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2003 Social Security Trustees’ Report
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Press Release

2003 Social Security Trustees’ Report

• Point: The Trustees’ Report shows that inaction is not an option The report clearly shows why inaction on Social Security is not a responsible option, and why President Bush is right to call for bipartisan action to modernize Social Security for the 21st century.

03/18/2003
Nobel Laureate, Parents Testify at Rowdy Vouchers Hearing
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Nobel Laureate, Parents Testify at Rowdy Vouchers Hearing

BY Connie Mabin

Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman, who advocates the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers for use in private schools, was among those who testified Tuesday at a rowdy House committee hearing on school vouchers. Friedman, a Stanford University economist, was invited to speak at the House Public Education Committee by its chairman, Rep. Kent Grusendorf. Grusendorf, R-Arlington, has filed a bill that would establish laws authorizing government money for low-income parents who transfer their children from public to private schools. Such a system is commonly referred to as "school vouchers" or "school choice." Grusendorf calls them "freedom scholarships." Friedman said he believes the American public education system has worsened over time, particularly in poor areas, and blames what he calls a government monopoly and powerful teachers unions. "The government provides food stamps but it doesn't run grocery stores," he said. Friedman called Grusendorf's proposal the nation's most broad attempt to use vouchers for public education. "It's the system, not the people" making children fail, Friedman said, and competition would demand improvement in all schools. The audience often erupted in applause and let out loud hoots when supporters voiced agreeable statements. More than 100 people signed up to testify. Dozens of children and parents supporting vouchers wore bright blue T-shirts declaring: "school choice works." But there were vocal opponents, too, including dozens of educators and Sam Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network. She's opposed to using taxpayer money in schools that don't have to follow the same laws meant to ensure equality and separation of church and state. Texas State Teachers Association President Donna New-Haschke said it's not the time to try vouchers with nearly $3 billion in proposed budget cuts to public education. "We simply cannot afford using tax dollars to fund the interest of private schools when our students are being told to wait for new textbooks, our teachers are facing cuts in health insurance and highly touted programs like master math teachers programs are on the chopping block," New-Haschke said. On the other side, Peggy Venable of Citizens for a Sound Economy said she was disgusted that teachers appeared to be more interested in their own financial future than children's education. "I believe that parents deserve the freedom to choose," Venable said. If public schools fear mass exodus of students because of vouchers, that proves there is a problem, she said. Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, said he was concerned that the bill did not prohibit religious or gender discrimination. Grusendorf said it prohibited discrimination against race and national orientation. Also, he said, critics must trust parents to select a school that's best for their children. William Bryant, a pastor from Dallas, said vouchers would empower parents, particularly minority or poor parents. "We say yes to it because we believe it's time for real freedom in education for all of the children in Texas," he said. Texas lawmakers, under pressure from teachers unions and 1,100 school districts, have consistently rejected legislation calling for a voucher experiment in selected urban counties. This session is likely to be different in the GOP-dominated Statehouse, however, because Republicans House Speaker Tom Craddick, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry all support a pilot voucher program. Under Grusendorf's legislation, the program for children of low income families would be limited to the state's largest school districts, where enrollment tops 40,000 and a majority of students are eligible for the federal free and reduced priced lunch programs. Eleven public school districts would be initially affected: Aldine, Alief, Houston, Pasadena, Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Brownsville, El Paso and Ysleta. In 2005, local school boards could vote to allow any district to participate. The private schools that accept the vouchers would be required to make tests scores public, a provision critics said is bad because the public has no say in what kind of test. Public schools would continue to receive some funding for students who choose to use a voucher, including about 10 percent of the value of the voucher. Private schools would receive 90 percent of the voucher or the school's average annual cost per student, whichever is less.

03/18/2003
What Does America Actually Think About President's Economic Plan?
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What Does America Actually Think About President's Economic Plan?

Brenna Hapes of Citizens for a Sound Economy, 202-942-7629 News Advisory Featured Speakers: Ed Goeas, President The Tarrance Group Paul Beckner, President Citizens for a Sound Economy WHEN: Friday, March 21, 2003 12:30-1:30 pm 1302 Longworth House Office Building Good sandwiches will be served Do voters in your state support the president's economic growth plan? How can President Bush win on the repeal of the dividend tax? What should your Member be doing today to get ready for a high profile tax cut vote this spring? We've got answers. Join us to hear top GOP pollster Ed Goeas explain the political environment surrounding tax cuts, based on two recent CSE/Tarrance Group nationwide surveys of registered voters. We've tested voter opinion on the economy, Congress, and all of the individual elements of the president's plan. This is the only polling done on the President's plan. Discover what messaging works, and how to position the issue going into April and May. You can't afford to miss this briefing!

03/18/2003
Boost for Technology
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Press Release

Boost for Technology

As published in the Washington Times, March 16, 2003 President Bush has proposed that once a corporation has paid the tax due on its profits, those "after tax" profits should not be taxed again when distributed to the corporation's owners - the shareholders - as a dividend. Some have suggested that this proposal is of little interest in the technology community since very few technology companies pay any dividend. This suggestion misses the point on three important grounds.

