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Budget's First Draft Passes House Panel
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Budget's First Draft Passes House Panel

BY John Moritz

AUSTIN--The House Appropriations Committee passed the first draft of the state's 2004-05 bare-bones budget Monday amid howls from critics that some of the spending cuts go too deep and acknowledgements from supporters that the document will change before it becomes law. The version that emerged from the Republican-dominated appropriations panel on a 19-2 vote and is heading for the full House increases overall spending slightly. But it calls for sharp reductions for higher education programs, criminal justice and public safety initiatives and the funds lawmakers receive to run their offices. "I expect there will be a good deal of debate and discussion on the House floor, and there should be," said state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, the panel's chairwoman. The $117.7 billion budget contains 5.5 percent less state revenue than does the 2002-03 spending plan. But it would draw about 6 percent more from the federal government than the state currently receives. Republicans also pointed out that spending for human services programs will rise more than 5 percent over the next two years. The panel recommended reducing spending for public education by $65.8 million, or 0.2 percent, and cutting funds for higher education by $773.5 million, a 4.7 percent drop. Criminal justice and public safety programs would lose $609.4 million, a 7.2 percent cutback. The appropriation to run the Legislature would be cut by $30.6 million, a 10 percent reduction. Programs for health and human services would see a $2.1 billion increase, although some initiatives within the immense agency would be trimmed and some public-assistance rolls would be reduced. The committee's action came after weeks of testimony from recipients of social service programs who said that they depend on state-paid health programs for their survival. Even with the proposed spending increases, the panel's budget would still slash the rolls of the state-paid Children's Health Insurance Program for low-income working families and from the Medicaid program for more needy Texans. Two committee Democrats, Joe Deshotel of Port Arthur and Richard Raymond of Laredo, voted against the budget plan. Budget writers are attempting close a $9.9 billion gap between what the state anticipated receiving from various revenue sources and the cost of keeping services at about the same level for 2002-03. State leaders said early in the legislative session that a tax increase was unacceptable. State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, said the plan falls short. "The areas I'm focusing on are education and health and human services," said Eiland, who was absent for the committee's vote. "If those two areas are not substantially increased, I won't be able to support it on the floor." Peggy Venable, who directs the conservative Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said the budget is a much-needed step toward reducing the size of state government. "We realize that for every state dollar spent, there is a constituency," Venable said. "But it is time to go back and make sure that we only fund those programs that the state should be funding." Scott McCown, who heads the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities, took a much different view. "It's a very, very cruel budget," he said of the proposed cuts to social services. "And what is so frustrating is that we could have been able to afford to mitigate so many of these cuts with a tax on cigarettes. Depending on the level of tax, we could raise $1.5 billion, and that could have restored some of the programs they want to cut."

04/08/2003
CSE Meets with Representative Jim Kolbe (R-AZ)
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Press Release

CSE Meets with Representative Jim Kolbe (R-AZ)

Citizens for a Sound Economy staff met with Representative Jim Kolbe today to discuss the prospects for Social Security reform legislation. CSE works closely with entrepreneurial Members like Rep. Kolbe who are dedicated to reforming the Social Security program. Pictured here are Congressman Kolbe and CSE Executive Vice President Matt Kibbe.

04/08/2003
Kiss Tells House Leaders There is No Speaker's Race
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Kiss Tells House Leaders There is No Speaker's Race

