to the .new Republican role as The Party That Wants the Numbers to Add Up. Forgive me, but when I see John Boehner, Eric Cantor and the rest striking the virg'mal pose, halos overhead signify- hag "zero dollars more than revenues allow," I can't help but see a whole other group. I see the Republicans of the Bush-era fiscal rave -- the all-night spending party that barely blinked at the nightclub tab, nodding to the beat of Dick Cheney's rapping, "Defi- cits don't matter." I did see one Republican at the time, Sen. John McCain, blasting his party for authoriz- hag off-the-books expendi- tures for simultaneous wars. Response? Damn the deficits; full speed ahead with more tax cuts. Now, of course, we're sup- posed to believe things have changed - the tea party and all. However, reading these words from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, I want to ask him, 'Tkre you blind?" He said: "Today's conservatism is completely wrapped up in solving the hideous mess that is the federal budget, the bur- geoning deficits... We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping." Sorry, but the new GOP breed is less interested in reducing the deficit than never having to pay a dime more in taxes for all the government that was bought in the years since the budget surplus un- der Bill Clinton. Exhibit A to depict reality is this from the New York Times about Senate Democrats calling Republicans' deficit- bluster bluff: i "The House Republican de- mand that the Senate produce a budget by mid-April could set in motion a Senate effort to overhaul the tax code to raise more revenue, contrary to Re- publican vows to stand against any more tax increases." Recall that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan wanted to reform taxes as well, close loopholes, but to reduce the deficit not at all. Revenue-neutral, baby. See? The New Party of Bookkeeping isn't so much interested in making things add up as it is avoiding further embarrassing Grover Norquist, who has threatened with a YOUNG, martini skewer any Repub- lican in Congress who voted for the "fiscal cliff" bill that let some tax cuts lapse. Today's GOP is less inter- ested ha deficits than what motivates Norquist: starving government. If the GOP truly were mo- tivated by bookkeeping and deficits, it would acknowledge that the nation has main- tained 21 st-century spending levels with (as a percent of GDP) 1950s tax levels. If it were truly the Book- keeping Party, the GOP would be amenable, per Simpson- Bowles, to significant cuts in military spending. It's not. Parallels can be seen ha states strapped to Republican desires to cut taxes, and to strangle human services and education. In Texas, amid the Great Recession, a rough fiscal time was made much rougher because of a property tax cut presented as "school finance reform." A new business tax didn't come close to making up for revenue lost. This resulted in an enor- mous fiscal hole for schools. Even though Texas balanced its budget as state law re- quires, its Republican leader- ship acted, and continues to act, irresponsibly. Instead of storing grain for hard times, it was making com cakes with its seed corn. Nationally, the GOP did much the same under Bush with reckless tax cuts. And when hard winter hit- the worst recession ha generations - when the federal govern- ment had to spend to stimu- late the economy, Republicans flung, and continue to fling, accusations of unnecessary hyper-spending at Barack Obama. "Obsessed with bookkeep- hag?" That's hilarious. Deficits by design? Bingo. The better to strangle government. Longtime Texas newspa- perman John Young lives in Colorado. April 5, 1930 - Janl9, 2013 Celebration of Life observed~an. 26tb, 2013 the day (the/u//Wolf Moon With deepest love and affection, our family wishes to acknowledge and thank everyone who celebrated Bob's life with us Jan 26. He would have loved the party. We also wish to express our heartfelt appreciation for the many tokens of support and remembrance: letters, foods, cards, visits, flowers and plants, kind words, news stories, internet postings, music, funeral planning, and the many other selfless acts - both highly sentimental and highly practical - that have given us such a strong sense of community and made these days easier for us. We will always remember. We hope you will remember Bob's spirit and his aspirations for our community. 71:,ank you, Wynette (Tutta), Jeff, David (Beau) Cyndy, Jolana, Zacb, Kate, Bozena, Kuba And on behalf of Bob's extended family, The Younts, Bailey, Word, Kirkham, Osgood, Fly, and Barton Clans