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Yet another daffy tax idea at City Hall
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Yet another daffy tax idea at City Hall

BY Charlie Edgren

My guess is that you don't know a whole lot about the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Lagomorpha, family Leporidae, genus Lepus. But if you're into the mental and emotional self-flagellation of following city government, you have instinctual knowledge of the hare, because of so many hare-brained ideas hopping from the portals of City Hall. Latest, of course, is the utter insanity of wanting to levy a city sales tax on gasoline. To call that hare-brained is to insult the intelligence of hares. Take one of the poorest cities in the United States and slap a new tax on the residents. Yeah, that makes sense. Make the poor a little poorer and decrease the quality of life for everyone. It's interesting to note that while this brain glitch jackrabbits around City Hall, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska is calling for an increase in the federal gasoline tax, currently 18.4 cents a gallon, to more than 33 cents per gallon by 2009. How cute, one would complement the other. And it's little known that during the 77th Texas legislative session, HB 1682 was introduced, a measure that would have raised the current 20-cent-per-gallon state gas tax to 25 cents. Fortunately, it didn't make it. But keep an eye on this 78th Legislature, which soon will be casting about desperately for ways to offset an estimated $9.9 billion budget shortfall. Don't bet that a higher gasoline tax won't be in the legislators' bag of tricks. Citizens for a Sound Economy said that if such a tax is passed: Only four states would pay higher gas taxes than Texas; The average family of four would pay $1,164 per year in gas taxes; and, since it's a regressive tax, farmers, ranchers and the lower-income would pay a disproportionate share. The Texas Public Policy Foundation determined that there would be a net loss of 29,190 jobs to the statewide tax increase, and even those who don't own a car would feel the pinch in higher prices at the store due to transportation-cost increases. Even riding the bus would become more expensive. It's not hard to see the same kinds of things happening in El Paso should we be short-sighted enough to continue taxing ourselves into oblivion. Latest pastime -- For those people who constantly cavil and whine that there's nothing to do in El Paso, I submit: The new and expensive, bond-issue-financed canopy at Cohen Stadium is finished, just in time for El Paso's windy season. When a windstorm is forecast, or you sense a subtly increasing breeze as you watch Abrams A1 main battle tanks blown off railcars, wend your way to Cohen and watch The Canopy. You might recall how a windstorm shredded The Canopy last year when it was almost up. My personal theory is that Mother Nature regarded it as an eyesore besmirching her beautiful Franklin Mountains, took umbrage and puffed it away. People who installed The Canopy this latest time maintain it will withstand a 150-mph wind. We shall see. But meanwhile, it gives something for El Pasoans to do during an idle moment; what else is there to do during a windstorm? And by the amusement and diversion it has provided, and no doubt will again, it has improved our quality of life which, after all, was the goal of the bond issue. Charlie Edgren is an editorial writer for the El Paso Times. E-mail address: cedgrenelpasotimes.com

01/18/2003
Yet another daffy tax idea at City Hall
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Yet another daffy tax idea at City Hall

BY Charlie Edgren

My guess is that you don't know a whole lot about the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Lagomorpha, family Leporidae, genus Lepus. But if you're into the mental and emotional self-flagellation of following city government, you have instinctual knowledge of the hare, because of so many hare-brained ideas hopping from the portals of City Hall. Latest, of course, is the utter insanity of wanting to levy a city sales tax on gasoline. To call that hare-brained is to insult the intelligence of hares. Take one of the poorest cities in the United States and slap a new tax on the residents. Yeah, that makes sense. Make the poor a little poorer and decrease the quality of life for everyone. It's interesting to note that while this brain glitch jackrabbits around City Hall, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska is calling for an increase in the federal gasoline tax, currently 18.4 cents a gallon, to more than 33 cents per gallon by 2009. How cute, one would complement the other. And it's little known that during the 77th Texas legislative session, HB 1682 was introduced, a measure that would have raised the current 20-cent-per-gallon state gas tax to 25 cents. Fortunately, it didn't make it. But keep an eye on this 78th Legislature, which soon will be casting about desperately for ways to offset an estimated $9.9 billion budget shortfall. Don't bet that a higher gasoline tax won't be in the legislators' bag of tricks. Citizens for a Sound Economy said that if such a tax is passed: Only four states would pay higher gas taxes than Texas; The average family of four would pay $1,164 per year in gas taxes; and, since it's a regressive tax, farmers, ranchers and the lower-income would pay a disproportionate share. The Texas Public Policy Foundation determined that there would be a net loss of 29,190 jobs to the statewide tax increase, and even those who don't own a car would feel the pinch in higher prices at the store due to transportation-cost increases. Even riding the bus would become more expensive. It's not hard to see the same kinds of things happening in El Paso should we be short-sighted enough to continue taxing ourselves into oblivion. Latest pastime -- For those people who constantly cavil and whine that there's nothing to do in El Paso, I submit: The new and expensive, bond-issue-financed canopy at Cohen Stadium is finished, just in time for El Paso's windy season. When a windstorm is forecast, or you sense a subtly increasing breeze as you watch Abrams A1 main battle tanks blown off railcars, wend your way to Cohen and watch The Canopy. You might recall how a windstorm shredded The Canopy last year when it was almost up. My personal theory is that Mother Nature regarded it as an eyesore besmirching her beautiful Franklin Mountains, took umbrage and puffed it away. People who installed The Canopy this latest time maintain it will withstand a 150-mph wind. We shall see. But meanwhile, it gives something for El Pasoans to do during an idle moment; what else is there to do during a windstorm? And by the amusement and diversion it has provided, and no doubt will again, it has improved our quality of life which, after all, was the goal of the bond issue. Charlie Edgren is an editorial writer for the El Paso Times. E-mail address: cedgrenelpasotimes.com

