Tuition break for illegals is key issue in Jones-Perry runoff

Apr 6, 2010 By Paul Burka

The fight is over a bill Jones supported in 2001 providing for undocumented high school students to be able to pay in-state tuition rates at Texas colleges and universities — the same rates that legal residents pay. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the entire Lubbock delegation voted for…

Shapleigh: “In my view you miss the point.”

Nov 24, 2008 By Paul Burka

I am going to publish below an e-mail and corresponding op-ed that I received from Senator Eliot Shapleigh. It requires no explanation. # # # # This is Shapleigh's letter to me: I’ve read your recent pieces on major issues, including tuition. In my view you miss the point. After fifteen years of what the world now recognizes as the “Bush brand”, Texas is now firmly in “Grover’s Tub”. Your reporting misses the point because your world view can’t see over the Tub’s edge. For years now, Grover Norquist has been the ideological father of the Bush-Perry-Craddick school of governance. His ideology—‘shrink government so small that we can then drown it in a bathtub’—has run Texas since Bush was first elected Governor. Now, in agency after agency, tax cuts for the wealthy, incompetent leadership and irresponsible governance have created enormous challenges that will take Texans years to correct. The question you pose about tuition de-regulation is in fact far deeper. Take the whole package—the Grover package—that is the issue. Tax cuts over kids, crony contracts over competence, polluters over regulators, predatory lenders over consumer protections—ask the question about that package, then measure where we are in every agency—not just at UT with tuition deregulation. My response: I think everyone understands that Texas is a low-tax, low-services state. I don't think it is fair or accurate to ascribe this state of affairs to the last 14 years. Democrats governed Texas much as Republicans are now doing. They didn't pay much attention to environmental issues. They didn't rein in lenders; in fact, they lifted restrictions on usury. The special interests almost always get their way. That was true when the Democrats were in charge and it is true when the Republicans are in charge. At least the lobby had to fight for what they could get when the Democrats ran the state. Now the leadership just lavishes them with goodies. The one thing Democrats did do differently than Republicans was raise taxes when the going got tough. They raised the gasoline tax and the sales tax and the franchise tax, and the world did not come to an end, and the economy did just fine. I know that it suits Senator Shapleigh's purpose to lump Bush in with Perry and Craddick, but the truth is that Bush went along with Democratic spending priorities when he was governor. I don't recall that he ever vetoed a line item. Perry accurately, though unkindly, described him as a big spender. Texas government is the way that it is because this is a conservative state, and there is little movement for change. The Republicans are in trouble because they have overreached in areas like tuition deregulation. Senator Shapleigh writes as if he hasn't followed the election returns. The Republicans have paid dearly for their ideological zeal in the Perry/Craddick/Dewhurst years. Their brand is tarnished and they are losing ground in Texas. I admire Eliot Shapleigh, and I think it is important that he reminds us of the shortcomings of state government. But it didn't start with Perry/Craddick/Dewhurst, and state leaders through the years haven't needed a Grover Norquist to discipline them into keeping this a low-tax, low-service state. [Back to Shapleigh] Herein below is our recent OP ED piece on Texas Higher education. You should run it in your column. In our view, the real question is what price has Texas paid for fifteen years of Bush—Perry—Craddick? More importantly, what are Texans willing to do to change it? # # # # Let’s analyze core issues in higher ed. Take two plain vanilla Midwest America universities, each with 29,000+ students—call them Texas Tech and University of Iowa. Now, let’s look at state general revenue support over a decade. The difference between Iowa and Tech is $1.84B—that is billion--with a “B”. Basically, that’s why we have tuition deregulation. Here’s some history—in 2003, Craddick killed the inheritance tax, then he gave unelected regents (most of whom are millionaires and direct beneficiaries of Craddick’s tax cuts) the right to tax students. Dollar for dollar, revenue from a tax paid only by millionaires was replaced with tuition hikes paid by students—all outside the control of lawmakers so Craddick’s supporters could go back to districts and run again on ‘no new tax’ pledges. At UTEP tuition, fees, books and parking have risen 73% since 2003. Craddick and Company refuse to consider real revenue sources because long ago—they took Grover’s pledge and now refuse to engage in real governance. In agency after agency, Texans now face the same issue presented by tuition deregulation—not enough money to take care of basic needs and not enough courage and leadership to fund those needs in an effective way. Let’s do a quick tour: TXDOT is $86b in the hole. Craddick’s school finance plan has districts on the verge of Chapter 11. TCEQ is run by Baker Botts. At CPS, ½ the investigators quit every six months due to America’s lowest child investigator pay and highest investigator case loads; agency directors pay $4m fines to the feds rather than fund basic levels of investigators for kids. At HHS, more Texans sit on some waiting lists than actually get served. Hawkins has paid a billion for the basic software program to [implement--added by pb] HB 2292, and it still doesn’t work. Perry’s mansion burned down because cameras quit working and DPS cut staff. We are last in dropouts, first in air pollution; 48th in average SAT’s and 45th in home ownership. We are last in Texans who have health insurance. Seven Texas MSA’s rank among America’s top ten in volume of subprime second mortgages. Here, on the streets of El Paso, vendors hawk payday loans on street corners that carry 1100% per annum interest rates. More than one in three in my hometown no longer have any health insurance. In thirty years or so, Texas will be home to 50m Texans. Hispanics will long [have been] the majority. With current leadership and current values, ask your readers this question--are we even close to preparing for the next generation? Are we even close to taking care of Texas today? Is a tiny band from the far right now discredited everywhere but Austin, that has long valued tax cuts for the wealthy over good schools for kids responsible enough to continue governing Texas? That’s the question in Craddick’s race—and every race for the next few years. Senator Eliot Shapleigh