Must Read Texas – December 2, 2013

Abbott Focuses on Education; Perry in South Carolina Today;
New Web Videos from Dewhurst, Branch, Hurd, Carnes;
Mackowiak & Stanford on TX v. CA
Good morning from Austin.

Here’s the brief:


TT’s Jay Root and Morgan Smith report:

Attorney General Greg Abbott will spend most of the next month talking about education, signaling that he won’t cede any ground on the issue to state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is making her support of public schools a calling card in the governor’s race.

The leading Republican candidate will launch a series of policy roundtables Tuesday in Plano, offering what may be an early glimpse at the more detailed education policy initiatives he is expected to announce in January. With stops in San Antonio and Weslaco planned for the following week, each event is designed to highlight “success stories” in public education.

“The fact that we are going to be meeting with these educators and administrators across the state, going to the schools, touring the schools, seeing what works — it stresses the importance that Greg Abbott is going to place on education in this campaign,” Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch said. “Education is a major issue for this campaign.”

So far, the focus appears to be online learning and charter schools. The first event will be held in the Plano Independent School District, which is known as a pioneer in virtual education. Next week, Abbott will travel to two charter schools: a KIPP Academy campus in San Antonio and an IDEA Public Schools campus in Weslaco.

Lawmakers addressed each topic during the most recent legislative session — and the battle to pass reforms to state charter school policy and laws covering virtual education exposed division among both Republicans and Democrats about the best approach. Disagreement over the expansion of charter schools and online learning in the state led to concessions from the conservative Republicans, including Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick, who backed broader changes.

Chief among the concerns of those who opposed the legislation was the threat of increased privatization in the state’s public education system. That remains a priority for public education advocates in the state, said Carolyn Boyle, the chairwoman of Texas Parent PAC.

Boyle said her organization, which was founded in 2005 to support pro-public education candidates for office, had not decided whether it would weigh in on the governor’s race but would be monitoring Abbott’s and Davis’ positions on education issues carefully.

She said that in 2015 the state’s new governor would be presiding over a Legislature that will revisit some of the same fights in what could be a new environment following a Texas Supreme Court ruling in the ongoing school finance lawsuit.

“It could be corporate franchise tax credits for subsidizing private schools, it could be letting chains of for-profit charter schools come into Texas, it could be private school vouchers,” she said.

House lawmakers, including many Republicans, killed the prospect of voucher legislation in 2013 by passing an early amendment to the state budget prohibiting taxpayer money intended for public schools from going to any private entities — but not before the proposal earned high-profile support from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Patrick, who is now challenging Dewhurst.

Hirsch said he was not aware of any plans to include a discussion of voucher policy in the upcoming series of roundtables.

Until now, Abbott’s discussion of education on the stump has largely been limited to generalities. He told a November gathering of the NE Tarrant Tea Party that his education platform would include a number of proposals, including how to bring more quality principals and teachers to the classroom and how to “get away from the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to educating our students.”

He also made a pledge to “drive a stake through the heart of CSCOPE,” a state-developed curriculum system that is wildly unpopular with conservative activists, whose complaints about its alleged liberal indoctrination of students launched a series of legislative and State Board of Education hearings on the topic.

In his time as attorney general, Abbott has not had a prominent role in the debate over education policy. That stands in contrast with Davis, a two-term member of the Senate’s Education Committee who before her more famous filibuster last summer was known for the stand she took in the 2011 legislative session against historic budget cuts to the state’s public schools.

The Davis campaign highlighted Abbott’s proposal, released earlier this year, to narrow the allowable uses of the so-called Rainy Day Fund. Davis wanted to use some of the money in the fund to restore some of the $5.4 billion cut from public education in 2011. The Legislature restored nearly $4 billion of those cuts. Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican leaders resisted Democratic calls to use money from the Rainy Day Fund to restore the rest of it.

The proposal, which would require support from two-thirds of the Legislature and approval from Texas voters, would allow use of the Rainy Day Fund only to offset revenue shortfalls in a current biennium, retire existing debt, make one-time expenditures on infrastructure or pay for expenses incurred during a state of disaster as declared by the governor.