01/18/2003
Perry offers budget with zero dollars
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Perry offers budget with zero dollars

BY JOHN MORITZ

AUSTIN--Saying every dollar the state spends must be fully accounted for, Gov. Rick Perry submitted his proposal Friday for the 2004-05 budget cycle and recommended that state agencies start at zero and justify every amount they request. Perry, a Republican who took office two years ago and was elected to his first four-year term in November, called his proposal "historic." His 15-page document gives no indication about which agencies he thinks need more money and which could get by with less. Critics accused Perry of shirking his obligation to lay out his priorities to a Legislature that opened its 140-day session this week with the news that the state is facing a $9.9 billion shortfall over the next two years. Costs are spiraling for programs such as Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance while receipts from sales taxes and other sources are lagging because of the sluggish economy. In a news release, Perry said he plans to work closely with lawmakers to flesh out the spending plan, which he said would meet the state's essential needs over the next two years. Perry, along with fellow Republicans Tom Craddick, the new House speaker, and incoming Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, has been urging the GOP-dominated Legislature to resist any pressure to raise taxes. The budget for the present two-year cycle is $114 billion. "The current fiscal situation demands that we re-examine the core responsibilities of government and the state spending practices of the past dozen years," said Perry, who issued his budget recommendation in cooperation with Dewhurst and Craddick. "This budget starts at zero, because in tough budgetary times, every dollar spent by government must be scrutinized to determine whether it justifies consideration as a priority." In Fort Worth, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn neither praised nor criticized the budget proposal. It is "certainly the leadership's prerogative" to submit such a budget, Strayhorn said before speaking to a group of real estate agents Friday at the Petroleum Club. "I'll let the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker speak for themselves on what they're doing," she said. Strayhorn said she has suggested a different approach to solving the shortfall. Her plan would give agencies a working number and force them to justify additional expenditures, she said. While the three top leaders said the unprecedented action of recommending a zero budget will end with greater accountability for state spending, critics called the document an abdication of their responsibility to set priorities for the Legislature, which meets for 20 weeks every other year. "The governor is the chief executive officer of our state, and he is required by the Texas Constitution to make recommendations for funding the state's needs to the Legislature," said F. Scott McCown, who heads the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank. "By zeroing out every agency, he is admitting that he cannot make budget recommendations to meet the state's needs without additional revenue," McCown said. The head of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy praised the idea of starting the budget at zero, saying that no state agency should begin the process expecting a sum because it may have received that amount in the past. "It's a whole new day in Texas," said Peggy Venable, executive director of the conservative group. "It's time to take a fresh look at everything the state is spending money on and make the decision as to whether it's appropriate to continue these expenditures." Craddick, a veteran lawmaker who is beginning his first term leading the sometimes fractious House, said the new way of budgeting will give Texans a more informed look at how the state spends money. "We are committed to starting our budget at zero and ending within available revenue, providing Texans with more detailed information on how we spend their tax dollars," said Craddick, of Midland. "However, as the governor is well aware, the House is comprised of 150 very diverse members." Molly Beth Malcolm, chairwoman of the Texas Democratic Party, predicted that the "zero" recommendation is more likely to result in chaos than in consensus. "Gov. Perry and the Republicans campaigned promising leadership, vision and experience," Malcolm said. "The legislative session has just started, and already Gov. Perry is again failing to lead, and showing no vision at a time when the budget crunch demands tough decisions." ONLINE: www.governor.state.tx.us/budget John Moritz, (512) 476-4294 jmoritz@star-telegram.com -PHOTO- 1. Head shot: Gov. Rick Perry

