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August 31, 2011     Hays Free Press
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Hays TREY REALLY SAID THAT? "I don't want to abolish government. I simply oant to reduce it to the size vhere I can drag it into the bathroom and drovon it in the bathtub." -Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform Page 3A + [] i iiiiiiiiiiii!iiJi iii iiiiiii iii i ii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiGue iii c LWNi ii i i ii iii iiiiiiiii ii i i ii iii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiii i iiiiii i "~ A Then the legislative session began ~J ~[ in January, Texas faced a crisis. The W state was short roughly one-fourth of the money needed simply to do what it was already doing. The Center for Public Policy Priorities was part of a broad coalition that pushed for a balanced approach to the problem - one that used the Rainy Day Fund in combination with targeted cuts and new revenue. Others pushed for a cuts-only approach that slashed things like the number of teach- ers and payments to nursing homes. Initially, the House proposed a devastating cuts-only budget. In the end, with a slightly improved revenue projection and various one-time mc asures, the Legislature largely funded the ;~.~ate's modestly better, but still damaging oudget. Texas is growing twice as fast as the nation. In the most recent decade, Texas' child popu- lation growth accounted for over half of the child population growth in the entire country, making our state's education system critical to our country's future. Contrary to any spin you've heard, the Leg- islature actually cut spending on public edu- cation. And the money the state is spending won't go as far because of enrollment growth and higher costs. How does Texas turn this around?We'll need more than a stronger economy to solve our revenue problems. While the Great Recession created a larger revenue crisis than usual, Texas has spiraled downward yearly with one round of cuts in important services after another because our revenue system doesn't produce the money we require to meet our needs: Honest budgeting won't be enough. The right and the left have criticized the Legisla- ture for using accounting gimmicks, diverting dedicated money, and relying on one-time measures. In reality, though, if our elected officials stopped these budgeting practices immediately, it would mean less money, not more, for Texas priorities. That conservative elected officials feel compelled to resort to these practices even in the face of withering criticism is strong evidence of our state's des- perate need for revenue. Pitting our priorities against each other is not the solution either. Texas is already one of the lowest spending states in the country, with over three-fourths of everything we spend going to education and health and human services. Saying we could easily pay to educate our kids if we didn't have to provide grandma health care is as helpful as saying we could easily provide grandma health care if we didn't have to educate our kids. Of course, the "shrink-the-government folks" are clever enough not to attack grandma directly. Instead they attack Medicaid. But Medicaid is very efficient, beating the cost of private health insurance. So when people say we wouldn't have a problem if we just spent less on Medicaid, what they really mean is we wouldn't have a problem if we just denied more people health care. Certainly our nation must figure out how to keep people healthier for less money, but providing fewer people health care is not the answer. If i stronger economy, honest budgeting, and pitting priorities against each other aren't the answer, what is? Texas must modestly increase taxes. No one is suggesting that Texas become a high tax state, but Texas must raise the money needed to invest in education and other building blocks of a strong economy. As a group, Texans pay low taxes, and as a per- centage of our economy our contribution has been falling. This is not a question of living within our means. Texans have the resources in our trillion-dollar economy to meet today's needs and build a prosperous future. But until we fix our tax system, we can't make important investments for the common good. The issue isn't whether to increase taxes, but how. Our state's major tax is a sales tax on goods - a tax designed for yesterday's economy when we sold more goods and fewer services. The business tax is also flawed - re- designed in 2006 to help pay for a property tax cut, it instead leaves us $10 billion per bien- nium short. And our state has tax giveaways and loopholes galore. Between now and the 2013 legislative ses- sion, Texans must