Hirsch, the Abbott spokesman, said that under the proposal, legislators could continue to use general revenue to pay for whatever education spending they deem appropriate, and could have tapped into the Rainy Day Fund to cover the 2011 shortfall. But he said the proposed restrictions, had they been in effect, would not have allowed the fund to be tapped to undo cuts made by lawmakers in a previous session.

Davis spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said voters should look to Abbott’s actions rather than his words when judging his position on education issues.

“While Senator Davis fought against cuts to our public schools, Greg Abbott wasted taxpayer funds to defend those cuts in court,” she said. “Senator Davis was the lone voice in the state Legislature in 2011 to filibuster against a $5.4 billion cut in public education. She supported using the Rainy Day Fund to prevent cuts to our already underfunded public schools.”

Your absolute must clicks:
> AP reports that Gov.Rick Perry is returning to South Carolina today.
> U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) is in line to become the next House Armed Services Committee chairman.
> U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) is expressing privacy concerns over Amazon’s proposed drone program.
> Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) made a 1,000 job economic development announcement Monday, about a company moving from New Jersey to Texas.

New Campaign Web Videos:
> Dewhurst campaign on “keeping Texas #1.”
> Branch campaign on Voter ID.
> TX-23 candidate Will Hurd introduces himself.
> Ag Commissioner candidate J. Allen Carnes introduces himself with “We Are Texas Ag.”


MRT co-founder Jason Stanford and I had dueling op eds in Monday’s Austin American-Statesman.
On the off chance you are not a digital or print subscriber and missed our excellent prose, here are the full pieces:

Here’s mine, which we linked yesterday:

I heard a jaw-dropping statistic recently.

Art Laffer, a respected American economist and former Reagan economic adviser who invented the concept known as the “Laffer Curve,” was speaking in Austin at a luncheon that I attended.

He has spent several years researching and comparing the economies and state policies in both California and Texas, for a project underwritten by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a center-right think tank in Austin.

One thing that he said really stuck with me:

“California’s marginal tax rates are 65 percent higher than Texas, spending is 25 percent higher and poverty is 40 percent higher.”

Wait: higher taxes, higher spending and higher poverty?

Who thinks that is a positive policy outcome?

I often cite the fundamental law of economics that I have heard former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas mention many times: “The more you tax something, the less of it you get.”

Higher taxes hurt employers. They either see lower profits or pass the cost along to consumers. Revenue is required to run a government, but higher taxes hurt the private sector and inhibit economic growth.

There is no better case study to examine the effects of how divergent state policies affect their populations than Texas and California.

They are the two largest states; they are growing, possess rich natural resources, have Fortune 500 companies and other large employers and successful public college and university systems. They face many similar major problems: transportation, infrastructure, education, and health care, to name a few.

Blue state policies are in place in California.

Red state policies are in place in Texas.

Let’s examine the results:

First, by economic output, Texas is headed in the right direction, while California isn’t.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2001 California accounted for 13 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Texas accounted for about 8.7 percent. By 2011, just 10 years later, Texas accounted for 8.7 percent of national GDP, while California accounted for 7.4 percent. Consider this stunning fact: as of 2011, Texas was a bigger part of the U.S. economy than California. Ten years ago, California had nearly twice the economic impact that Texas did.

Then consider employment:

From 2001-2011, employment increased by over 20 percent in Texas and just over 2 percent in California. The labor force in Texas during this time grew 2.5 times as fast as California. Gross state product from 2001-2011 grew 71.5 percent in Texas, while just 46.2 percent in California. Even on a per capita basis, Texas gross state product grew 42.4 percent while California grew 33.7 percent.

For the decade beginning in 2001, Texas’ population grew by over 20 percent, while California’s grew by just over nine percent.

Even the most recent jobs numbers bolster the case for Texas.

The October 2013 state employment statistics, released by the U.S. Department of Labor, found that Texas’ unemployment rate fell to 6.2 percent. California’s unemployment rate is 8.7 percent. Texas has now been below the national unemployment rate (now 7.3 percent) for nearly seven years.

