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Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Revenue cap will stay in place

Boo, hiss. Houston voters will not be given the option this fall of passing a property tax hike after a City Council committee on Thursday unanimously recommended leaving the city’s much-maligned revenue cap alone. […] The topic has received less attention recently, however, as projections show the cap will mean a projected $24 million less […]

More pre-K bills filed

The Observer has the best reporting on the latest pre-k bills that have been filed in the Lege. There’s widespread support around the Capitol for more state spending on pre-kindergarten programs, and much less agreement about how to do it. State Reps. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) and Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown) have proposed a $300-million-a-year plan to […]

Judge Dietz would like the Lege to please fix school finance already

So would the rest of us, Your Honor. In his first major appearance since finding the Texas school finance system unconstitutional in 2014, state District Judge John Dietz said Sunday that a solution to the state’s unequal and ineffective public education system should come from the Legislature. “We are dooming a generation of these children […]

We can always pay for tax cuts later

Item One: Texas House leaders said Monday they can cut taxes by more than the $4 billion initially proposed by their Senate counterparts, upping the ante for the high-profile issue despite other looming big-ticket state needs. “We really believe that we ought to be able to do more than $4 billion in tax cuts here […]

HPD to get a pay raise

Mayor Parker and the police union agree to a new contract. The Houston Police Department hopes a new union contract that targets raises primarily to younger officers will ward off recruiting struggles that have forced it to offer bonuses to cadets. The agreement, which Mayor Annise Parker and Houston Police Officers Union president Ray Hunt […]

Tax cuts >>> public education

Well, what did you expect? Senate budget writers have enjoyed praise from conservatives for their focus on tax cuts, but they’re about to get an earful from educators who think their promises could cost Texas public school students. The starting budgets of the state House and Senate, released last month, are similar on many fronts, […]

The odds never favor ethics reforms

Better to keep your hopes down and not suffer too much disappointment. Gov. Greg Abbott pledged on the campaign trail to lead the charge to improve the state’s ethics laws, and now lawmakers and advocates pushing for reform are looking to the newly elected governor to help breathe life into proposals at the Legislature. Lawmakers […]

Drug testing for being poor

It’s back, and it’s as bad an idea as it ever was. For years, GOP lawmakers have tried to make drug testing mandatory for some Texans who receive state welfare benefits, with little success. But after making some headway in the Texas Senate in the 2013 legislative session, they hope to pick up where they […]

2015 Mayoral manifesto: Public safety

Preliminaries Transportation When I first started thinking about this series a couple of months ago, this section was all going to be about the budget. We’ve covered this ground before – public safety is about 65% of the total city budget, yet it’s always “off limits” for consideration when there are shortfalls. It’s always the […]

Abbott-style pre-k bill filed

From the inbox: State Representatives Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) and Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown) today filed a bill to provide incentive payments to school districts to provide full-day, quality pre-kindergarten. To receive the incentives, districts would be required to adopt best practices identified through research as delivering the best return on educational investment. Texas’ current system funds […]

2015 Mayoral manifesto: The preliminaries

As you may have heard, we are electing a new Mayor this year. There’s already a large field of candidates in the race, and it is likely to grow before all is said and done. Each will have his own ideas about what Houston’s top priorities are and how he would address them (I’m using […]

The Senate’s opening budget

Could be worse, I guess. Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson presented a $205.1 billion two-year base budget Tuesday morning, vowing to provide property tax cuts that Texans “actually feel” while keeping the state’s economy humming along. The Senate budget is $3 billion larger than the $202.4 billion House budget that Speaker Joe Straus released nearly […]

Minding Houston

Want to know about mental health issues and how they are being addressed by the Legislature? Tune in to Minding Houston, the legislatively-focused blog of Mental Health America of Greater Houston. From their About page: Mental Health America of Greater Houston is pleased to offer the blog, “Minding Houston,” which covers legislation and issues associated […]

What will happen with pre-K this session?

They say it’s a priority, though I would advise tempering one’s expectations. Currently, Texas funds a half day of preschool for 4-year-olds whose first language is not English, whose families have low incomes, whose parents are active duty military or who are in foster care. Texas has some of the weakest quality standards for preschool, […]

Tuition re-regulation on the menu

There are different ways it could go. Tuition at Texas universities has more than doubled in the 12 years since state lawmakers authorized colleges to set their own rates. Now legislators are pushing to take back that control. It’s not a new idea, but it stands a chance for the first time since 2003, when […]

Expect to hear more about Perry vetos and no-bid contracts

Bring it on. Democratic lawmakers and government watchdog groups on Saturday called for the reopening of an investigation into no-bid state contracts that ended in 2013 after Gov. Rick Perry vetoed funding for the team conducting it. The critics decried the millions of dollars in Department of Public Safety contracts and another set of similar […]

Saving money by throwing away less

Good strategy all around. As a committee mulls an ambitious and controversial “one bin” project that could overhaul recycling and waste collection in Houston, the city’s traditional mode of getting rid of trash just got cheaper. A renegotiated contract with the city’s primary waste hauler, approved by City Council late last month with little fanfare […]