BY Fanny Seiler

House Speaker Bob Kiss has called a halt to some jockeying for his position that grew out of rumors that he was leaving the House. "I'm speaker for a two-year term," he said last week. "I don't plan to go anywhere." Kiss, D-Raleigh, said he had a meeting with some members of his senior leadership team after two new delegates asked him what to do about the speaker's race. He told them if they were stroking delegates to stop. If he runs for another office next year, Kiss feels an obligation to make a decision by this summer, and announce it. "I am considering some things. I am not thinking about governor." Asked if he was thinking about running for the state Supreme Court - as is being speculated - Kiss sidestepped and said, "I'm giving thought to a number of things." He said he doesn't know if he'll run for re-election to the House. Majority Whip Scott Varner, D-Marshall, and Delegates Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, and Richard Thompson, D-Wayne, reportedly had their sights set on being speaker. "Until he leaves, I'm not interested," Varner said last week. "He's never indicated he's leaving. He's the speaker. I support him until he leaves." If Kiss leaves, Varner is interested in the position. Varner said he's heard that someone is talking with Thompson about running for speaker. Thompson is a lawyer and one of several (Varner included) labor-endorsed delegates. While not a member of the leadership team, Kiss asked Thompson to attend the meeting, too. "The way I look at it, we have a speaker," Thompson said Friday. "That isn't to say I wouldn't be interested" if Kiss left, he added. Thompson said rumors were rampant that Kiss was leaving, and there was general talk about "what if that were to occur. A number of delegates asked me if I would be willing to do it." Thompson said he would. "Right now, it's up in the air. If the situation changes, we'll have to be ready. We'll just have to wait. "I think there will continue to be talk," Thompson said, as long as the rumors continue. Browning was defeated by labor in 1996 after he voted for a labor-opposed workers' compensation reform bill in 1995. He was elected again in 2000. Basically, everyone thought Kiss wasn't going to run for re-election, Browning said. "I told Bob if he chose to come back, I would support him. If he didn't, I was going to run." Browning said he didn't campaign for speaker during the session, and had told Kiss last December he wouldn't. Majority Leader Rick Staton, D-Wyoming, said Kiss told the meeting there isn't a speaker's race. "I agree." Staton was viewed as labor's candidate for a brief period of jockeying in 1999 until the state Supreme Court ruled that Kiss couldn't serve as a justice after his appointment to the bench by then-Gov. Cecil Underwood. Staton said he will seek re-election to the House. If the speaker's position is open then, Staton said it would depend on the situation whether he'd be interested in running for the top job. Those who were in the meeting during the week that budget conferees met included Varner; Browning; Staton; Finance Chairman Harold Michael, D-Hardy; Education Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta, D-Hampshire; Thompson; and Delegate Emily Yeager, D-McDowell, who was campaigning for Thompson. SHORTS - Gov. Bob Wise announced at a fund-raiser that was held for him in Huntington on March 28 that $ 300,000 raised by that event put the overall total for his re-election campaign at more than $ 1 million. The Huntington event was sponsored by businessman Robert Shell, his sons, Robby Shell (president of the family Guyan Machinery business) and Todd Shell, vice president of Guyan Rebuilders. Others attending included: Huntington businessman Marshall Reynolds, owner of Chapman Printing; retired banking executive Mike Perry; Paul Turman II, of Turman Construction in Barboursville; Huntington lawyer Menis Ketchum and his son, Brent Ketchum, also a lawyer; Brent Marsteller, administrator at Cabell Huntington Hospital; Dr. Robert Walker from the Marshall University medical school; Mike Sundall from St. Mary's Hospital; Wylie Stowers, Lincoln County Democratic chairman, and his sons, Greg Stowers, Lincoln County circuit clerk, and Lyle Stowers, second vice chairman of the state Democratic Executive Committee; and former Sen. Lloyd Jackson II, D-Lincoln. Congressman Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., had a fund-raiser for Wise at his home in Beckley on March 24 and reportedly raised about $ 11,000. Rahall called people and invited them to attend. Congressman Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., had a big fund-raiser for Wise in Morgantown on March 17, and Drew Payne, a Republican member of the West Virginia Racing Commission, had a private dinner last month for Wise. Wise traveled to Gilbert on March 27 to cut a ribbon for the opening of Terry Sammons' wife's Morning Side Coffee Shop. Terry Sammons is a prominent Republican who practices law in Mingo County and was appointed by Wise to the Higher Education Policy Commission. nnn Rob Capehart, former secretary of tax and revenue, says he has a moratorium on his campaign fund-raising activities during the war, but went ahead with a reception in Wheeling on March 21, the day after the war started. Capehart is exploring whether to run for governor on the Republican ticket next year. He said the reception at the Wheeling County Club had already been organized, but he stopped making phone calls to get people to attend even before the war started because so many of the people had relatives in the military. Capehart said more than 100 people attended. Steve Cohen, who formerly worked for Wise and is a member of the country club, was Capehart's first contributor for the reception. Capehart said he has raised about $ 20,000 to $ 25,000 so far during his exploratory campaign to pay for his travel expenses and a poll. He would like to raise another $ 25,000 for the exploratory campaign that will determine whether he'll become a candidate for governor. He has been speaking at several Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinners, including dinners in Wetzel, Roane, Mercer and Wood counties. Former Highways Commissioner Sam Beverage, who is also a potential gubernatorial candidate, has attended the dinners, too, Capehart said. Capehart also spoke last month to the Harrison County Republican Club, which was recently started by former Sen. Jay Wolfe, R-Harrison. He spoke in Point Pleasant on March 29 at a meeting of the West Virginia chapter of the Citizens for a Sound Economy, a large national organization, and at a rally for American troops at the Mason County courthouse. Most of Capehart's family lives in Mason County. Other prominent Republicans are on the Lincoln Day circuit, too. Former Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr., was the Jefferson County Lincoln Day speaker on March 28, and is to speak in Clarksburg on April 12. His daughter, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was the Jackson County dinner speaker on March 29.

