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Campaign Central 2/16: Haggerty-Margo, the TV battle

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Yesterday I posted the text from the ad featuring Pat Haggerty’s mom. Here is the video link.

Challenger Dee Margo has two ads. The first is positive:

[Male Voice] El Paso deserves a strong conservative voice in Austin, an effective Republican leader like Dee Margo. He built a successful business, worked to diversify our economy, creating new jobs for El Paso. As our state representative, Dee Margo will fight for lower property taxes and protect homeowners from unfair appraisals so homeowners can keep more of what they earn. Republican Dee Margo. Conservative values we know, leadership we can trust.

The second spot goes negative:

[Female Voice] Higher taxes on our most vulnerable [image of graph going upward]. Pat Haggerty voted for a new tax on nursing homes, driving up the cost of long term care for those who need it the most. Haggerty voted for higher gas taxes and voted against protecting homeowners from skyrocketing property taxes [image of gas pump and attractive two-story home]. It’s time for a change. [Margo head shot] I’m Dee Margo. I’ll fight for lower property taxes and stand up for El Paso families. [Female voice] Independent conservative leadership for El Paso. Dee Margo.

I looked up the sources for these charges. It’s not my intention to be a truth squad on TV commercials, but the charge that Haggerty voted for higher gas taxes seemed so improbable that I wanted to look up the source, which was given as HB 3540, 79th Legislature. After all, the Legislature hasn’t raised the natural gas severance tax or the gasoline tax, so what could the Margo spot refer to?

HB 3540 was an omnibus bill “relating to certain fiscal matters” by Pitts. You wouldn’t believe the junk that was in there. But the Margo spot only addresses two of the articles. One was the so-called “granny tax”–the nursing home bed tax (oh, excuse me, “quality assurance fee”). The other had a county option local gasoline tax. I presume that these are the votes addressed by the Margo spot.

Haggerty did vote for the quality assurance fee, which was $5 per bed per day, which would be matched by the federal government and returned to the state. But the bill did not adversely affect the “most vulnerable,” nor would it have driven up the cost of long-term care. Patrick Rose was the author of the bill in 2007, and it passed the House with only 7 negative votes. The Houston Chronicle had a good story about the effect of the bill. The federal match would yield a net gain of $16 per day for Medicaid patients. Only 54 of the state’s 1,119 long-term care facilities would fail to receive money. These for-profit homes would still be required to impose the tax, which would raise the cost of care by $60 per year for their patients. These, however, are NOT the most vulnerable patients, at least financially. For the remaining facilities, the federal funds would be used to increase the reimbursement rate, which have the effect of reducing the cost of care. I think Haggerty gets a bad rap here. (Neither the Pitts bill or the Patrick Rose bill became law.)

The same is true for the county option gasoline tax. Haggerty didn’t vote to raise the cost of gas. He voted to allow a local option election in which the voters would decide whether to impose the tax on themselves. It’s not the same thing, although the anti-tax crowd would argue that it is.

The other issue raised in the spot–that Haggerty voted against protecting owners from skyrocketing property taxes–is accurate. Haggerty voted against appraisal caps (a constitutional amendment).

I watched these ads on YouTube, so they probably looked better on a television screen than they look on my computer. From what I saw, however, the production quality of the Margo negative ad wasn’t very good. The background was dark; the images were static (except for a line graph that rose and dipped). Haggerty’s ad seems to be higher quality, and it evokes an emotional reaction, which Margo’s don’t.

This is a tough, close race that is likely to depend upon whether independents and Democrats cross over to support Haggerty. That is a lot to ask when a presidential primary is going on.

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