Texas house


Apr 1, 2015 By Erica Grieder

It’s hard to argue with results of the House debate over the budget bill.

Railroad Commissioner Reluctantly Resigns

Feb 14, 2012 By Jason Cohen

Elizabeth Ames Jones is running for a San Antonio senate seat, but must live in the "capital of the State" to stay Railroad Commissioner. People laughed when she questioned the phrase, but does she have a point about its modern definition?

R.G.’s Take: 82nd Legislature rolls the dice, betting on the come

May 20, 2011 By R.G. Ratcliffe

Betting on the come, in gambling terms, means: You don’t have what you need but you’re betting that you will have it when you need it. Betting on the come is exactly what House and Senate Republicans are doing with Governor Rick Perry as they press for a final budget deal before the legislative session ends on Memorial Day. They are betting that the state’s economy will improve enough by 2013 to raise enough additional tax revenues to cover what essentially is $6 billion to $10 billion in deficit spending. The Republican leadership is pushing some of our budget problems down to local governments while also engaging in accounting tricks and deferrals that will come home to roost in the next budget cycle, if not sooner. Their budget pushes about $4.8 billion in Medicaid spending off to the next budget (as a federal entitlement that is money that cannot be cut), and counts on unapproved federal waivers to reduce Medicaid spending. It also defers $1.8 billion in payments to school districts by a month, pushing that spending into the next budget cycle too. If a new school funding formula fails to pass, then current law will trigger a system of proration. That means the state will not pay school districts money they currently are owed but would have to pay those districts in the next budget cycle. That would add somewhere between $5 billion and $6 billion to the Legislature’s deficit tab. Proration is avoided by changing the funding formulas to short-change school districts. One of the latest bright ideas from the Senate is to simply change the estimate on how much revenue property taxes will raise for local school districts. The more money property taxes raise for the districts, the less money the state owes them. House Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands told me that would be worth about $800 million for the budget balancers. It also would be a hidden cut to the state’s school districts. The GOP leadership is jumping through all these budget hoops all in the name of preserving the rainy day fund because we may need the money in the future. With this budget, we are almost guaranteed to need the money in the future.

No Peña, No Gain

Apr 30, 2011 By Patricia Hart

Was Aaron Peña’s defection to the Republican party a quixotic move that will cost him his political career or the start of a bad trend for Democrats?

R.G.’s Take: What the Lean House Budget Bill Means for State Employees

Mar 28, 2011 By R.G. Ratcliffe

(Editor’s note: Every week, for the remainder of the legislative session, BurkaBlog will be publishing an original column by R.G. Ratcliffe, who was the state political reporter for the Houston Chronicle for twenty years. During those two decades, I’ve known R.G., who resigned from the Chronicle in February to work on a book, to be one of the most trusted voices in the Capitol press corps. I’m thrilled to have him posting here. His columns will offer a deeper take on one of the week’s top stories. –P.B.) This session’s budget crunch has turned into a twisted episode of "The Biggest Loser," the reality television show in which overweight contestants compete to see who can lose the most weight. At the Capitol, the question is, which parts of our state budget will lose the most money in the plans being floated to bridge the $27 billion shortfall. Who will be our biggest loser? Most of the attention has been on teachers, children, and the elderly in nursing homes. Rallies at the capitol and heavy coverage on the nightly news about the impending disaster these groups could face from state cuts have put them at the forefront of the debate. But as the House prepares to vote on a bare bones available-revenue-only proposal next week, there’s another, more often overlooked contestant on the show—Texas’ 154,000 state employees, many of whom could face effective wage cuts of up to 40 percent under current Texas budget plans. Who are these folks? Well, they are child protection caseworkers, prison guards, tax auditors and rank and file bureaucrats. They work for the government. In a staunchly fiscal conservative, Tea Party world, these employees are often viewed skeptically.

Watching paint dry

May 22, 2009 By Paul Burka

How else to describe the pace of House debate? I can’t recall another session when the default option was for both parties to chub every bill. The debate over the unemployment insurance bill was particularly dilatory. Why is this bill even being debated? Rick Perry has drawn his line in…