04/06/2003
Putting the focus on contact lens prescriptions
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Press Release

Putting the focus on contact lens prescriptions

Support HB 2997: Protecting Consumer Rights

04/06/2003
On Insurance Reform, Give Consumers Choice
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Press Release

On Insurance Reform, Give Consumers Choice

With the announcement on Friday of State Farm Lloyd’s decision not to write new property risk policies, the legislature’s attempt to “fix” the Texas insurance market is clearly not working. The State’s largest home insurer had already stopped writing policy to new customers, and now they are not going to provide coverage for current customers who move.

04/06/2003
Tax Cuts Necessary to Heal Economy, Locke Official Says
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Tax Cuts Necessary to Heal Economy, Locke Official Says

BY Brian Louis

An official with the John Locke Foundation said yesterday that North Carolina legislators should cut taxes to increase economic growth, and the state should have a constitutional amendment linking spending increases to inflation and population growth. "We are consistently above our neighbors in taxes," said Roy Cordato, a resident scholar and vice president for research at the foundation, based in Raleigh. Cordato spoke before a small group at a luncheon at Sagebrush Steak House & Saloon in Winston-Salem that was co-sponsored by the Forsyth County chapter of the N.C. Citizens for a Sound Economy, an anti-tax activist group. "The income tax is a tax on growth," he said. He also called the state tax on corporations "a reprehensible tax." The tax rates have hurt the economy, Cordato said, citing the fact that North Carolina's unemployment rate was below the national rate until 2001. "I'm going to argue a lot of it has to do with our tax policy." The state implemented a temporary tax increase a couple of years ago that is set to expire this year, he said. However, Gov. Mike Easley wants the taxes, which are primarily sales and income taxes, to be extended for two years to help deal with the state's budget problems. The state budget deficit is estimated to be as much as $2 billion for the coming budget year. "Let these taxes sunset," Cordato said. Cordato said that government should always be concerned with allowing people to keep as much of their money as possible. He recited a line from the state constitution that says that one of the rights of citizens is "the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor;" in other words, their income. "Taxation is inherently a violation of that right," he said. Cordato also espoused the foundation's call for an amendment to the state constitution that would hold state spending increases to inflation increases and population growth. Cordato said that if the state had that measure in place a few years ago, it wouldn't be facing the budget deficit that it now does. Cordato also criticized state incentives and subsidies to corporations. "It's simply socialism," he said.

04/04/2003
Backgrounder: Texas Freedom Scholarships
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Press Release

Backgrounder: Texas Freedom Scholarships

BACKGROUND: CSE supports a parent’s right to select the educational environment where their child has the best opportunity to learn. Government-assigned, government-run schools are not free-market. However, we do not oppose public education. There are many good schools and many good teachers. But currently, choice is widespread among citizens who can either move to a school district of their choice or can afford to pay twice – once in taxes and again in private school tuition. So choice is widespread unless you are poor. This legislation provides a choice for those who currently have no options.

04/04/2003
Texas Freedom Scholarship - Key Features of the Pilot Education Freedom Program HB 2465
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Press Release

Texas Freedom Scholarship - Key Features of the Pilot Education Freedom Program HB 2465

BACKGROUND: CSE supports a parent’s right to select the educational environment where their child has the best opportunity to learn. Government-assigned, government-run schools are not free-market. However, we do not oppose public education. There are many good schools and many good teachers. But currently, choice is widespread among citizens who can either move to a school district of their choice or can afford to pay twice – once in taxes and again in private school tuition. So choice is widespread unless you are poor. This legislation provides a choice for those who currently have no options.

04/04/2003
Tax cuts necessary to heal economy, Locke official says
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Press Release

Tax cuts necessary to heal economy, Locke official says

From the Winston-Salem Journal Fri, April 4, 2003 Tax cuts necessary to heal economy, Locke official says By Brian Louis JOURNAL REPORTER An official with the John Locke Foundation said yesterday that North Carolina legislators should cut taxes to increase economic growth, and the state should have a constitutional amendment linking spending increases to inflation and population growth.

04/04/2003
Staying Engaged
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Press Release

Staying Engaged

With the war in Iraq well underway, I wanted to share some of CSE ' s perspective on these events. As a grassroots group dedicated to lower taxes and less government, CSE does not take a position on foreign affairs issues. We're focused entirely on reducing the size and scope of government here at home. As patriots, however, we do strongly support the fighting men and women of the United States military. We know that our country and our values are being well represented by the bravery and professionalism of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen. We continue to hope and pray that this conflict will end quickly with a minimal loss of life on both sides.

04/04/2003

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