Over the past year, Texas employers added more than 267,000 jobs, the most of any state and more than 60,000 more than California.

Here’s another jaw-dropping statistic, according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation: “Since the start of the most recent U.S. recession in December 2007, there have been 704,700 more Texans employed. However, during the same period, there are 474,000 fewer Californians and 1.5 million fewer Americans employed. If you remove Texas’ jobs added from the national total, the rest of the nation employs a shocking 2.2 million fewer people!”

The Texas economic model is pretty simple: no state income tax, right-to-work, low regulations, low state spending. We have a predictable state government with a part-time Legislature, controlled by Republicans.

The California model is higher taxes, public sector unions, burdensome regulation and higher state spending, in a state controlled by Democrats.

Texas is growing, taking full advantage of its resources, welcoming new inhabitants, recruiting businesses and employing people faster, at a higher growth rate. California is strangling its economy.

Republicans may not be right about everything. But the Texas versus California comparison is clear for all to see.

Texas is rising while California is failing.

And here is Jason’s:

Here we go again. Pointing to a conservative study, Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed, “The discussion’s over. The debate’s over. The proof is in. Texas wins.” And who did we beat? California, of course. It’s enough to make you wonder if little Ricky got enough love growing up on the farm. Someone get this kid a 4-H ribbon so the grown-ups can talk.

How about just once we skipped the provincial chest-thumping? Yes, Texas, you’re doing fine. That was a nifty party you threw for 270,000 wealthy out-of-towners. The barbecue is the best we’ve ever had, I promise. Oh yes, that’s quite a lot of jobs, yessir. No one could argue that Perry has not created a low-tax, low-regulation utopia for the wealthy and incorporated.

So why is Perry still arguing this point? Does he really need this much validation? I have no idea what it feels like to trip over my own rainbows live on national television, but why isn’t the love of a good woman, the laurels from business magazines, and the grudging thanks of employed Texans enough to heal his injured ego?

Most assume Perry’s jet-setting jobs tour is prelude to another presidential campaign, though “I’m right, you’re wrong” seems a strange message to deliver to voters in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri and New York. His compulsion to impose his superiority over other states comes across as defensive and insecure. Everything is bigger in Texas, including, it seems, our unmet emotional needs.\

If Perry were secure in his legacy, then he’d stick with the economic argument. Instead, Perry tells extravagant lies. In January, Perry claimed that the “funding that we have seen in the state of Texas for public education has been pretty phenomenal” even though school funding has dropped 25 percent since 2002. It ain’t bragging if it’s true, but if it ain’t true, it’s not bragging. It’s just a sad, easily-disproved, totally unbelievable lie, and it’s one of 27 that PolitiFact has identified as “false” and 14 as “pants on fire.” Bless his heart.

I wish that just once the provincial pompom squad would stop making us all look like anxious ninnies in this eternal struggle to prove our superiority over other, less-Texan states. Have some compassion for them, for they know not what they miss.

Instead, how about we ask ourselves a more interesting question: How can Texas be better? Doesn’t that open up a whole new range of blue skies? The alternative to the status quo in Texas has never been California. The choice Texas really faces is different: Do you want more of the same, or do you think Texas can do better?

That question leads to so many others:

If our economy is booming, why is there never enough money for schools?

If Texas is creating wealth, can we reward work as well?

Why can’t the booming industry responsible for ripping up our state highways pay to fix them?

Speaking of booming, why is it OK for fertilizer plants to keep the fire marshal from inspecting them to make sure they don’t kill the neighbors?

If our economy depends on the human capital educated at universities, how come Texas still has only three Tier I research universities while — forgive me — California has 11?

Is it time to ask why Perry has to go to California in the first place to poach companies? Texas is a great place to grow a company, but why is California a great place to start a company? What do they know about fostering education, collaboration, and innovation that we can replicate here? Instead of stealing their companies, how about stealing their secret recipe?