01/18/2003
Yet Another Daffy Tax Idea at City Hall
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Yet Another Daffy Tax Idea at City Hall

BY Charlie Edgren

My guess is that you don't know a whole lot about the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Lagomorpha, family Leporidae, genus Lepus. But if you're into the mental and emotional self-flagellation of following city government, you have instinctual knowledge of the hare, because of so many hare-brained ideas hopping from the portals of City Hall. Latest, of course, is the utter insanity of wanting to levy a city sales tax on gasoline. To call that hare-brained is to insult the intelligence of hares. Take one of the poorest cities in the United States and slap a new tax on the residents. Yeah, that makes sense. Make the poor a little poorer and decrease the quality of life for everyone. It's interesting to note that while this brain glitch jackrabbits around City Hall, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska is calling for an increase in the federal gasoline tax, currently 18.4 cents a gallon, to more than 33 cents per gallon by 2009. How cute, one would complement the other. And it's little known that during the 77th Texas legislative session, HB 1682 was introduced, a measure that would have raised the current 20-cent-per-gallon state gas tax to 25 cents. Fortunately, it didn't make it. But keep an eye on this 78th Legislature, which soon will be casting about desperately for ways to offset an estimated $9.9 billion budget shortfall. Don't bet that a higher gasoline tax won't be in the legislators' bag of tricks. Citizens for a Sound Economy said that if such a tax is passed: Only four states would pay higher gas taxes than Texas; The average family of four would pay $1,164 per year in gas taxes; and, since it's a regressive tax, farmers, ranchers and the lower-income would pay a disproportionate share. The Texas Public Policy Foundation determined that there would be a net loss of 29,190 jobs to the statewide tax increase, and even those who don't own a car would feel the pinch in higher prices at the store due to transportation-cost increases. Even riding the bus would become more expensive. It's not hard to see the same kinds of things happening in El Paso should we be short-sighted enough to continue taxing ourselves into oblivion. Latest pastime -- For those people who constantly cavil and whine that there's nothing to do in El Paso, I submit: The new and expensive, bond-issue-financed canopy at Cohen Stadium is finished, just in time for El Paso's windy season. When a windstorm is forecast, or you sense a subtly increasing breeze as you watch Abrams A1 main battle tanks blown off railcars, wend your way to Cohen and watch The Canopy. You might recall how a windstorm shredded The Canopy last year when it was almost up. My personal theory is that Mother Nature regarded it as an eyesore besmirching her beautiful Franklin Mountains, took umbrage and puffed it away. People who installed The Canopy this latest time maintain it will withstand a 150-mph wind. We shall see. But meanwhile, it gives something for El Pasoans to do during an idle moment; what else is there to do during a windstorm? And by the amusement and diversion it has provided, and no doubt will again, it has improved our quality of life which, after all, was the goal of the bond issue.

01/18/2003
Perry Offers Budget with Zero Dollars
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Perry Offers Budget with Zero Dollars

