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‘Antiquated’ tax system needs updating, former gubernatorial candidate says



AUSTIN — In the last two legislative sessions, state Sen. Robert Duncan has filed bills aimed at replacing local property taxes, which largely fund the public school system, with a statewide tax. Yet, despite being one of the most influential members in the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature, the proposals of the Lubbock lawmaker haven’t even gotten a committee hearing.


For her part, former Republican gubernatorial hopeful Debra Medina used to propose replacing the property taxes with a consumption tax to fund the public schools and most of the state government. But like Duncan’s bills, Medina’s proposal never received much attention either.


And then there is the state income tax bill Fort Worth’s Democratic Rep. Lon Burnam has filed in recent sessions. His proposal hasn’t gone anywhere either.


Those and other more modest proposals have been floated over the years with the goal of financing the public school system more fairly; making Texas government funding more efficient; or to generate more revenue for the rapidly growing state.


But in the end, nothing has happened because there is no appetite for any of them.

Yet for Medina and others, in or out of state government, “the system is broken” and…Continued here:

Why the Dems won’t win Texas in 2014

It’s amusing watching the left leaning political media go all ga-ga about the Democratic Party having a chance to win statewide in Texas next year. They seem to have forgotten that Texans are, by and large, and by a large percentage, for the Second Amendment and the freedom that it undergirds.

It might well be, and probably is, that the Texas political media is against the Second Amendment. After all, they are “enlightened” and certainly know what is best for the rest of us.

But as they say, a picture says a thousand words.


Elect Democrats statewide in Texas and those pictures will be of us.

Stephen P. Halbrook in National Review Online reminds us of what happens when a government forces gun registration on their citizens:

The perennial gun-control debate in America did not begin here. The same arguments for and against were made in the 1920s in the chaos of Germany’s Weimar Republic, which opted for gun registration. Law-abiding persons complied with the law, but the Communists and Nazis committing acts of political violence did not.

In 1931, Weimar authorities discovered plans for a Nazi takeover in which Jews would be denied food and persons refusing to surrender their guns within 24 hours would be executed. They were written by Werner Best, a future Gestapo official. In reaction to such threats, the government authorized the registration of all firearms and the confiscation thereof, if required for “public safety.” The interior minister warned that the records must not fall into the hands of any extremist group.

In 1933, the ultimate extremist group, led by Adolf Hitler, seized power and used the records to identify, disarm, and attack political opponents and Jews. Constitutional rights were suspended, and mass searches for and seizures of guns and dissident publications ensued. Police revoked gun licenses of Social Democrats and others who were not “politically reliable.”

During the five years of repression that followed, society was “cleansed” by the National Socialist regime. Undesirables were placed in camps where labor made them “free,” and normal rights of citizenship were taken from Jews. The Gestapo banned independent gun clubs and arrested their leaders.

Us ordinary Texans may not be as “enlightened” as the political media in Texas. But one thing we do know is that electing Democrats to statewide office will lead to restrictions on our Second Amendment rights and eventually lead to our destruction. American citizens in Connecticut might…Continued here:

Future of Texas Enterprise Fund uncertain after Perry steps down, report says

After Gov. Rick Perry leaves office, the future of the Texas Enterprise Fund is uncertain, according to a report by the Texas Tribune.


The Tribune report notes that the two highest-profile contestants for the governors seat, Attorney General Greg Abbott and State Sen. Wendy Davis, have yet to stake out a clear position on the future of the fund, which is used to sweeten the pot for businesses looking to relocate to Texas.

During Gov. Perry’s tenure, the fund has awarded more than $508 million to companies looking to call the Lone Star State home. More than 100 companies have been awarded money from the fund. Online retail giant eBay Inc. has recently reworked an incentive deal with the state and the city of Austin. EBay received more than $1 million from the TEF as part of an agreement to boost its local presence and hire hundreds of workers.

“Since announcing his candidacy, Abbott’s stance on the fund has been cloudy. He said in his initial stump speech that he wants to get government ‘out of the business of picking winners and losers’,” the Tribune report said. “But when asked during a fall campaign stop if he would discontinue Perry’s fund, Abbott did not directly answer the question, saying a ‘good tax structure’ is the best incentive for business in Texas.”

Similarly, Davis has been vague about how the fund would…Continued here:

Carona’s $4 Billion Electric Tax


An unelected bureaucracy is about to impose what amounts to a $4 billion annual tax on Texas’ electricity consumers, and State Sen. John Carona is apparently okay with it. Fortunately, other senators aren’t following his let-the-bureaucrats-bilk-Texans lead.

