Monday, April 4, 2011

House Passes A Budget

Update April 4, 2011 @ 1:02am

House Bill 1, the draconian $164.5 billion 2011-13 budget that cuts $23 billion from 2009-13 spending levels, passed the Texas House Sunday on a preliminary vote of 98 to 49 along party lines. Two Republicans, Aaron Pena and David Simpson, voted against the bill.

House Bill 1 cuts public school spending by nearly $8 billion and cuts Medicaid spending by more than $4 billion. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio released a statement that says in part, "Eighty thousand kids are not going to get their scholarships and grant money because of this bill. Forty-three thousand people are going to get kicked out of nursing homes or denied nursing home entrance because of this bill..." The Center for Public Policy Priorities projects that as many as 189,000+ public education related jobs will be eliminated in Texas. Almost 14,000 public education jobs may be eliminated in Collin Co. Medicaid cuts to nursing homes and other health care providers will most likely result in many nursing home closures.

House Bill 1 taps none of the remaining $6 billion in the state's Rainy Day Fund, but it does include $100 million in new fees. Republicans on the House floor made some adjustments to the version of the bill that passed out of the Appropriations Committee last week. Conservatives stripped family planning funds to fund autism and mental health services for kids. For details on other adjustments made to House Bill 1 on the House floor read this article in the Texas Tribune.

Lawmakers in the Texas Senate have been working on their own version of the budget, but the Senate version cuts about $13 billion to mitigate the cuts to public education and Medicaid. Senate budget-writers propose adding $10 billion state-related revenue through new and increased fees. The spending gap will be major point of contention with House and Senate appointees meet to hammer out the differences in conference committee.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The TRUE Story Of The Original Tea Party

The policies advocated by Tea Party Republicans are modern analogs of the British Government's 18th century policies that precipitated the Boston Tea Party. Tax policies that penalize the citizenry while rewarding the corporations like the East India Company were at the root of the Boston Tea Party.

The Koch brothers and other conservative billionaires who head multinational corporations, who fund the the Tea Party movement, today play the part of the East India Company. Thom Hartmann gives the actual history of the original tea party in this video: a movement against the collusion of big business and the political party controlling Parliament in the 1700's.

Thirty new GOP Texas state lawmakers took office this year, promising their constituents they'd cut the fat out of government.

The current $27 billion deficit in the Texas budget is is caused by the Texas legislature giving corporate business massive tax breaks over the last ten years.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fixing The Tax Revenue Problem Instead Of Cutting Teachers

Texas will have a persistent $10 billion hole in its budget for years to come unless legislators address it this session, the state’s chief revenue estimator told Senators in Senate Finance Committee meeting on January 31, 2011.

Pressed by Democratic senators on the Finance Committee, John Heleman said the state will have a $10 billion structural deficit in future budgets largely because the business tax has underperformed and the 2006 property tax swap has cost more than expected.

The revised business tax was supposed to bring in $6 billion per year. Instead, it it is generating $4 billion. The cost of the property tax relief is also running about $1 billion per year above expectations.

“That gap is not closing up,” said Heleman, chief revenue estimator for Comptroller Susan Combs.

Republican state leaders have attributed the state’s budget woes to the recession and have dismissed calls to raise taxes to deal with the current budget shortfall, estimated at $15 billion to $27 billion, saying they can cut their way out of that hole.

But the structural deficit means legislators will have to come back in 2013 and beyond to deal with at least another $10 billion hole.

G.O.P. lawmakers in Austin have taken a vow of no new taxes, which is a vow to not fix the business tax revenue problem created by law makers in the 2006 legislative session.

Last week the Texas House began debate on a $164.5 billion budget bill that strips $23 billion from two-year 2011-13 state budget. The budget bill makes the kinds of spending cuts that many Conservative Tea Party lawmakers championed in their 2010 campaigns. Republican lawmakers say voters gave them a huge majority and clear marching orders last November: reduce spending, shrink state government, don't raise taxes. Shrinking state government, as it turns out, includes firing hundreds of thousands of teachers and state employees, taking billions of dollars out of the public school system and weaken the state's safety net for low-income Texans and the elderly.

