Declines are a big concern for budget writers
By PEGGY FIKAC
Feb. 13, 2010, 7:19AM
AUSTIN — In more grim news for Texas' budget, state Comptroller Susan Combs said Friday that monthly sales tax collections are down again, the eighth straight month of double-digit declines.
Collections for January — the period that reflects December holiday shopping — were down by 14.2 percent compared with a year ago.
The state has seen sales tax declines, compared with the same month the previous year, since February 2009, including double-digit decreases since last June.
“Eight consecutive months of double-digit declines — there is no parallel for what we're seeing with the sales tax,” said budget expert Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association.
Collections are down in retail trade, oil and natural gas production, construction, and manufacturing, Combs said in a statement. She noted that January 2009 was the third-highest collection month ever, and the last to show growth compared with the previous year.
“We will continue to closely monitor sales tax revenue, and although we expect further collection declines in the near term, it is anticipated the rate of decline will moderate and then return to revenue growth sometime in the second quarter of 2010,” Combs said.
Combs has predicted the state will collect $21.2 billion in revenue from the sales tax in the fiscal year that began Sept. 1, slightly more than the $21 billion collected in fiscal 2009.
So far, however, collections are about $1.2 billion below the amount that had been collected by this time in the last fiscal year.
For the sales tax to bring in as much this year as originally projected, Craymer said, it “would have to grow by 11 percent for the rest of the fiscal year, and clearly that's not going to happen.”
Sales tax collections represent more than 56 percent of the state's tax revenue and more than 24 percent of overall revenue.
Lawmakers already expect to face a funding gap of at least $12 billion to $13 billion when they meet in regular session in 2011 to write the next two-year state budget. That figure does not account for new spending to meet the demands of a growing population.
The pending budget gap came about because lawmakers funded the current budget with money that will not be available again, including an unspent state balance and a large pot of federal stimulus money.
At the same time, lawmakers face continuing pressure from a school funding revamp that shifted a larger part of the responsibility for paying for public education from local school property taxes to the state. A state business tax revamp meant to help make up the cost has brought in significantly less than projected.
Because of the expected funding crunch, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus have asked state agencies to identify ways to cut state spending by 5 percent in the current two-year budget period. Those suggestions are due Monday and are expected to add up to about $1 billion.
Lawmakers expect to have some $8.2 billion in the so-called “rainy day fund,” the state's savings account, that could be used to help meet the upcoming shortfall. The Permanent School Fund may be able to yield more earnings because of the stock market rebound, and Craymer said Texas could be eligible for some additional stimulus money if federal legislation passes.
“There are at least a couple of things going on that are going to be positives to the ledger. The question is going to be are the negatives going to overwhelm them or not,” he said. “It's too early to know for sure, but I don't think there's any question at this point in looking at all the numbers that the negatives may outweigh the positives.”
MEDINA!!! Explain how you want to get rid of the property tax again. Explain how we are supposed to support our government by only the State Sales Tax? How is that supposed to work again?
Kay get your ass back to congress and get the federal stimulus through.
Time: 2010-02-13 13:05
Subject: The crazy invade Texas' Governor Race in both parties
So we know about Tea Party 'gun toting epa destroying' freak Medina but do we know about the crazy in the Democrat party?
Meet Farouk Shami.
Farouk's hair-raising announcement
Farouk Shami, the Houston entrepreneur running for governor, has a new invention for his business that will blow your mind.
Debra Medina on 9-11?
Here's the latest you need to know about the race for Texas governor: Farouk Shami, the Houston hair-care magnate running for governor as a Democrat, is about to announce the invention of a blow dryer that grows hair.
That's what I said. That's what he said. Run this blow dryer over your shiny knob of a head and watch the hair sprout.
But, wait, there's more.
Meeting with the Chronicle editorial board this morning, the inventor of the wildly popular Chi hair-straightener announced that the dryer also smooths out wrinkles on the face.
"Because you're laughing at me, I'm going to tell you how it works," Shami said, smiling and explaining that he got the idea from his senior vice president for technology, a former NASA scientist.
"When someone's on the space shuttle and they get a cut, they don't heal," he said. "When someone's on a submarine and they get a cut they don't heal. NASA found that if you use near-infrared -- you know, light, infrared? -- infrared can heal a cut. Near-infrared can grow small veins, carrying blood suppy and oxygen. And if you have a small cut and you're exposed to infrared, you will heal in 40 to 50 percent of the time. . . . If you can grow veins on the hand for a cut, think about it for the hair."
Shami's hair dryer, as I understand what he was telling us, has to do with the hair follicle getting bigger and growing more veins after being exposed to infrared light. "God made it that way," he said, "and that blood supply really can thicken the hair and hair grows faster at that stage. . . . When the hair stops growing, the follicles shrink and those veins disappear. Same thing with the healing process. . . ."