03/17/2003
Georgia Fights Against Tax Hike!
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Press Release

Georgia Fights Against Tax Hike!

Georgia is facing declining revenues and Governor Perdue’s solution is to raise taxes. Governor Perdue has it backward. Georgia has a spending problem not a revenue problem. Georgia is facing a $620 million revenue shortfall and the governor wants to increase the tobacco tax 400 percent from 12 cents to 58 cents a pack to cover this deficit. Thankfully members of the legislature have stated they don’t want to raise taxes and are looking for further budget cuts. We need to let the legislature know that we support limiting government spending and are opposed to raising taxes.

03/16/2003
Lobby Targets Tobacco Payoff
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Lobby Targets Tobacco Payoff

BY John Moritz

AUSTIN--With Texas facing a $9.9 billion budget shortfall, the head of the state's largest business lobby is pushing what he calls a sure-fire way to pay the bills without raising taxes. Sell the future earnings on the state's $17.3 billion settlement with the nation's largest tobacco companies for a lump-sum payment of up to $5 billion, said Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business. "It's like the cash-option on a winning lotto ticket," said Hammond, whose organization boasts 140,000 Texas employers. "You take a lump sum upfront." But Peggy Venable, director of the equally conservative Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, calls Hammond's suggestion a smoke screen. "This is not the time for smoke-and-mirror gimmicks," Venable said. "This is the time for lawmakers to get serious about making the budget cuts we need to put the state back in the business of providing the core services and look for ways to keep paying for programs that might need to be re-evaluated." State leaders are scrambling for ways to bridge the massive deficit for the two-year budget cycle that begins Sept. 1. The state's Republican leaders -- Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick -- have handed down the message that they would not support any new taxes. But they have also said that they plan to protect what they call the state's core services. Dewhurst, who presides over the Texas Senate, acknowledged last week that lawmakers are going to have to find what he calls nontax revenue sources to avoid deep and painful cuts in social programs. Texas' 1998 settlement with Big Tobacco calls for the companies to make annual payments to the state of about $500 million. The exact number depends on a variety of factors, including the rate of tobacco consumption in the state. Hammond's organization estimates that the state could bring in as much as $5 billion by selling the future tobacco earnings. Dewhurst said that lawmakers ought to take a close look at the idea. "That could be a possibility," Dewhurst told reporters recently. "I don't want to get out front and prejudge where [lawmakers] might end up. But in the numbers I have looked at [to balance the budget], that has been included." Several states, including California, New Jersey and Washington, have sold at least a portion of their tobacco settlements. Wisconsin has sold its $5.9 billion settlement for $1.3 billion to alleviate a severe cash crunch. Texas lawmakers used the initial installments to establish a variety of endowments for health-related projects and to combat youth smoking. But the lion's share of the tobacco money has been earmarked for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage for children in low-income working families. Joel Spivak, spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that selling the settlement's future earnings would undermine those programs. And he rejected the comparison to a lump-sum lottery payout, noting that someone who claims the million-doller prize is set for life, while $5 billion would barely pay the state's bills for a month. "We take a very dim view of it," Spivak said. "You take a short-term gain, for what? Pennies on the dollar. And once that money's gone, it ain't coming back." Hammond said that if the Legislature chooses to raise taxes instead of selling the tobacco settlement, Texans will always be on the hook. "Economic downturns are temporary," he said. "Tax increases are forever." Hammond argued that the state could sell just a portion of the future earnings, or it could invest some of the proceeds in a trust fund. "You don't have to spend it all," he said. "You could spend some and put the rest into an endowment. The earnings from the endowment could be used in future years. "The upside is, you get the state out of the business of betting on tobacco consumption." ONLINE: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, www.tobaccofreekids.com Texas Association of Business, www.txbiz.org Citizens for a Sound Economy, www.cse.org

03/16/2003
Now Pennsylvania Legislators Want to Tax Food and Clothing?!
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Press Release

Now Pennsylvania Legislators Want to Tax Food and Clothing?!

In recent attempts to solve Pennsylvania’s budget woes, a few legislators, known as the “Commonwealth Caucus” have introduced a plan to slightly decrease the state’s sales tax rate while broadening its span over basic goods and services that are currently exempt. The plan wants to lower the sales tax from 6% to 4% but at the same time impose the tax on food, clothing and professional services.

03/15/2003
Dallas Officials Lobby Legislators for Convention Center Hotel
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Dallas Officials Lobby Legislators for Convention Center Hotel

BY Colleen McCain Nelson

Mar. 13-AUSTIN, Texas-Dallas' political heavyweights descended on the Capitol on Wednesday, seeking support for legislation that would fund a convention center hotel. Mayor Laura Miller, seven City Council members and other local officials told members of the House Economic Development Committee that building a hotel adjacent to the newly expanded convention center is the key to making Dallas a destination for conventioneers. "The question remains: If we build it, will they come?" Rep. Steve Wolens told the committee.

03/13/2003
Legislation of interest to Texas CSE members
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Press Release

Legislation of interest to Texas CSE members

TAX & BUDGET ISSUES

03/13/2003
Medical Malpractice Reform: The Time is Now
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Press Release

Medical Malpractice Reform: The Time is Now

Dear Legislator:

03/13/2003

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