square our shoulders and do two things. First, we must solve some technical problems - how do we modernize the sales tax, reform the business tax, and address tax giveaways and loopholes so we have a smart and fair tax system that pro- duces adequate revenue. Second, we must work together to build the public will for a tax increase. There's no other answer. Texans can handle both the truth and the task. McCown is executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. ~y @ ang, it's hot! How hot is it? Well, if you were to ask some fancy-pants up in the big city, he'd probably reply, 'According to the thermometer in my Lexus, it is a blistering 108 degrees." Now ffyou were to pose that question to a country boy, perhaps a true Texan like myself, the answer to your inquiry would be much more colorffd, like "It's hotter'n two cats fighting in a burlap sack." Or you might hear "It's hotter'n a mess of collard green on the back burner," or "hotter than a firecracker with a short fuse." I'm not sure why Texans and other folks fortunate enough to live in the south have to respond. to simple questions in such an illustrated way, but I suppose it's 'cause we just don't have the cor- rect answer. Plus, we are born with the gift of gab. If we can't dazzle someone with brilliance, then we baffle them with bull. Why give a simple answer when we can leave the inquiring stranger with a vivid image in his head and still no an- swer to his question? How hot is it? Well, pardner, it's hotter than two sumo wrestlers in a stalled Smart Car. It's hotter'n a pot of chili in Terlingua. It's so hot, I saw a squirrel dipping his nuts in ice cream. It's hotter than a hot- wired Honda! Man, I'm sizzlin" like bacon fat in a skillet! I'm sweatin' like a brood mare in heat! How hot is it, you ask? Well, it's so hot that I just bought some rib- eyes at HEB and by the time I got home, they were medium-well. It's hotter'n a buffalo turd in a camp- fire. It's hotter than Oprah in a 4th fella who had a fancy iPhone that ~ he kept up in his descending colon, and since they stopped using Old p= yfor exocut o=s, we gu ea the phone should still work. Might as well give it a shot. I dialed the number, but I was out of network. Being a smart of July parade. Then there's the oldie, but goodie: It's hotter'n blue blazes! The most common saying down here in South Texas when com- menting on the weather is "It's hotter'n hell out here!" That says it all. If it's hotter than hell, it must be real hot, right?Well, we don't really know how hot it actually is down in Hades, do we? Folks up in New Jersey say 90 degrees is blazing hot while we Texans put our shirts back on when it gets that cool. Just how hot is it down in the underworld? Inquiring minds want to know. I watched the Weather Channel for hours and never heard what the high temperature was in hell. I searched on-line, but I was only able to find the weather in Hell's Canyon, Idaho and Devil's Lake, N.D. Locally, Jim Spencer ~11 inform us about the temperatures in the Austin area, but he has never mentioned the current high in Hades. How are we going to know if it is hotter'n hell? Well, being an investigative reporter like I am, I decided to find out which place is hotter, Texas or hell. So I called a buddy of mine who works at the prison up in Huntsville to see if he had the phone number of any recently ex- ecuted inmates. He told me of one fella, I drove out to Purgatory Road and tried again, figuring I'd be a little closer to the target, and sure enough, the call went through. Some guy named Osama an- swered, saying he won the phone in a hot poker game. I asked him, "How hot is it down there?" and he said he wasn't sure. He did say it was really hot, but it was a dry heat. When I asked if he had a ther- mometer, he got testy with me and replied, "I need a thermometer like I need a hole in my head". ...... I asked him if he could find out how hot it actuallywas them, so he asked his buddy Adolf who replied, "It's hotter than Kim Kardashian's diary. It's hotter than a pretty ewe on prom night in Oklahoma." Osama then transferred me to the main office where somebody named Lou Sifter told me they don't report the heat index down there because it tends to depress the residents. So I asked him, off the record, "Just how hot is it?" The old boy replied, "It's hotter than Texas down here!" Now, that's hot!! Clint Younts tries to cool himself down by jumping into his not-so- cool poolwater. Anything to get out of work!When he does work, he tries to stay in the AC at a veterinary clinic. rockytop78640@yahoo.com hi Lights, sequins, syncopation. They do put on a perfor- mance. Governing? No. But anti-governmentglitter' glam and that