Tuesday, December 15, 2015

BlogTalkUSA: Eyes Wide Open / DemBlogTalk - 12/08/2015

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Mike Collier, the 2014 Democratic candidate for Texas State Comptroller, joined co-hosts Michael Handley and Rheana Nevitt Piegols to talk about Texas' state budget and economy on Tuesday, December 8th @8:30pm cst.

The Texas miracle, long touted by Texas Republicans, is predicated on high oil prices, not low taxes. For years, Texas Republicans bragged low taxes and no regulation kept employment high and the state economy strong, while the rest of the country recovered from the 2008 housing bubble crash.

But it was Texas' deep pockets of crude oil selling at over $100 per barrel and high natural gas prices that was the "miracle" of Texas' economy.

Over the last week, the market price for West Texas Intermediate crude oil traded down steeply to the mid $30's per barrel, the lowest levels in more than six years.

Oil is under pressure amid speculation the record global oil glut will be prolonged after OPEC effectively abandoned its longtime strategy of limiting output to control prices at an early December meeting.

West Texas crude was trading over $100 per barrel in mid-2014.

Falling oil and gas prices already prompted Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar earlier this year to reduce his state revenue estimate, but more bad state budget news may be coming. Oil prices may go lower, yet.

Looking beyond Republican talking points, the Texas miracle already is more of a mirage. Texas did have 41 percent of all U.S. job growth from 2000 to 2013. But the state also has the 10th highest rate of low-wage jobs in the country. More than 31 percent of Texas jobs pay less than $24,000 per year — a wage that keeps families in poverty. That’s why Texas has cronic poverty and economic inequality. Texas ranks among the top 10 states for income inequality in the nation. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people living in poverty jumped by 82 percent in Austin, 64 percent in Dallas, 46 percent in Houston and 36 percent in San Antonio.

Texas Republicans have kept taxes low by racking up debt over the last 12 years. Once you add in all the debt Texas keeps off the books, the state ranks third in the country among the states in outstanding debt at a level approaching $350 billion. For the last decade, the pension debt problem has been metastasizing out of view — off of state balance sheets and obscured by official figures that misrepresent the depth of the hole. The state’s pension debt in 2013 was approximately $244.1 billion, according to a by State Budget Solutions report. Add in $55.4 billion for retiree health care and $41.3 billion in bonds and other official debt.

Among the topics we'll talk about with Mike Collier beginning at 9:00pm is Texas State Auditor John Keel’s sudden resignation. His resignation will take effect just before the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is issued. His departure may seem inconsequential, but it is worth taking notice of what might be behind his usually timed resignation, mid-audit.

If the auditor of a major corporation were to resign abruptly mid-audit, the story would make headlines. Shareholders would want to know urgently whether the resignation had anything to do with bad accounting, fraud, or corruption inside the company.

But first up David Sanchez from the Sen. Bernie Sanders' Texas presidential campaign joins us for our weekly #‎feelthebern‬ update.

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