His hair dryer "can activate the growth of small veins and that grows hair," he insisted. "So it does work. Actually, you can also, if somebody has wrinkles, you put it on your face and it will increase the collagen supply and you will reduce wrinkles."
OK, so the miracle dryer has its limitations. The dryer won't grow hair on Bill White's head, Shami conceded. "I think he's hopeless," he said. "You have to have follicles."
Shami told my friend Rick Casey, who considers himself a bit hair-challenged, that the product would be available shortly.
One more thing: In my Farouk Shami profile, I quoted a journalism professor who said, "I don't care if he's raising people from the dead. Anybody named Farouk Shami is not going to be elected anything in Texas."
Maybe so. But raising hair? Now that's a different story.
Shami: Whites shun nonsupervisory factory jobs
Feb. 12, 2010, 5:37PM
AUSTIN — Farouk Shami, the Democratic hair-care magnate running for Texas governor, says most of his factory employees are Hispanic because white people are not willing to work.
Shami, running against former Houston Mayor Bill White, made the comments Friday in an interview with Dallas television station WFAA.
Shami said white people who look for work at his factories “either want to be supervisors or they want to be paid more than the average person and unfortunately, they exit.”
Shami was being asked to follow up on a comment he made at a televised debate between him and White in which he said, in an effort to advocate the benefits of immigrant labor, that “without Mexicans, it would be like a day without sunshine in our state.”
I know you are trying to court the Latino vote but god don't piss off the rednecks.
Medina still trying to explain 9/11 comments
GOP governor hopeful denies conspiracy, but Democratic candidate Shami not so sure
By JOE HOLLEY
Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
Feb. 13, 2010, 7:30AM
Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina on Friday sought to play down comments she made during a radio talk show about the possibility the U.S. government was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
About the time Medina was trying to clarify her position, her Democratic counterpart, Houston hair-products magnate Farouk Shami, offered up the same kind of remarks she was trying to disavow.
In an interview during a taping of Inside Texas Politics on Dallas' WFAA-TV, Shami refused to discount so-called “truther” theories that suggest the U.S. government played a role in the terrorist attacks.
“I'm not sure,” said Shami, who was born in Palestine and has lived in the United States since 1965. “I am not going to really judge or answer about something I'm not really sure about. But the rumors are there that there was a conspiracy. True or not? It's hard to believe, you know, what happened. It's really hard to comprehend what happened. Maybe. I'm not sure.”
Shami also said during the interview that he cannot find many white people willing to work, so he hires Hispanics and African Americans instead.
“A majority of the people are going to be Hispanic and African American,” he said. “You don't find white people who are willing to work in factories. And our history proves, you know, lots of time when they, you know, the white people come to work in a factory they either want to be supervisors or they want to be, you know, paid more than the average person.”
Shami, like Medina, is making his first run for public office. Most polls put him far behind former Houston Mayor Bill White.
Meanwhile in Houston, at a hastily called news conference at the downtown Hyatt Regency, Medina said she did not fully understand the question radio talk-show host Glenn Beck asked her during an interview Thursday about whether she believed the U.S. government had any involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
“That's not the question I heard,” she said. She said she thought he was asking about whether citizens should question their government.
“You get into those interviews sometimes and maybe over-guess or revive what's going on,” she said. “I heard a question that was probably bigger than what was really being asked. I heard the ‘should people be questioning their government,' and I've said repeatedly, yes, we ought to be holding ourselves to transparency and scrutiny in government.
“The fact that so many people have questions about so much of what is going on is the real underlying issue there. That's what I was addressing.”
In her response to Beck, Medina said, “I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard. There are some very good arguments, and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there, so I have not taken a position on that.”
After both her Republican opponents pounced on her remarks and local talk radio spent hours dissecting the topic and her chances of ever making it to the governor's mansion, Medina called Friday's news conference to clarify her remarks.
“Do I believe that Muslim terrorists flew the planes in the buildings?” she said. “Yes, I do. Do I believe that our government orchestrated that? No, I don't.”
Opponents deny role
Medina, whose poll numbers have been rising after her performances in two debates televised statewide, said she suspected the Perry and Hutchison campaigns were behind Beck's question. She said she did not know whether the talk-show host was part of what she called “a coordinated swipe” at her campaign.”
“I knew an attack would come,” she said. “I didn't expect that one. And I didn't expect it coming through the vehicle of the Glenn Beck show yesterday.”
Campaign representatives for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry denied their camps had anything to do with Beck's line of questioning.
“It appears she's trying to spread blame,” Perry spokesman Mark Miner said. “All our campaign did was release a statement. Her comments speak for themselves. We had nothing to do with her unfortunate comments.”