good Oldsound? Oh, yeah. i!iii~i~ __ ~iii~illil~ilii~li!!iiiiiiiiiiiiii You can almost hear the Gipper tapping his toe. They are the show that's trying to stop the show. They are The Extremes. Michele. Rick. Rand. There's Tex- as right-winger Louie Gohmert on the drums. Ever-extreme Roscoe Barton on the tinny tambourine. Singing background, that's Doug Lamborn of Colorado, he who called President Obama a "tar baby." Snap those fingers. In a discontented summer, on the Tea Party label, they rose to the top of the charts, refusing to tune down their anti-tax shtick, even in the face of a $14 trillion deficit, even at the risk of shutdown and default by the U.S. government. No government? No problem. That would just mean more spot- light for them. These are the one- hit wonders who in an economic lull, took the country by storm, as pop acts tend to do. You do re- member the Spice Girls. Maybe. Understand: Behind every musi- cal sensation is a sensei, a guru, a promoter, the one with the iron hand. For Diana Ross and The Su- premes, it was Berry Gordy, kr~own for his dalliances and controlling quirks. For Michele Bachmann and The Extremes, it is Grover Norquist. Did I mention Rick? Yes. Now, Rick Perry has brought his act into the act. And, sorry, Michele, but he looks every bit as good as you in satin and feathers. And he's (;rover's squeeze, too. You might wonder how Norquist rose in the industry. That's pretty simple. Industry-- corpora- tions, more particularly-- and right-wing industrialists, pumped millions of dollars into his interest group Americans for Tax Reform. With all that money and behind- the-scenes support, Norquist has attained a position held by few outside of government: a combi- nation hit maker and hit man. To get his blessing you have to do two things: (1) Get elected. (2) Sign his pledge never to support new taxes, though the national debt soars, though troops are committed around the globe at the cost of half a billion dollars every day --~ $700 million a day at the height of involvement in Iraq, No matter. To put it in the vernacular of the heartland: We don't need no stinkin" revenue. Norquist is the the demagogue's demagogue. But for people who care only about their own needs, he is the star maker's star maker. He's famous for quipping: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bath- room and drown it in the bathtub." Put that to music. Here's the amazing thing. Whereas once members of the House and Senate pledged al- legiance to the United States and its needs, all but 17 Republicans holding seats in the two houses are committed to something else entirely. They are beholden to that pledge to Grover Norquist. Lest we think this makes Texas Gov. Perry an outsider- pure, fresh air amid this circular current- he has signed the same pledge and has been one of Norquist's favorite anti- tax mannequins for some time. As a result of Perry's leadership, though Texas must balance its budget by law, it has a structural deficit that causes it to continually carve at what a state must do, like educate its children, pave its roads or protect its natural resources. It's been clear, whether the needs are those children, or the elderly, or the disabled, or all those troops who shed blood for us, what The Extremes are about is pleasing two constituencies: Those who can afford the best seats at the base of their stage, and of course the mogul who helped make them what they are. Once upon a time, Thomas Jef- fer~:,on wrote that this is a nation in which power was derived from the consent of the governed. He did not consider a government in which anything it might need to do would have to be run past the desk of a man named Grover. Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. jyoungcolumn@gmail.com COMMERI'S FROM THE WEDSITE "This explains everything. Mark Jones has missed just 5 games since 1968? The guy is living in his own make believe world, and has no concept of what's real and what isn't. Mark is stuck in high school. I would bet a million dollars this guy still has his letter jacket." -- Concerned on "Hays High officially kicks off 2011 football season" at haysfreepress.com. "It is brave of you to take a shot at Mark Jones without posting your name. He is as fine of a person as you will ever meet. The majority of people do not have a clue the amount of hours he has spent helping HCISD and its students. I have traveled with Mark to many of those games and I know he has a true passion for helping kids. I am honored to call him a friend." -- Mark Kellner on "Hays High officially kicks off 2011 football season" at haysfreepress.com. MANAGEMENT BARTON PUBLICATIONS, INC. 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