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Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Red light cameras: The final insult

Awesome. In settling the lawsuit with camera vendor American Traffic Solutions, whose contract was supposed to run through 2014, the city agreed to pay the Arizona-based company $4.8 million. The city had $2.3 million in red-light ticket revenue on hand at the time of the settlement, and officials said they expected to be able to […]

Re-revisiting red light cameras

This horse is dead. Please stop beating it. Four years after Houston voters rejected red-light cameras, the divisive issue unexpectedly resurfaced Tuesday when police officials presented figures indicating that removing the cameras made 51 busy intersections more dangerous. Auto crashes have more than doubled at those intersections since voters banned use of the cameras in […]

House starts thinking about school finance

Good to see. For the past several weeks, state lawmakers have been meeting to discuss how to better fund public education in the wake of a court ruling calling Texas’ school finance system inequitable, inefficient and illegal. Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, confirmed he and 12 to 15 members of the state House […]

McClelland wants more money for more cops

And I want some answers before we go along with this request. Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland asked city leaders Tuesday for an additional $105 million over five years to hire hundreds of new officers as part of a plan to shore up divisions where thousands of crimes are never investigated and bolster traffic enforcement […]

Council approves meaningless tax cut

Such awful policy. The Houston City Council unanimously passed a nominal property tax cut Tuesday afternoon, the first rate reduction in five years, as the city for the first time runs into a revenue cap imposed by voters a decade ago. The modest rollback equates to $12.27 a year for the owner of a $200,000 […]

The inadequacy of Prop 1

Better than nothing, but not by much. The campaign to steer state reserve funds to road projects is not being waged with yard signs and televised debates but, rather, with chamber of commerce lunches and a smattering of direct mailings. Though largely a quiet campaign, supporters of Prop. 1 said they are optimistic the proposal […]

From the “Simple answers to simple questions” department

The Statesman asks “Would Dan Patrick’s tax plan lower your taxes?” Efforts to shift toward sales tax in lieu of property and income taxes have in recent years gained momentum in Republican-led states — even as economists warn that this sort of tax reform is likely to harm the majority of taxpayers. Economists point out […]

Interview with Mike Collier

Given that we are guaranteed to have an entirely new set of statewide officeholders after this election no matter who wins, there are a lot of candidates with current or past experience as elected officials, or at least as candidates. Despite that, one of the most compelling candidates running this year is a first timer, […]

Gov debate II: That’s more like it

The second Governor’s debate was a lively affair. Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has mostly avoided direct confrontation with his opponent in the race for Texas governor, took a hard swing at Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis over her ethics as a lawmaker in a televised debate Tuesday night. And she let him have it […]

Endorsement watch: Chron for Collier

Add the Houston Chronicle to the list of papers endorsing Mike Collier for Comptroller. [Sen. Glenn] Hegar knows politics; Collier knows the numbers. In our view the choice is clear: Texas needs the numbers man, not a politician who wants to use the office as a stepping stone to higher office. Texans know what can […]

Abbott appeals school finance case to Supreme Court

No surprise. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Friday appealed to the Texas Supreme Court a district court finding that the state’s school finance system is unconstitutional. State District Judge John Dietz’s Aug. 30 ruling called Texas’ current school finance system inefficient and inadequate, saying it created an de facto statewide property tax in violation […]

Firefighter pension board makes an offer to the city

This was unexpected. The trustees of Houston’s firefighter pension, who for years have fought the mere mention of changes to benefits as Houston’s enormous pension burden has continued to grow, now are shopping a compromise proposal. Fire pension leaders say they simply are trying to save the city money as it approaches several years of […]

Dan Patrick sightings

I doubt that the Chron’s calling out of Dan Patrick had anything to do with him appearing in public, in the daylight, where there might be people that don’t vote Republican, but it was good timing anyway. Now that Patrick is a heavy favorite in his first statewide race, for the powerful position of lieutenant […]

Endorsement watch: Statesman for Collier

The Statesman continues its early work on endorsements with a solid recommendation for Democratic Comptroller candidate Mike Collier. The deplorable revenue forecast issued ahead of the 2011 legislative session by the current comptroller, Republican Susan Combs, who’s retiring from politics, contributed to an unnecessary $5.4 billion cut to public education. Combs’ estimate – she was […]

The revenue cap has already hit

Lovely. Houstonians will see their first property tax rate cut in five years as the city runs up against a revenue cap imposed by voters a decade ago. The modest rollback works out to $12.27 a year for the owner of a $200,000 house with a standard homestead exemption. [...] The city’s current property tax […]

Body cameras for HPD

I’ll be very interested to see how this goes. Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland is asking City Hall for $8 million to equip 3,500 police officers over three years with small body cameras to record encounters between law enforcement and residents as a way of improving accountability and transparency. Last December, McClelland announced a pilot […]

School finance system ruled unconstitutional again

A little light reading for your holiday weekend. Nearly three years after more than 600 Texas school districts filed litigation challenging the state’s school finance system, a Travis County district judge has ruled in their favor. In an almost 400-page opinion released Thursday, District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin said that the state’s school […]