Polls have shown Medina trailing Perry and Hutchison in the final weeks before the March 2 primary, but as her numbers rise, she could force a runoff between the frontrunners.
Some political observers say the Wharton nurse and small-business person dealt serious, perhaps fatal, damage to her campaign.
“It's called sudden-death syndrome,” said Bill Miller, an Austin political consultant who works with both Democrats and Republicans. “She's done for.”
Medina said she had seen no indication that her campaign was in trouble. “I've been saying for weeks I'm going to win this race,” she said. “I still believe that's true today.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Now I know that Texas has pissed off a lot of the states and world since Georgie and Cheney got into office. But for god's sake we are TRYING to change things. Quit sending the crazies into office!
I was willing to give Shami some credit since it's down to him and Billo but fuck this. I'm not having no crazy person in my Governor's office...again.
Time: 2010-02-13 13:45
Subject: Bill White only 4 points behind Perry!!!!
Ladies and gents, we have hope and change on the way. Perry in his three-way fight with Hutchison and Crazy Tea Party Freak Medina is tarnishing the GOP in ways they cannot comprehend. Right now we are being told to wish and pray for a run-off with Medina making a run for it as an Independent. If we have a repeat of 2006 then White can pull off a win against Perry like how Perry the slick bastard did.
White works on introducing himself to Texas
Former mayor crisscrosses the state, explaining his views on the issues
By JOE HOLLEY
Feb. 11, 2010, 9:16PM
(Look at this GQ smiling mofo who went through 3 Hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, Ike) with more approval after them than before and tell me you don't want him as your Governor!)
It's a spring-like Saturday evening in San Marcos, the winter sun dipping behind rustic two-story buildings on the Hays County Courthouse square. At Café on the Square, across from the courthouse, a congenial crowd awaits the arrival of a former big-city mayor who aspires to be the next governor of Texas.
Shaking hands on the sidewalk outside the crowded café is Patrick Rose, the young state legislator who represents the area. “San Marcos is Bill White country,” the Dripping Springs Democrat says. “His vision for Texas, which is pro-business and pro-education, is something Central Texans are going to wholeheartedly embrace.”
A couple doors down, Mikey Orloff of nearby Martindale lounges outside the Hill Country Humidor. “I've heard Bill White's name,” says the motorcycle mechanic, amateur archaeologist and electrical contractor. “I know he wants to be governor.”
Humidor patron Kyle Tate, an Air Force officer stationed in San Antonio, is a bit more knowledgeable. “What I know of Bill White is what he did during Katrina,” he says, drawing on a Nestor Plasencia robusto. “It stood out in my mind.”
In San Marcos, the 55-year-old former mayor of the nation's fourth-largest city is on friendly ground. “There are so many people from Houston, so many people who still have business ties in the Houston area, he has more Hill Country recognition than most people realize,” says Patrick Cox, of Wimberley, a writer and political historian affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin.
Cox is right, but neither the Hill Country nor Houston encompass “the whole other world” that is Texas. White and his campaign operatives are aware that if he's going to become governor, he'll have to do a whole lot of talking between now and November to Texans like Tate and Orloff.
That's why he's been traveling the state in his rented jet for more than a year — first as a U.S. Senate candidate — popping up in San Angelo, Athens and towns much smaller. Voters outside the Houston area may have heard of the former mayor, may have read about him in an adoring Texas Monthly profile recently, but still have only a vague notion of who he is and what he wants to do as governor. During the next few weeks — assuming he wins the March 2 primary — he'll have to quickly sketch a self-portrait, before his Republican opponent happily wields the brush for him.
“Texas is still a Republican state, and he'll be portrayed as a big-spending, social-liberal Democrat,” says Craig Varoga, a Houston political consultant who works with Democrats. “They'll aim at swing voters and paint a picture for them of a big-spending Democrat with a lot of socially liberal policies that most Texans don't agree with.”
For example, a couple days after White announced his candidacy, the Texas Republican Party posted a video on the Internet accusing him of presiding over a “sanctuary city” where illegal immigrants live and work with impunity. The video also claimed he ran up $1.5 billion in deficits and that Houston experienced “exploding crime rates” during his six-year tenure.
Also coming, consultants say, are charges that White is out of touch with Texas values, perhaps because he's been a creature of Washington. That's not altogether accurate, although his inside-the-Beltway experience has been formative.
As a Harvard junior in 1975, the San Antonio native left school for a semester to work for then-Congressman Bob Krueger, a New Braunfels Democrat. The red-headed young man known as Rusty back then became Krueger's in-house expert on energy policy before graduating from Harvard and getting his law degree from the University of Texas. As a Houston lawyer with Susman & Godfrey, he raised $2 million for Bill Clinton's presidential race and in 1993 became deputy secretary of the Energy Department.
