Opinion

Wed
18
Mar

Lawmakers seek to control elements of state spending

By Ed Sterling

Debates over the Texas House and Senate versions of the state budget lie ahead, and movement toward setting budget controls to blend into a final, agreed-upon budget for 2016-2017 emerged in low-numbered bills filed last week.

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Wed
11
Mar

Senate bills set stage for tax, debt relief

A trio of leading Texas senators, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, on March 5 jointly announced the filing of legislation they coauthored to cut taxes and pay off state debt. Patrick, who presides over the 31-member Senate, Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; Senate Business & Commerce Chair Kevin Eltife, RTyler; and Senate Finance Vice Chair Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, each delivered brief statements.

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Wed
04
Mar

Prison process progresses in punishment, preparation

by Willis Webb

Over the years, several factors have influenced my interest in our Texas prison system. A close proximity at times to the system, some friendships and a newsman’s natural curiosity (sometimes morbid) are among those factors bringing the process into my occasional view in a six-decade exposure to news events and newsmakers. It has often been fascinating viewing. Naturally, major events — executions, prison breakout attempts (think Fred Gomez Carrasco) and court cases about the roles of the system — grab just about everyone’s attention. Long-time close observation reveals other facets that are much more interesting and fascinating.

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Wed
04
Mar

Senate panel passes legislation to fund state highways

by Ed Sterling

In each fiscal year beginning Sept. 1, 2017, the legislation as currently written would dedicate to general revenue the first $2.5 billion in revenues from existing sales tax on new and used vehicles and exiting rental tax on vehicles, according to the official analysis of the bills. The second $2.5 billion would be dedicated to the State Highway Fund with the restriction that it could only be appropriated to construct, maintain, or acquire rights-of ways for public roadways other than toll roads. Those funds also be used to repay Proposition 12 bonds that currently are paid with general revenues funds, which cost about $335 million per year.

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Wed
25
Feb

Governor gives lawmakers his state budget priorities

by Ed Sterling

On Feb. 17, Gov. Greg Abbott delivered his first State of the State address during a joint session of the Texas House and Senate and released his recommendations for the two-year 2016-2017 state budget. In his 43-page Governor’s Budget document, Abbott said he aims to: “Constrain the size and growth of government. Reduce agency spending. Suspend, reduce, and eliminate unnecessary taxes and fees. Ensure government supports job creation and is accountable and transparent.”

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Wed
18
Feb

Abbott joins other governors in urging against veto

 Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 12 announced he had joined a coalition of 24 governors in signing and sending a letter to President Obama that urges the nation’s chief executive “to reconsider his threat” to veto legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

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Wed
11
Feb

Accidental history lessons at ‘Washington on the Brazos’

Sometimes, I wonder how Texas history will survive in the future. When you think about today’s world of “smart phones” and computers, the dusty days of the Texas War for Independence seems like another planet. The amazing story of how Texas was born is famous around the world. Yet, too often, the “Story of Texas” is tucked inside a history book… or sprinkled along the roadside with historical markers that we drive by on our way to somewhere else.

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Wed
11
Feb

Senate panel hears testimony on funding needs

by Ed Sterling

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee began groundwork for its budget-writing duties with public hearings on four consecutive days. Led by Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Grapevine, the 15-member panel heard testimony from the offices of the governor, comptroller and attorney general. Input also was received on state pension funds, courts and payments on state debt. Currently, the budget is an estimated $4.5 billion for all of those “general government” functions and an increase of $200 million has been proposed for 2016-2017.

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Wed
04
Feb

Budget-writing process begins in Senate committee

by Ed Sterling

On Jan. 28, the main work of the Texas Legislature started when the state budget-writing Senate Finance Committee met at the capitol. Financial figures for the committee to use as a guide come from the 10-member Legislative Budget Board, a permanent joint committee of the House and Senate that develops budget and policy recommendations for appropriations, completes fiscal analyses for proposed legislation and conducts evaluations and reviews to improve the efficiency and performance of state and local operations.

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Wed
28
Jan

Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick take office

by Ed Sterling

January 20 was inauguration day for Gov. Greg Abbott, successor to Rick Perry, who completed a recordsetting 14 years as governor. Abbott is the 48th governor of Texas. Abbott expressed gratitude to the people who elected him and promised to “promote policies that limit the growth of government, not the size of your dreams.” “Texas truly is the land of opportunity, the place where anyone can achieve anything,” Abbott said. “But as great as Texas is there’s more we must do: More for the families stuck in traffic. More for parched towns thirsty for water. More for parents who fear their child is falling behind in school. More for employers searching for skilled workers. More for our veterans who return broken from battle.”

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