Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2014 10:01 pm
Editor's note: James C. Moore is a business consultant and principal at Big Bend Strategies, a business messaging firm. He is co-author of "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential" and a TV political analyst. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author
(CNN) -- There is a great, geologic break in the land that runs almost the length of Texas from around Fort Worth to just west of San Antonio. Known as the Balcones Escarpment, geologists describe the rift as the place "where the South ends and the West begins."
An ecological transition zone between rich, black-land prairie and the arid Southwestern deserts, the Comanche people thrived on the escarpment's sweet springs and abundant wildlife.
Today, they would find strip malls, McMansions and 10-lane traffic jams.
James C. Moore
James C. Moore
Five of the 20 fastest growing cities in America might be in Texas, but they are also the municipalities moving the quickest toward failure of infrastructure and other acute problems the state's leaders ignore. Of the 387,000 people who moved here in 2013, some 150 to 200 daily landed in Austin, which has been ranked several times as the country's fastest-growing city.
Hill Country, lakes, food, live music and temperate weather explain the allure, but very few newcomers know about things such as the absurd lack of mass transit. The latest INRIX Traffic Scorecard Annual Report ranks Austin is the fourth-worst city in America for commuting. Neophyte Austinites might gain outstanding cheese enchiladas in their lives but will lose 38 hours each year sitting in traffic.
A commuter rail train runs in the Texas capital city, but because it was consigned to old freight tracks, it hardly serves the population density. Voters rejected two light rail projects, but they will consider yet another billion dollar train and road initiative in November.
Houston, often viewed as a nightmare carscape, has a light rail line downtown that records 5,000 boardings a mile every weekday. DART rail in Dallas also has healthy ridership, but the traffic has not noticeably lessened.
Our roads are a serious problem.
Because the Texas constitution requires a pay-as-you-go style government, officeholders used bonded indebtedness to avoid raising taxes and being politically punished. In fact, the gas tax in the state has not been raised since 1991 while lawmakers racked up a $23 billion dollar bond bill to construct roads.
Servicing and retiring that debt will cost taxpayers $31 billion over the next 20 years. As the governor of Texas tours the country trying to lure more businesses south of the Red River with tales of low tax rates, he never mentions his state has almost $45 billion in bonded indebtedness, and taxpayers will pay that bill, some how, some way.
But, hey, we can tell outsiders we don't raise taxes.
Sewer water recycled to tap water?
The greatest peril facing a booming Texas population, however, is the lack of water. An epic drought has made water more precious than oil. Outlanders from the Midwest and California arrive in Texas, build homes, plant grass, install irrigation systems and water their lush green lawns in a landscape nature created for scorpions and rattlesnakes.
Green Lake, near the Gulf Coast, is the state's only natural body of water; everything else is a reservoir, and they are running dry from too many straws thirstily sipping through 100-degree days.
Lake Travis, the jewel of the Texas Hill Country, which is also the water supply for Austin's swelling population, has not been full since 2007. The city's water utility director recently warned that the reservoir would run dry by 2016, even with severe use restrictions.
The city of Wichita Falls, near the border with Oklahoma, made national news recently when it informed residents they would have to start drinking recycled wastewater. After treatment at a sewage plant, the water is piped to another facility where it's cleansed for consumption. Bottled water sales are said to be booming. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality predicts four dozen cities in the Lone Star state can expect to run out of water, possibly by the end of this year, if the drought does not break.

If you are considering relocation, we ought to have a chat about our onerous property tax rates in Texas and what they do to your prospective house payments. We can also talk about how the legislature never gives school districts the money they need to operate and has been sued by parents and educators for that very reason since 1968, and, just recently lost another constitutional lawsuit over how schools are funded.
Or, maybe, we should discuss the governor's refusal to expand Medicaid and how we have the most uninsured residents of any state in the union.
But, no worries; we can fill you in when you get here. The sun is shining. The beer is cold. And a No. 2 Mexican dinner awaits.
Y'all come on down to Texas.
Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine.
 
oralloy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2014 03:17 am

Speaking of Texas....

Tonight's PBS Frontline is going to be about the innocent person that Rick Perry had executed even though he knew the guy was innocent.

It is not a rerun of Frontline's earlier episode about this, but is an entirely new episode.

I'm not sure what more they can show, since the earlier episode was already pretty decisive in showing: that the guy was innocent, that proof of his innocence existed before his execution, and that Rick Perry knew about this and went ahead with the execution anyway.

However, I'm sure they wouldn't have created an entirely new episode if they didn't have something new to show.