The Public Utility Commission has decided to impose a “capacity market” regulatory scheme on the Lone Star State. Under this radical arrangement, the PUC would force what the Texas Public Policy Foundation says is a “between $3 and $5 billion per year or, put another way, $180 per year for every man, women, and child in Texas” for higher electric bills. That money flows from Texans to the pockets of electricity generators.


The nice folks at TPPF have written extensively about the pitfalls and perils of this wrong-headed scheme designed to pad the pockets of industry cronies.


And no one does cronyism like John Carona, so – of course – he is letting it sail through.


A little background. Carona likes to brag about how powerful he is; it is the hallmark of every speech he gives. If he wants something to happen, it happens; if he doesn’t, it doesn’t. Or, at least, that’s what he says.


Of course, he also “says” he supports all sorts of conservative government reforms. Yet, oddly, none have moved forward. So… either he isn’t as powerful as he claims, or he is lying about his support.


Which brings us back to the PUC’s $4 billion levy. As chairman of the Texas Senate’s Business & Commerce Committee, Carona has some jurisdiction over the PUC. Yet he has been mostly silent on the capacity market issue. When the PUC appeared before his committee earlier this fall, he did nothing to slow them down.


Carona played into the hike-the-rate narrative by lobbing softball questions to the PUC commissioners by falsely defining the issue as somehow helping Texans. Because, of course, we all know a $4 billion tax hike is great economic policies for working families and small businesses…


Fortunately, the chairman of Senate Committee on Natural Resources – Republican Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bend – isn’t following Carona’s destructive lead. Sen. Fraser recently held hearings on the PUC’s plans and called out their illegal usurpation of power.


In a letter to the PUC chairman, Fraser said the bureaucracy did not “possess the statutory authority to change the fundamental design of the market.”


Back to Carona.

As the most liberal Republican in the Texas Senate…Continued here:

Texas Power Market Decision May Come In Early ’14

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A decision could come early next year about how Texas plans to help ensure its energy reserves meet rising demand for power amid the state’s booming economy and population, a top official said Tuesday.

Brandy Marty, the newest member of the Texas Public Utility Commission, said she and her colleagues were waiting on two reports to better track power capacity and future power needs statewide.

She told the state Senate Business and Commerce Committee during a hearing that those reports should be ready in December or January. After that, she said, “I would predict that a decision would be made on this certainly by very early into the next year.”

The three-member commission is believed to be split between two different plans on how to boost energy reserves. Marty is a former chief of staff to Governor Rick Perry, and he appointed her in August to her new position. She is likely the deciding vote — but has given no indication on how she’s leaning.

The issue hasn’t generated much public attention. But what the commission decides could have a major impact, possibly even causing consumer power bills to spike, rising as much as 20 percent by some predictions.

In past years the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s electric grid operator, bought electricity from Mexico and several U.S. states, at prices that some call exorbitant, to prevent blackouts.

Electricity generators favor creating a market where providers bid to offer capacity energy since the recent…Continued here:

Uncertainty looms as tax breaks expire at year’s end


WASHINGTON — In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty — once again — for millions of individuals and businesses.


Lawmakers let these tax breaks lapse almost every year, even though they save businesses and individuals billions of dollars. And almost every year, Congress eventually renews them, retroactively, so taxpayers can claim them by the time they file their tax returns.


No harm, no foul, right? After all, taxpayers filing returns in the spring won’t be hurt because the tax breaks were in effect for 2013. Taxpayers won’t be hit until 2015, when they file tax returns for next year.


Not so far. Trade groups and tax experts complain that Congress is making it impossible for businesses and individuals to plan for the future. What if lawmakers don’t renew the tax break you depend on? Or what if they change it and you’re no longer eligible?


“Right now, we handle a number of tax policies with short-term extensions, which means dealing with expirations every few years,” said Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock. “The problem with that is that it doesn’t give families and businesses much certainty to plan ahead. The solution is long-term, comprehensive tax reform that closes loopholes and makes the process simpler. I’m working toward a more open, transparent system that gives people a fair deal.”


The current plan isn’t too popular with some in the industry.


“It’s a totally ridiculous way to run our tax system,” said Rachelle Bernstein, vice president and tax counsel for the National Retail Federation. “It’s impossible to plan when every year this happens, but yet business has gotten used to that.”


