The State of Texas: September 15, 2014
Legendary jazz pianist and Houston native Joe Simpson went to the big concert in the sky Friday. Simpson formed the Jazz Crusaders in Houston in the sixties, and the group—creating a blend of jazz, R&B and funk— became relatively popular in the seventies thanks to its hit “Street Life.”
The Road to Funding — The state’s oil and gas fund is doing so well, the Legislature is looking for ways to put that money to good use. “Texas has racked up $23 billion in road debt and will spend an estimated $31 billion retiring it over two decades,” reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “The money [from oil and gas revenue] normally goes into the rainy-day fund, officially known as the Economic Stabilization Fund. By next year, that account is expected to grow to $8.4 billion, so lawmakers are firmly behind a plan to use some of the future oil and gas revenues for transportation rather than continuing to save the money.” The plan, known as Proposition 1, is “an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would allow part of Texas’ oil and gas revenue to be spent on road and bridge projects.” If approved by voters, $1.4 billion would be available in the first year, no small thing since the Texas miracle has essentially meant the “state needs an additional $4 billion to $5 billion annually to keep current traffic from getting worse.” The cherry on top is a provision that would prevent the transportation department from using the funds on toll roads or high-speed rail. It all sounds like a pretty smooth ride.
Davis Drama — The Dallas Morning News‘s Wayne Slater has dropped another story on the Wendy Davis beat, this time on her work at her ex-husband’s Fort Worth title company while also serving on the city council, an arrangement critics say poses conflicts of interest. The crux of the piece seems to be that “Davis was at times in a position to vote on items that affected her business — such as projects for which the Davises’ company did title work. Sometimes she recused herself, but on other occasions she did not. Over the years, Davis’ political opponents have accused her of using politics to benefit her business affairs. Davis denies it.” The piece goes on to offer, in extreme detail, several instances in which Davis business interests rubbed up next to her work as a councilwoman, though there is no real smoking gun. Then a day after the title story, DMN published a reaction piece from Davis about her divorce settlement. In the gubernatorial race, we’ve really reached the bottom of the barrel when it comes to political dirt. Maybe it’s time to start looking at the potential lieutenant governors?
False Starts — It is not the year for Texas football fans. Another weekend, another collection of loses. Things started off bad for UT during the pre-game the coin flip, explained here by ESPN, that basically gave UCLA an extra possession. With a final score of 20-17, maybe it would have made a difference against the number-twelve Bruins. Maybe not. Texas A&M kicked some butt, but it was Rice, so that kind of cancels out the win. Suffering a weekend of storms, at least Kyle Field was one of those dirty, wet battlegrounds that makes for great sandlot football (though not so great for ankles). And then there’s Texas Tech, which suffered the biggest embarrassment of the weekend—losing to perennial almost-good University of Arkansas. At 47-28, it was a beating, too. Poor Kliff Kingsbury. At least the pros had a better time of it. Dallas rolled over the Titans (only partially thanks to Tony Romo), while the Houston Texans took out the Oakland Raiders. A special butt-tap goes to J.J. Watt who scored his first-ever (and probably last-ever) touchdown!