Some Democratic lawmakers are, however, advocating fixing the business tax revenue side of the equation as stated in the follow press release from State Representative Yvonne Davis.

House GOP Budget Converts Medicare, Medicaid To Private Insurance Vouchers

Washington (CNN) -- House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, will unveil a highly anticipated 2012 Republican budget next week that proposes dramatic changes to political lightning rods: entitlements.

The plan, to be released Tuesday, calls for a controversial overhaul of Medicare, the health care program for seniors, and imposes deep cuts in Medicaid, which provides health benefits to low-income Americans, according to House Republican sources with knowledge of the proposal.

Starting 10 years from now, in 2021, Americans would no longer enroll in the Medicare program, but instead receive vouchers for private insurance, according to the GOP sources.

Read more »

The New Republic - Medicaid in the Cross Hairs:

The assault on Medicaid is about to begin. GOP sources have told Politico's Jonathan Allen that House Republicans will propose $1 trillion in cuts from the program. Exactly what form those cuts will take is not entirely clear. But a trillion dollars over ten years is serious money and Capitol Hill sources are saying it will likely come from two dramatic changes: Eliminating the Medicaid expansion that takes place under the Affordable Care Act and then converting the entire program into a system of block grants....

[R]olling back the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion would mean taking health insurance away from about 15 million people. That's the official, Congressional Budget Office projection of how many people will get coverage under Medicaid once the Act is fully in place.

As for turning Medicaid into a block grant, here's a quick refresher on what that entails. Right now, Medicaid is an entitlement program. That means the federal government, in partnership with the states, must enroll everybody who meets the program's guidelines. In other words, if millions of additional people become eligible because, say, they lost their job-based insurance in the recession, than the feds and the states have to provide them with coverage and find some way to pay for it. And it can't be spotty coverage, either. By law, Medicaid coverage must be comprehensive.

At least, that's the way it works now. If the law changes and Medicaid becomes a block grant, then every year the federal government would simply give the states a lump sum, set by a fixed formula, and let the states make the most of it.

The GOP likes to trumpet block grant programs as providing maximum flexibility for states. What this would actually do is take away states' ability to provide healthcare in economic downturns, like the one we're still in the middle of. Republican governors would be fine with that, they'd take the flexibility and make out like bandits, just like Gov. Rick Perry, who has advocated that Texas drop out of Medicare. Who will hurt the most are the primary beneficiaries of the program, the elderly and the disabled, including millions of children.

From Jobsanger Blog: "Exposing 10 Republican Economic Lies"

LIE -- Social Security is going broke because of the influx of the "baby boomers" and soon won't be able to meet its obligations, and future generations will not have any Social Security at all.

TRUTH -- Social Security is not in any immediate danger. The program has the funds to pay full benefits to all its recipients through 2037, and even after that date it could pay 75-80% far into the future -- and that is if nothing is done. One small tweak, raising the cap on income on which the FICA tax is paid, would make the program able to pay full benefits to all recipients for many, many more decades. There is NO REASON to cut benefits or raise the retirement age.

LIE -- The budget can be balanced by cutting programs that help ordinary Americans (like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Planned Parenthood, the EPA, unemployment insurance, etc.).

TRUTH -- All of these programs could be abolished and the budget would still not be balanced. But the budget could be balanced by stopping both unnecessary wars, cutting the Defense Department budget, eliminating corporate subsidies, and making the rich and the corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

The Republicans have to tell these lies because, as I said, no one would ever vote for them if they told the truth. But we as citizens do not have to believe those lies. Their misguided and wrong-headed policies have caused the worst economic disaster this country has experienced since the Great Depression (which was also caused by the same Republican policies).

It is time to stand up and tell them no more, and a good time to do that will be at the ballot box in 2012. We must boot them from power, and then put pressure of the far too-timid Democrats to do the right thing. Then we must hope our grandchildren don't fall for the same lies in another 70-80 years.