When he returned to Texas in 1995, he became head of the state Democratic Party. An unknown in Houston when he ran for mayor in 2004, he vanquished veteran politicians Orlando Sanchez and Sylvester Turner and coasted to re-election twice.
The D behind his name, long a drag in Texas, could be even more a liability if current trends coalesce by November. Although President Barack Obama remains personally popular, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Republicans have significantly narrowed the gap with Democrats on who is trusted to deal with the nation's problems. A year ago, Democrats held a 26-point advantage; that lead now is six points.
“There's certainly an anti-incumbency environment,” says Joe Householder, a Washington-based political consultant with Texas ties, “but in Texas it may be risky, since the entrenched incumbents are all Republicans. Bill White's going to represent change, so Republicans have to say that it's not the kind of change that Texans want.”
Digging for political gold
White's Republican opponent “will dig deep into his record in the city,” Householder says. “They'll pick out relatively minor things and blow them out of proportion, force him to explain himself.”
Allen Blakemore, a Houston political consultant who works exclusively with Republicans, looks forward to the process. “Bill White wants to portray himself as a very capable business person and, therefore, manager of the city,” he says. “But there's an opportunity to portray a Bill White who executed for the past six years a hedonistic, live-for-today economic plan, not a plan based on an economic downturn.”
White's Republican opponent also will try to portray him as a less-than-successful businessman in years past. It's a tack his Democratic primary opponent, Houston hair-products magnate Farouk Shami, has attempted, charging that White's initial business venture, Frontera Resources, exploited contacts he made in the Energy Department to seek oil and gas opportunities in the former Soviet Union. His Republican opponent likely will make much of the fact that Frontera lost its assets in Azerbaijan after defaulting on a loan and that the company reported $23.8 million in losses in its two most recent quarters.
In 1997, White became president and chief operating officer of the Wedge Group, a private Houston holding company with interests in refineries and oil service companies, hotels and commercial real estate. Owned by former Lebanese deputy prime minster Issam Fares, the Wedge Group has approximately $200 million in revenues.
Goes after Perry hard
In addition to questioning White's business acumen, Blakemore wondered whether his mayoral persona — a wonkish guy with ears and hair made for radio — will effectively translate to a race for governor. “His schtick became, ‘I absolutely, positively couldn't be a politician and speak as poorly and to present as poorly as I do.' It's the old, ‘with a name like Smucker's, it's got to be good' routine.”
A mayor, Blakemore contends, can get away with portraying himself as a colorless, competent technocrat. It's harder, he says, for a statewide candidate in Texas, where the relatively weak office of governor is about symbol as much as substance.
White's everyman image was on display in San Marcos the other evening, but it was seasoned with passion and focus that may have surprised Houston voters who presume to know him. He went after Rick Perry hard.
“If you want somebody who'll shoot straight with you,” he told the receptive crowd, “if you want somebody who'll work hard and doesn't think they know all the answers, if you want somebody who'll be a servant leader, if you want somebody who — well, I may not have as much hair as other people — but I do know how to get things done.”
Research 2000 Poll: White Only Trails Perry by 4 Points, Leads Perry Among Independents
by: Phillip Martin
Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 01:47 PM CST
Excellent results from today's Research 2000 Poll:
Research 2000 Poll
Question: If the election for Governor were held today, for whom would you vote for if the choices were between Bill White, the Democrat, and Rick Perry, the Republican?
* All voters: White 42, Perry 46
* Independents: White 45, Perry 42
The poll was taken from Feb 8 - Feb 10, and has a 4% MOE. A total of 600 likely voters who vote regularly in state elections were interviewed statewide by telephone.
White has only been on TV for eleven days, yet is already pulling within Perry -- who has been in statewide office for twenty years and still can't clear 50% among his own Party's base. As we move further and further along, we'll have more and more polls to look at -- and some numbers will look better than others. The underlying factor of all the polls we've seen so far, however, is that White is extremely competitive with Perry right now and is going to have a strong chance at victory in November.
A Note About the Poll
Research 2000 is a national polling group that performs both national and state-level polls. Their national poll numbers often track closely with those of other national polling firms. DailyKos, the prominent left-leaning political blog, partners with Research 2000 for their polls; however, there is no political bias in their numbers. In fact, a recent poll on the attitudes of Republican voters conducted by Research 2000 was used on Chris Wallace's Sunday morning Fox News program - showing that even those on the right recognize the validity of their numbers.
Yes, I have a political crush on him. But dear god he's only good chance we have of getting a Democrat as governor in TEXAS in nearly 2 decades!
Now let's mother fucking cheer people and don't forget that early voting starts Monday!!!! General Primary Election is March 2nd!!!!