The opportunity is as big as Texas, but admitting that we have room for improvement is the first step. Unfortunately, “The discussion’s over,” according to Perry. It’s not. Let’s get Perry a big, shiny trophy to distract him while we have a grown-up conversation about how Texas can be even better. Otherwise, we’ll still be mired in silly political squabbles about whether Texas is better than California, and the only answer we ever get will be an unsatisfying “it depends.”

– State Rep. Branch has filed an amicus brief supporting HB2, the state’s abortion law.
– State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) is outraged (behind paywall) over a police incident at Rice University.
– Two abortion clinics, in Austin and Fort Worth, have re-opened.
– TT’s Ross Ramsey argues, in his weekly column, that the TX GOP effort to end the Texas Senate’s 2/3 rule has been aided by the recent “nuclear option” being used to end filibusters in the U.S. Senate by the majority Democrats.

2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– D Magazine weighs in on David Alameel, Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
– DMN’s Todd Gillman reports on Sen. Cornyn’s weak primary opposition.
– Gov. Perry will headline the Kansas GOP convention in January.
– Gov. Perry headlined a fundraiser for Gov. Terry Brandstad (R-IA) in Houston earlier this week.

Other stories of interest:
– Austin retains the #1 economy in the U.S.
– One report has child poverty on the rise in Texas.

Lighter clicks:
– In-N-Out opened in Round Rock today.  (Donny says ‘those are good burgers.’)
– Larry McMurtry’s Houston home is for sale for $849k.
– Seattle set the Guinness world noise record last night.
– I love the holiday season, Cleveland Browns edition.
– UT’s volleyball team is the overall #1 seed.
– Refugio QB Travis Quintanilla set the TX career passing yard record.
– One prediction on Mack Brown’s likely exit plan at UT.
– Complete bowl game projections.

Your Daily Source of Inspiration:
– 5 Things Successful People do Before 8am.


TT: Dewhurst Web Ad Urges Voters To “Keep Texas No. 1” (12/3/13 12:23pm)

AP: Texas Gov. Perry returns to early primary state (12/3/13 12:03pm)

AP: HUD: Dallas promotes housing discrimination (12/3/13 12:01pm)

AUSTIN BUSINESS JOURNAL: Austin retains ranking as No. 1 economy in the U.S. (12/3/13 12pm)

TT: Abbott Setting His Sights on Education Policy Debate (12/3/13 11:56am)

TT: Branch Focuses on Voter ID Fight in New Web Ad (12/3/13 11:55am)

TT: Report: Child Poverty Increases in Texas (12/3/13 11:55am)

TT: Carnes Launches “We Are Texas Ag” Video Campaign (12/3/13 11:54am)

TT: Perry Misses Deadline on Red River Boundary Issue (12/3/13 11:54am)

TT: Hurd Releases New Ad in CD-23 Race (12/3/13 11:53am)

POLITICO: Weighing retirement, Buck McKeon backs Mac Thornberry (12/3/13 11:51am)

DMN: T. Boone Pickens engaged to marry Toni Brinker (12/3/13 11:42am)

DMN: Dallas officials: HUD unfounded in claims that city’s affordable housing practices break civil rights laws (12/3/13 11:39am)

DMN: Rep. Ted Poe: Amazon drone project worrisome (12/3/13 11:39am)

DMN: Texas’ John Cornyn draws only minor foes despite conservative gripe he’s no Ted Cruz (12/3/13 11:18am)

FWST ($): Artwork by former President George W. Bush can grace anyone’s Christmas tree (12/3/13 10:59am)

CHRON ($): Geico to hire 1,000 at new Katy claims center (12/3/13 10:27am)

CHRON ($): Lack of police transparency in Rice arrest angers lawmaker (12/3/13 10:21am)

CHRON: Two Texas clinics resume abortions (12/3/13 10:18am)

CHRON: Branch files brief in support of HB 2 (12/3/13 10:18am)

SAEN ($): Feds: Mexican border governor bribed police, helped launder drug money (12/3/13 9:28am)