Still no consensus on how to deal with the criminal justice complex

And it’s back to the Mayor. Pushed by Mayor Annise Parker to decide whether Houston’s aging police and courts buildings should get patchwork repairs or be fully replaced, with both options carrying staggering price tags, City Council members instead opted for indecision. By a 12-4 vote, the body sidestepped both options – one of which […]

Say goodbye to some specialty license plates

Nothing lasts forever. Dr. Pepper, the National Wild Turkey Foundation and the Fort Worth Zoo are among 56 groups that will no longer grace the bumpers of Texas cars and trucks unless sales pick up. Under new rules set between the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and My Plates, the company that sells specialty license […]

Aycock files school finance reform bill

Interesting. A key House Republican said Texas lawmakers should not wait for the outcome of a sprawling school finance lawsuit to discuss changes to the state’s current public education funding system. “While we do not know the final outcome of the school finance lawsuit, I believe it is appropriate to foster broad conversations on this […]

Hegar’s first revenue estimate is in

We’ll see how it holds up. Amid concerns that tumbling oil prices could push the Texas economy into a recession, Comptroller Glenn Hegar offered a cautiously optimistic tone on the future of the Texas economy Monday, announcing that lawmakers will have $113 billion to haggle over in crafting its next two-year budget. “Our projections are […]

Wake me up in June

As we prepare for the 84th Legislative session to begin, let’s pause for a moment and see what we can expect. Greg Abbott wants to make the world safe for plastic bags. Dan Patrick wants to cut his property taxes, and ensure that Texas never has enough money to meet its needs. Donna Campbell wants […]

Does any of this sound like “Medicaid Expansion” to you?

So Wonkblog, TPM, and BOR, all riffing off the same news story in which Greg Abbott had a clandestine meeting with Houston-area legislators and may have said some things that made them think he might be open to “Medicaid expansion”, are all talking about it as though it’s a thing that could happen. Here’s Wonkblog, […]

Three signs of possible trouble ahead

#1 – Watch out for falling oil prices. The bedrock supporting Houston’s economy will shift in 2015, and while these tremors will not bring disaster, they will bring changes that some will find painful. The collapse of oil prices in 2014 has made it very difficult for economists, both public and private, who until recently […]

It pays to go green

It’s a simple enough formula – reduce energy usage, save money. As Houston leaders push the counter-intuitive notion that the world’s energy capital can go green, and pledge ever-lower emissions goals for municipal operations, installing energy-efficient lighting and low-flow toilets can seem like hopelessly small measures. City data show a seven-year effort to retrofit municipal […]

Commissioners Court approves body camera purchase

Good. Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday unanimously approved District Attorney Devon Anderson’s plan to spend $1.9 million in seized assets to equip Houston police officers and Harris County sheriff’s deputies with body cameras. County officials also said they would move toward giving about 700 deputy constables the same equipment, though the precise amount of […]

Repair or replace?

Consider this an object lesson in the cost of deferring maintenance. A new Houston police headquarters and courthouse complex, discussed for decades, could reach a key turning point this week as Mayor Annise Parker seeks to force City Council members to choose between repairing the city’s existing facilities or tackling an enormous project to construct […]

A better way to cut taxes

Grits has a suggestion for the Legislature. Reduce local jail costs – which have been a big driver of tax increases in many Texas counties – by reducing penalty categories for low-level marijuana possession (currently a Class B misdemeanor for possession of two ounces or less) and driving with an invalid license (DWLI, currently a […]

The Lege is unlikely to do anything substantive on education this session

Oh, there will be lots of sound and fury, as well as various sideshow distractions, but in the end the main issue to resolve – school finance – will be at best “tweaked”. For anything more than that, we will have to wait till the Lege is forced to act by the Supreme Court. Public […]

City deficit not as big as feared

This is a nice surprise. A huge budget deficit looming at City Hall – which has spurred talk of layoffs, service cuts, new fees and higher taxes – has been cut in half, relieving some pressure to scramble together a budget patch but doing little for Houston’s long-term financial health. The unexpected boost of good […]

Some Republicans embrace tuition re-regulation

This is a welcome change, but let’s not be distracted by what isn’t being said. Tuition and fees at the state’s public colleges and universities would be capped at their current levels and only be permitted to grow at the rate of inflation under a bill filed Tuesday by state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown. Schwertner […]

Abbott puts on a moderate act

He cares about education! During a Capitol news conference in which he announced the selection of his senior staff, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott said Monday that education will be his top policy priority. Abbott said he wants to improve the educational foundation that students receive in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. “I want to ensure that all […]

What’s the Lege going to do with the revenue?

Not as much as it should, of course, because the Lege never comes close to doing as much as it should. It’s a question of whether they’ll try to address some real problems, or just engage in an orgy of tax cutting. Texans can expect tax relief, a laser focus on border security and more […]

Mayor Parker wants body cameras for HPD

Good. Houston won’t wait for federal funding before buying body cameras for all of the city’s uniformed police officers, Mayor Annise Parker said Wednesday, as activists launched a petition drive for an ordinance essentially mandating the mayor’s plans. Both the mayor and police chief have announced their commitment to body cameras designed to record all […]