BY John Moritz

AUSTIN--Saying every dollar the state spends must be fully accounted for, Gov. Rick Perry submitted his proposal Friday for the 2004-05 budget cycle and recommended that state agencies start at zero and justify every amount they request. Perry, a Republican who took office two years ago and was elected to his first four-year term in November, called his proposal "historic." His 15-page document gives no indication about which agencies he thinks need more money and which could get by with less. Critics accused Perry of shirking his obligation to lay out his priorities to a Legislature that opened its 140-day session this week with the news that the state is facing a $9.9 billion shortfall over the next two years. Costs are spiraling for programs such as Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance while receipts from sales taxes and other sources are lagging because of the sluggish economy. In a news release, Perry said he plans to work closely with lawmakers to flesh out the spending plan, which he said would meet the state's essential needs over the next two years. Perry, along with fellow Republicans Tom Craddick, the new House speaker, and incoming Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, has been urging the GOP-dominated Legislature to resist any pressure to raise taxes. The budget for the present two-year cycle is $114 billion. "The current fiscal situation demands that we re-examine the core responsibilities of government and the state spending practices of the past dozen years," said Perry, who issued his budget recommendation in cooperation with Dewhurst and Craddick. "This budget starts at zero, because in tough budgetary times, every dollar spent by government must be scrutinized to determine whether it justifies consideration as a priority." In Fort Worth, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn neither praised nor criticized the budget proposal. It is "certainly the leadership's prerogative" to submit such a budget, Strayhorn said before speaking to a group of real estate agents Friday at the Petroleum Club. "I'll let the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker speak for themselves on what they're doing," she said. Strayhorn said she has suggested a different approach to solving the shortfall. Her plan would give agencies a working number and force them to justify additional expenditures, she said. While the three top leaders said the unprecedented action of recommending a zero budget will end with greater accountability for state spending, critics called the document an abdication of their responsibility to set priorities for the Legislature, which meets for 20 weeks every other year. "The governor is the chief executive officer of our state, and he is required by the Texas Constitution to make recommendations for funding the state's needs to the Legislature," said F. Scott McCown, who heads the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank. "By zeroing out every agency, he is admitting that he cannot make budget recommendations to meet the state's needs without additional revenue," McCown said. The head of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy praised the idea of starting the budget at zero, saying that no state agency should begin the process expecting a sum because it may have received that amount in the past. "It's a whole new day in Texas," said Peggy Venable, executive director of the conservative group. "It's time to take a fresh look at everything the state is spending money on and make the decision as to whether it's appropriate to continue these expenditures." Craddick, a veteran lawmaker who is beginning his first term leading the sometimes fractious House, said the new way of budgeting will give Texans a more informed look at how the state spends money. "We are committed to starting our budget at zero and ending within available revenue, providing Texans with more detailed information on how we spend their tax dollars," said Craddick, of Midland. "However, as the governor is well aware, the House is comprised of 150 very diverse members." Molly Beth Malcolm, chairwoman of the Texas Democratic Party, predicted that the "zero" recommendation is more likely to result in chaos than in consensus. "Gov. Perry and the Republicans campaigned promising leadership, vision and experience," Malcolm said. "The legislative session has just started, and already Gov. Perry is again failing to lead, and showing no vision at a time when the budget crunch demands tough decisions."

01/18/2003
Microsoft to Pay Dividends for the First Time
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Microsoft to Pay Dividends for the First Time

BY Ariana Eunjung Cha

Microsoft Corp. said yesterday that it will issue dividend checks to common stockholders for the first time, a surprise move signaling that the software giant believes its expensive antitrust troubles are coming to an end. Company officials said the board unanimously approved an annual dividend of 16 cents per share. The Redmond, Wash.-based company had previously responded to grumbling by investors about its cash reserves of more than $40 billion by saying it needed to keep the funds because of the uncertainty in its court cases, among other reasons.

01/17/2003
BUCHANAN AND PRESS For January 17, 2003
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BUCHANAN AND PRESS For January 17, 2003

BY Pat Buchanan; Bill Press; Sam Shane; Fred Francis; Ron Insana

01/17/2003
State Ranks 2nd in Multiple-Payout Doctors
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Press Release

State Ranks 2nd in Multiple-Payout Doctors

From the Charleston Gazette January 17, 2003, Friday Copyright 2003 Charleston Newspapers West Virginia ranks second in the country in the percentage of doctors who repeatedly have settled or lost malpractice lawsuits, according to a national consumer group. Since 1990, one in 10 state doctors made two or more payouts to alleged victims of medical malpractice, according to Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen. Only Pennsylvania had a higher rate of physicians making multiple payouts.

01/17/2003
Before it's too late, stop the TTA's misguided commuter rail project
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Press Release

Before it's too late, stop the TTA's misguided commuter rail project

This letter to the editor appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer on January, 17, 2003

01/17/2003
Pelosi brings pedigree to new post as Congress' most powerful woman
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Pelosi brings pedigree to new post as Congress' most powerful woman

BY JUSTIN PRITCHARD

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Nancy Pelosi loves old maps - graphic testimony to the spirit of exploration, faded images of what was known and unknown. "Maps are about the places and the geography and the Earth, but they're also about how people saw the world and the courage it took for them to go places," she says. "What we want to do in politics is blaze trails and not just follow paths."

01/16/2003

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