SAEN: T.R. Fehrenbach made history read like the news (12/3/13 1:02am)

SAEN ($): Fehrenbach remembered as master of story, style (12/3/13 1:01am)

AAS ($): Second year of pine tree planting kicks off in fire-ravaged Bastrop County (12/3/13 12:56am)

REUTERS: Calpine to buy Texas power plant but delay plan for new units (12/3/13 12:53am)

D MAGAZINE: Rich Dentist Who Has No Shot of Beating John Cornyn Attempting To Beat John Cornyn (12/3/13 12:52am)

TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL: Rick Perry to speak at Kansas GOP convention (12/3/13 12:46am)

DES MOINES REGISTER: Iowa Gov. Branstad raising campaign cash in Texas (12/3/13 12:46am)

BRYAN EAGLE: Gov. Rick Perry heralds tech company’s move to College Station (12/3/13 12:40am)

POLITIFACT: Cruz, Obama vying with others for Lie of the Year (12/3/13 12:15am)

TT: Despite Changes, Nurses Push for More Independence (12/2/13 2:24pm)


DMN: T.R. Fehrenbach’s works are a must-read (12/3/13 11:43am)

DMN: Bravo for #GivingTuesday effort (12/3/13 11:42am)

FWST ($): Easy part’s over for Arlington library plan (12/3/13 11:01am)

FWST ($): Thousands of children are depending on you to be ‘Goodfellows’ (12/3/13 11am)

CHRON: An irksome image (12/3/13 10:19am)

SAEN: Filibustering of nominees had to end (12/3/13 1:02am)

AAS ($): Evolution scuffle impairs science education (12/3/12 12:58am)


PRESIDENT POWERS: Research leader is my Texan of the Year (12/3/13 11:45am)

MCKENZIE: Understanding religion is central to understanding global conflicts (12/3/13 11:45am)

BEGLEY ($): ‘Round these parts, traffic circles catching on (12/3/13 10:27am)

SNYDER ($): Thanks for Operation Home Cooking (12/3/13 9:32am)

MARKELZ ($): Warrior and Family Support Center, now 10, gives thanks (12/3/13 9:32am)

BAY ($): Trust but verify: Missing in 2013 (12/3/13 9:31am)

CHASNOFF ($): Local street racing still a problem (12/3/13 9:30am)

AYALA ($): Latinos impatient with Obama’s dispassion on immigration (12/3/13 9:30am)

VLAHOS: Congress must pass smart budget (12/3/12 1:03am)

DAVIDSON: Fehrenbach used history to explain today (12/3/13 1:02am)

MACKOWIAK ($): Texas takes economic high road (12/3/13 12:59am)

STANFORD ($): It ain’t bragging if it’s true, but what if it ain’t true? (12/3/13 12:59am)

ROLLINS ($): The Lone Star holiday season (12/3/13 12:58am)

WEAR ($): Is the cost of moving big rigs off I-35 worth it? (12/3/13 12:55am)

RAMSEY: Texas GOP Gets a Hand From Washington Democrats (12/2/13 2:24pm)

BLOGS (from the left)

BOR: How Rick Perry Wants to Use Block Grants to Have His Cake and Eat It Too (12/3/13 12:47am)

BLOGS (from the right)

BIG JOLLY POLITICS: Todd Staples leads race for worst press release (12/3/13 11:50am)

BIG JOLLY POLITICS: Fourteenth court of appeals to hear James Jenkins vs State of Texas (12/3/13 11:50am)

BIG JOLLY POLITICS: Dan Branch backs HB2, legislative process (12/3/13 11:49am)

TPPF: Rule Could Mean Lights Out in Texas (12/3/13 11:48am)

TPPF: (Not) Cheaper by the Dozen (12/3/13 11:48am)

EMPOWER TEXANS: Freedom’s Unlikely Enemy (12/3/13 11:47am)

BREITBART: Wendy Davis Unprepared for Food Stamp Interview (12/3/13 12:52am)

Author: Must Read Texas

Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) & Jason Stanford @MustReadTexas