I wish the Left would be more persistent about confronting Rick Perry about this whenever he runs for president. It will be a black mark in America's history if this guy ever becomes president without even facing questions about what he did.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2014 04:23 am
@oralloy,
I completely agree.
0 Replies
 
panzade
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2014 07:20 am
@oralloy,
Thanks for the Frontline tip Oralloy
0 Replies
 
revelette2
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2014 10:12 am
@oralloy,
I agree as well, but surely Rick Perry is not going to seriously think of running for President in 2016?
0 Replies
 
Woodworker766
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2014 10:35 am
@edgarblythe,
Quote:
Because the Texas constitution requires a pay-as-you-go style government, officeholders used bonded indebtedness to avoid raising taxes and being politically punished. In fact, the gas tax in the state has not been raised since 1991 while lawmakers racked up a $23 billion dollar bond bill to construct roads.
Servicing and retiring that debt will cost taxpayers $31 billion over the next 20 years. As the governor of Texas tours the country trying to lure more businesses south of the Red River with tales of low tax rates, he never mentions his state has almost $45 billion in bonded indebtedness, and taxpayers will pay that bill, some how, some way.
But, hey, we can tell outsiders we don't raise taxes.


Well gee-whiz. It almost sounds bad when you say it that way. But then when you do a State-by-State comparison, Texas ranks 29th (For FY 2011 - the latest available data...) on a per-capita basis. IOW, 28 other States are in a lot worse shape. Why wouldn't businesses that are in those other 28 States be interested in moving to a State with less public debt?

http://www.governing.com/news/state/Combined-State-Debt-More-Than-4-Trillion-For-FY-2011.html
revelette2
 
  2  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2014 11:24 am
@Woodworker766,
I don't know, cleaner water and better roads and schools maybe? Even businesses have to use the roads.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2014 09:22 pm
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2014 09:49 pm
@edgarblythe,
Oh God edgar, I'm cringing in embarrassment.

Interestingly enough, just today I was driving out by Lake Travis. I haven't been out that way for years. It's horrible. The lake is so low. There's large pieces in the middle that have formed small islands, and the rock line around the edge is clearly exposed.
However, there's all these huge expensive houses in look alike communities. I was actually talking to myself in the car saying "I'm SO glad I don't live out here." For all the homes, it feels so isolated from everything. I would feel trapped. I also observed all the strip shopping centers and others buildings going up. It all seemed so depressing.
Property taxes are getting out of control too. Thank God they passed a ruling that if you have 100% VA benefits, your property taxes are excempt for life for both the beneficiary and spouse. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to pay our property taxes anymore without a lot of hardship.

The roads in this city suck big time.

I'm not convinced rail is the answer though. If you live here, it's hard to imagine many people actually making use of it.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2014 10:02 pm
I don't like Houston's rail. There has got to be a better way.
Kolyo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2014 10:07 pm
@edgarblythe,
That video is seriously disturbing.

We can only hope they had to interview 80 or so people to find that much ignorance.

The worst part, though, is that it's not a problem specific to Texas.
0 Replies
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2014 10:20 pm
@edgarblythe,
In Austin, I believe it's making it easier for cars to get from point A to point B.
They are in the process of making express lanes for people who are going all the way from South Austin to North Austin with very limited exits. To me it's similar to what we had on the Garden State Parkway in NJ. To take the express lanes you'll have to pay a toll, but it would be worth in in gas savings alone if your work commute is at opposite ends of the city.
Before they settled on the express lanes options, I couldn't believe the (IMHO) stupid ideas they were proposing. Worst of which was that old idea of HOV lanes. Get a clue, we are simply not going to car pool, ok? Not gonna happen. Oh, and guess what? These HOV lanes that no one was going to use were going to be on an elevated highway. Jesus wept.

If you look at a map of Austin, you'll see that 3 major commuter highways (IH-35, Mopac aka Loop 1, and 360, aka Capital of Texas Hwy) all run North/South. There is no good way between 183 and highway 71/290 to get back and forth East/West. It involves all sorts of going from one secondary road to another. If they could get even one good elevated highway that would run East/West we'd be in much better shape.

http://mobility.tamu.edu/mip/img/austin-map600.png
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2014 10:28 pm
Crazy. Right here in my part of Harris County, Tomball is getting freeways and more. At least one of which is a toll road. The traffic increases faster than they can build. Once Kuykendahl had extra lanes added, traffic tripled. And, Kuykendahl is getting three big apartment complexes. Every inch that is not a new home is a new shopping center.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  3  
Reply Thu 8 Jan, 2015 07:04 pm
In my corner of the planet- Every single business I enter that has a TV for customers to watch is set on Fox News, with the exception of times when football is being played. When I go into an apartment to do a work order, it is most often on Fox News. The older the resident the more likely it is so. No wonder nuthatches like Cruz, Patrick and Abbott get elected. With each election, it goes progressively downhill.
RABEL222
 
  2  
Reply Sun 11 Jan, 2015 04:07 pm
@edgarblythe,
I firmly believe that all ultraconservative politicians have a copy of Mein Kampf hidden under their bed for night time consumption.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 11 Jan, 2015 05:12 pm
@edgarblythe,
I just saw this, am interested, will have to break down the wall of text as ms.picky hates those.
0 Replies
 
neko nomad
 
  1  
Reply Sun 11 Jan, 2015 06:10 pm
Go ahead, click on it:

http://i.imgur.com/IU0WmEs.jpg

You know you want to. Might learn something.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Feb, 2015 06:35 pm
Texas Lege playing a dangerous one-upsmanship game with tax cuts
The House, yesterday.