More education policy from Davis

A lot to like here. Saying she wants to expand Texas high schoolers’ access to technical job training programs, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis announced a plan to create a Career-Technical Coordinating Board. The plan is the latest in a string of education reform proposals from Davis. It also includes recommendations on college affordability and […]

Teachers are doing it for themselves

I know this is intended to be an upbeat story, but I can’t help but find it a little depressing. Some tech-savvy teachers turned to the Web this summer to try to offset the nearly $500 typically spent to ready a classroom for the first day of school. Numerous Houston-area educators posted pleas on social […]

Parker proposes new firefighter pension plan

We’ll see about this. With the city of Houston facing huge and rising pension costs, Mayor Annise Parker on Thursday unveiled a proposal to put new firefighters in a separate, less generous plan that would do away with expensive automatic cost-of-living adjustments. The move would not affect current firefighters covered by the Houston Firefighters Relief […]

Just don’t call it “Medicaid expansion”

It’s the public policy that dare not have its name spoken, at least by Republican legislators. State lawmakers renewed efforts Thursday to find a “Texas solution” to expand health-insurance coverage for low-income residents without accepting the Medicaid expansion in President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Social-services advocates and local officials are among those pushing […]

From the files of privatization failures

A story from last week. State officials have decided to slow the rollout of a controversial overhaul of the foster-care system after the private contractor running a pilot program abruptly pulled out Friday. Judge John Specia, commissioner of the state Department of Family and Protective Services, said a second pilot of the overhaul will continue […]

Collier keeps up the attack

I really like the way he’s running his campaign. Democratic comptroller nominee Mike Collier says his Republican opponent Glenn Hegar bragged to a Houston-area tea party interviewer last year that he was proud of the Legislature’s 2011 budget cuts to public schools. On Friday, Collier released a web video to prove it. “It’s embarrassing and […]

Houston municipal employees may see health insurance costs get hiked again

It’s one of many possible proposals for closing the upcoming budget shortfall. A key option, [Mayor annise] Parker has said, is to increase the share of health care costs employees pay. The city now pays three-fourths, and employees pay one-fourth. “We have a very generous health benefits plan, even with the changes,” Parker said, referring […]

At an impasse

Doesn’t look like there will be any new collective bargaining agreement between the city and the firefighters this year. Houston’s firefighters union declared an impasse with the city over a new labor contract, which a union negotiator called a “slap in the face” on Thursday. The deadlock comes less than a month after Mayor Annise […]

Repealing the revenue cap is only part of the answer

Repealing the dumb revenue cap charter amendment from 2004 won’t solve the impending fiscal problems by itself. It’s still a good idea to repeal it. With an estimated $144 million budget shortfall looming next summer, the city’s finance director delivered a harsh message Tuesday: even lifting a voter-imposed revenue cap will not save the day. […]

It’s past time for a garbage fee

Yes, this. For years, Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department Director Harry Hayes has suggested the city implement a garbage fee to expand curbside recycling and pay for other initiatives. And for years, Mayor Annise Parker has demurred. Now, with a looming budget deficit that could force widespread layoffs and cuts to services, the idea may […]

Diverting ReBuild Houston funds

I don’t know about this. Expressing impatience with the pace of street repairs under the Rebuild Houston program, City Council on Wednesday voted to siphon off some of the drainage-fee supported funds to speed up projects and help resolve smaller neighborhood problems sought by their constituents. In an amendment to the city’s five-year $7.8 billion […]

We don’t need no (sex) education

Here’s the state of Texas leading the nation in yet another unflattering category. In Texas and across the country, the rate of teenage births has declined significantly since its peak in 1991. Birth rates among teenagers in Texas dropped 43 percent between 1991 and 2012. In states like California and Connecticut, the drop was even […]

Grits on the HPD staffing debate

Grits weighs in on the HPD no-investigations story with some suggestions for how to proceed. Here’s how to boost the number of police officers available on patrol while freeing up officers to work as detectives in the burglary and other backlogged divisions: Implement verified response for burglar alarm calls, requiring alarm companies to verify a […]

Teacher health insurance costs

Another thing on the list of things the Legislature needs to deal with but won’t. Health care insurance costs for hundreds of thousands of Texas teachers and other public school employees are scheduled to go up again this fall, prompting renewed calls from educator groups for the state to pick up more of the cost […]

We need more context to the HPD no-investigations issue

Regular commenter Steven Houston left this feedback on my “More reaction to the HPD no-investigations report” post. It raises some good points and helped me focus my thinking on a couple of things, so I wanted to reproduce it and react to it here. I’ve commented on this issue for years, including a number of […]

HISD passes its budget

They restored a lot of funding, but it’s the changes to magnet school funding that everyone is talking about. Bouncing back from recent cash-strapped years, the Houston school board Thursday approved a bigger budget that gives raises to all employees, provides more money to campuses and may require a tax rate increase. The board, over […]

Council adopts its budget for next year

Might be the last easy budget for a couple of years. The Houston City Council agreed to boost funding for after-school programs, add cameras to catch illegal dumpers and give $1 million to each district council office to spend on projects for their constituents during a marathon session Wednesday to approve Mayor Annise Parker’s $5.2 […]