Some of the tax breaks are big, including billions in credits for companies that invest in research and development, generous exemptions for financial institutions doing business overseas, and several breaks that let businesses write off capital investments faster.


Others are more obscure, the benefits targeted to film producers, race track owners, makers of electric vehicles and teachers who buy classroom supplies with their own money.


Jimmy Stallings, general manager of Gene Messer-Ford, said this time of year normally constitutes a high volume of sales for them — commercial and fleet vehicles included — but he couldn’t directly relate it to the expiring tax break since it’s a normal occurrence for the business.


“A lot of times accountants, CPAs, financial advisors will tell their clients buy it now before the first of the year,” he said.

He explained that it doesn’t matter what month businesses buy a vehicle in, they…Continued here:

For Texas Democrats, a Habit of Losing Big Elections


Every election season, Texas Democrats come to the voters with their latest slate of candidates, set to compete with Republicans for offices ranging from sheriff to governor.

The Republicans, of course, do the same thing.

Both sides win plenty of local elections, and each has pockets of the state in which the other party stands little chance of winning. It’s tough for a Democrat to win in Collin County; it’s hard for a Republican to win in Hidalgo County.

At the state level, Democrats have suffered from a long dry spell — a string of failed elections so long that the losses themselves have become something of an obstacle.

It’s not just that they have to tell voters who they are and what they are about. They have to explain why they think they — Democrats — have a chance at winning.

The numbers are familiar to anyone who follows Texas politics. Democrats last won statewide elections in 1994.

They came close in a couple of races in 1998 — notably, in Paul Hobby’s narrow loss to Carole Keeton Strayhorn for comptroller.

The Democrats have tried all sorts of things and have lost for all kinds of reasons. The top race in 1998 was the re-election of Gov. George W. Bush. The governor’s popularity was high. People were already talking about him as a presidential candidate. He was campaigning and generating some attention in deeply Democratic Hispanic areas of the state. He had, in Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, an underfunded and relatively unknown opponent. And he got two votes for every one Mauro got.

The Republican sweep of statewide races was the big news, but it also seemed clear that the Democrats were still competitive.

Four years later, the Democrats came up with what they called a “dream team” ticket of serious, proven candidates for all the big offices. Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor, ran for Senate. Tony Sanchez Jr., who was new to the ballot but also very rich and capable of paying for his own campaign, ran for governor. A former comptroller, an Austin mayor, a former University of Texas quarterback, a couple of legislators and a promising newcomer rounded out the ticket.

They got crushed.

In 2006, the Democrats barely put up a fight. The top attraction was a distinctly strange race for governor, featuring Rick Perry, the incumbent; Chris Bell of Houston, a former U.S. representative; Strayhorn; and Kinky Friedman, a singer and comic who ran on an entertaining mix of serious proposals and gags that ultimately landed him in fourth place. Perry, faced with a Democrat and two independents, received just 39 percent, but that was all he needed to lead Republicans to another clean sweep.

That year’s best performance by a Democrat was at the bottom of the statewide ballot, where Bill Moody of El Paso received almost 45 percent of the vote in a run for the Texas Supreme Court.

Democrats regrouped and sent in Bill White in 2010. A former Houston mayor and state Democratic Party chairman, he combined proven political skills, the ability to raise money and a history of working with business that was supposedly critical to Republican voters. But it was another weak ticket. Voters were unimpressed. White lost, with 42.3 percent of the vote.

While all of that was going on, the Democrats were winning some elections, steadily increasing their share of seats in the Texas Legislature until the 2010 election. They had reason to think White might have a chance, what with Democratic gains in those more local races around the state. They were undone all over the country that year in a strong and negative midterm rebuke of the Obama administration.

Texas Democrats are dusting themselves off again, hoping to break the pattern. They found noisy and encouraging supporters during last summer’s fight over women’s health care and abortion rights — enough to enliven Democratic hopes and to alarm Republican strategists — and they are counting on that and the celebrity that came with it — state Sen. Wendy Davis — in this next round of elections.

It’s a slow pendulum. Their first losses in statewide elections came when Democratic infighting gave Republicans a chance at an upset — John Tower became a U.S. senator that way in 1961 — and when Democratic overconfidence let a risk-taking Republican oilman sneak into the Governor’s Mansion when Bill Clements won in 1978.

Nobody thought that was possible, either.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at