Texas House leaders said Monday they believe they can cut taxes by more than $4 billion, indicating a larger reduction than initially proposed by their Senate counterparts.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, gave the assessment in an interview but didn’t say how much more in cuts is being contemplated.

“We really believe that we ought to be able to do more than $4 billion in tax cuts here in the House,” Bonnen said. “We don’t have a number at this point. We just know that we can do better than that.”

Asked about exceeding $4 billion in tax cuts for homeowners and businesses combined, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said, “We’re on the same page.”

It’s the first time House leaders have indicated the specific tax cut figure they’re contemplating.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, earlier made an initial proposal for $3 billion in property tax cuts and $1 billion in business tax reductions over the next two-year budget period. Patrick said then that there could be more tax relief if additional dollars became available.

The Senate today.

Senate GOP leaders on Tuesday proposed a cut in school property taxes that would be worth about $240 $234* next year for the average Texas homeowner and closer to $275 $263* per homestead the following year.

*corrected at original.

The senators, trying to stay ahead of Gov. Greg Abbott and House Republicans in promising the most tax relief, unveiled a package of tax cuts that would cost more than $4.6 billion in the next two-year budget cycle.

About $2.5 billion of that would go toward increases in homestead exemptions on school property taxes. The rest would go to business tax relief.

It gets worse, as "experts" say there will be more money from more oil at higher prices than is currently sustainable.

Number cruncher extraordinaire Dr. Stuart Greenfield says Comptroller Hegar’s estimate might not be optimistic enough. Among other things, he notes oil production for the fiscal year will exceed one billion barrels. That hasn’t happened since 1978.

Newly elected Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s Biennial Revenue Estimate –- the BRE –- has been called quite optimistic by many commentators, especially given the dramatic decline in the price of crude oil. But the release of revenue collections for January indicates his estimate might not be optimistic enough.

Chart 1 shows the year-to-date (YTD) growth rate in tax collections for FY10 through FY15, and both the estimated growth rates from the Certified Revenue Estimate (1.8 percent) released in December 2013, and the current BRE (1.6 percent). Check out the fact that YTD growth in tax collections (6.8 percent) is 325 percent greater than the estimated rate (1.6 percent). The YTD growth rate in total state revenue (8.1 percent) is 80 percent greater than the estimated growth rate (4.6 percent).

The latest estimate of state tax collections are projected to grow by 1.6 percent in FY15 and then increase by 2.4 percent in fiscal 2016 (FY16) and 5.6 percent in FY17. Total net revenue is expected to increase by 4.6 percent in FY15, increase by 1.7 percent in FY16 and then decrease by 1.9 percent in FY17.

I'd really like it if these guys were correct. I would rather me be wrong and not them, even slightly. But this is absurd. Everybody knows this brand of extremist conservatives fixes the facts around their policy, and if the oil companies keep laying off workers in the shale fields, and the barrel price keeps see-sawing back and forth between speculation and reality about supply and demand, at some point the chickens are coming home to roost and we're all screwed and tattooed. Even Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott (and he hasn't had any relations since that tree broke his back).

If you believe in God, then you better start praying that the price of oil goes up to about $75 dollars pretty quick and holds, or goes up from there, for a couple of years. Because if it doesn't, the traffic that guy in a wheelchair can move faster than -- and the potholes and the classroom sizes and the condition of the state's office buildings and everything else that depends on taxes and spending in Texas -- are going to look like specks on Google Earth compared to the problems we'll have if they have blown the numbers and the budget again.

Sen. Kevin Eltife appears to be the lone voice of reason from the right, but nobody seems to be listening to him. That roaring sound you hear might be Niagara Falls, and this isn't a canoe we're riding in or even a barrel. It's a handbasket.
Posted by PDiddie at Tuesday, February 24, 2015
0 Replies
 
Kolyo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Feb, 2015 08:26 pm
@edgarblythe,
You know those embarrassing interviews with Texas Tech students?

Some conservative tried to pants Harvard in similar fashion and look what happened:

(Good for a chuckle, I thought. And keep in mind these were the "worst" answers he could find.)



0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Mon 2 Mar, 2015 08:32 pm
A line from PDiddie's blog:
appalled at the anti-citizen ignorance of the McAllen city commissioner candidate, Debbie Crane Aliseda, who equates early voting to voter fraud. What's worse? Other candidates echoed her ignorance.
0 Replies
 
 

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