Saturday, December 3, 2016

Schwertner leads on tuition (again)!!!

"The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender."
Proverbs 22:7

The unintended consequences of tuition deregulation continue to shortchange Texas students. By providing public universities the flexibility to set their own rates, the Texas Legislature has essentially given them a perverse incentive to increase tuition and fees as the simplest means of expanding their own operating budgets.

In fall 2003, a resident undergraduate attending class full-time paid $1,934 per semester in tuition and fees. A decade later, the same student owed an average of $3,951 per semester.

Since 2003, tuition and fees at Texas public universities have more than doubled, and designated tuition (the portion of tuition set directly by the universities) has increased an astounding 222 percent. Are we really expected to believe that the value of an undergraduate degree is worth twice what it was only a decade ago?

As students struggle to repay the exorbitant cost of higher education, they have less money to purchase a home, start a small business or otherwise contribute to the Texas economy. A survey conducted earlier this year by the consulting firm Accenture found that 46 percent of recent U.S. college graduates consider themselves underemployed, working jobs that do not require a college education.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey also revealed a significant disparity between what students had expected to earn and their actual starting salary: while only 18 percent of graduating students believed they would earn less than $25,000 a year, over 40 percent of recent graduates indicated they made that amount or less.

This broken system is leaving an entire generation of students mired in debt and frustrated by a lack of opportunity while supplying universities with extravagant budgets to fund special projects and ever-expanding administrations.

The Texas Legislature must reassess how we manage our public universities and consider whether the deregulation policies enacted over a decade ago still make sense for our students. Texas simply cannot maintain a strong economy without also maintaining a strong workforce, and we cannot maintain a strong workforce without affordable access to higher education.
Read the whole thing here.

Friday, December 2, 2016

How will Tom Herman hire impact U.T./Houston dynamic in the 85th #TXLEGE?!?

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Proverbs 29:1

Last Sunday, while attending Tom Herman's introductory press conference as the new Longhorn Football Coach, we had a thought: considering that the legislature is already livid with U.T. for their activities in Houston, how's poaching U of H's football coach going to go over?!?

For those who don't remember: Last fall the U.T. system, at the behest of Chancellor McRaven, announced plans to expand into Houston.  As we predicted at the time, this set off a gigantic turf war between U.T. and U of H.  As Senator John Whitmire said exactly one year ago today: "In all candor, in my 42 years of service in the Texas Legislature, I have not seen such and affront to the legislative process and the conservative deliberations of the higher education community."

To which U.T. responds by poaching U of H's Football coach.

With that background in mind, consider these remarks from the chairman of U of H's board of Regents:
"It's disappointing that the University of Texas -- who wants to open a campus in Houston and said they would never do anything to harm the University of Houston, with all the football coaches in America, who said that they would stand up for us to get into the Big 12 and then didn't even vote for us when they met with the commissioner and all the schools -- had to come take our little football coach,"
OUCH...and we hadn't even thought about Big-12 expansion.

Bottom Line: If, in addition to restoring Longhorn Football, the Tom Herman hire also inspires the legislature to crack down the UT politburo's various other shenanigans, it could be one of the greatest two for the price of one deals of all time.

Straus' 85th #TXLEGE strategy: Small Ball Obstruction....

"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
So a fool repeats his folly."
Proverbs 26:11

Joe Straus spoke with the Trib earlier this week.  We did not attend the event but did watch the video.  You can see it for yourself below:


  • "The President elect seems to be somewhat flexible."
  • "A real opportunity" re: Medicaid and Trump.
  • "There are no excuses now...[Republicans] need to perform."
    • "You ask for the responsibility, you have to deliver.
    • Author's Note: Save those two quotes for the next campaign season.
  • Obamacare: "Won't be quickly dismantled."
  • Education, transportation, water....
  • Blah, blah, "water"....
  • Spend more on Medicaid "for disabled children."
    • "It will be addressed in our supplemental budget."
    • Author's note: It's always about 'the children.'
  • "We need to address school finance in a serious way."
  • Blows smoke about school choice.
    • House members don't support school choice.
  • "Less money to spend."
  • Property tax relief: "I don't know whether we can."
    • For property tax relief "in a way that is thoughtful."
    • Author's Note: "Thoughtful" is a word Republicans love to use when they're
  • Supports "constructive" ban on sanctuary cities.
    • "you have to be careful on what the words are."
    • Author's Note: Sounds like he's setting up a toothless bill that allows Republicans to campaign on the issue but doesn't change much.
  • Religious liberty: "Isn't the most urgent concern of mine."
  • "I don't have any immediate plans to step down."
    • Fun Fact: By the time the next legislative session convenes, Joe Straus will have outlasted George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, Barack Obama, and John Bohener...the parallels with Fidel Castro are starting to become striking.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bettencourt rebukes "Disingenuous" Adler re: Property Taxes...

"Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel."
Proverbs 20:17

Yesterday, Mayor Adler took a gratuitous and unnecessary swipe at legislative efforts for statewide property tax relief:
“We should not risk police, firefighting, EMS, parks, safety nets and transportation projects – all to save Austin homeowners only $2.69 a month. It’s risky and not real tax relief,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “If the legislature really wants to help local taxpayers, it should better fund education because that’s most of the Austin property tax bill.”
Senator Bettencourt responded correctly:
“I side with the payers, not the spenders,” state Sen. Paul Bettencourt said in unveiling Senate Bill 2 to reform Texas’ increasingly burdensome property tax system.

Sixth highest in the nation, local property taxes have exploded. City and county tax levies rose more than 70 percent since 2005 while Texas’ median household income grew just 32 percent.


Bettencourt called the cities’ arguments “disingenuous.”

“The victim is the taxpayer,” he said, citing complaints his committee heard in more than 50 hours of invited and public testimony across the state this year.

The cities’ sky-is-falling scenario assumes that SB 2 “caps” property tax increases at 4 percent. By that calculation, the four cities would have “lost” $770 million in revenue over the past decade.

In fact, SB2 would halve the so-called rollback rate while allowing local government to seek voter approval to go above 4 percent. New construction would remain exempt from the rollback, allowing for growth-related revenue.

“It’s not a cap,” Bettencourt told in an interview. “If the cities want to go above the rollback rate they can do what school districts are required to do – go to the voters.”
Bottom Line: We have a certain amount of sympathy for the argument that the property tax system really needs to be fixed at the state level.   It's true that the current system doesn't give local officials many options.  But to see such a prominent local official respond in this way to efforts to fix the problem at the state level really does tell you everything you need to know.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dying Legacy Publications, Joe Straus cronies, and the UT Politburo....

Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
1 Corinthians 15:33

[Author's Note: Learn about Paul Hobby's background here.]

For those who've never heard of it, "Texas Monthly" is a generally uninteresting publication that includes coverage of the Texas Legislature.  They were recently purchased by a Joe Straus crony (who Straus has appointed to the Texas "Ethics" Commission) who had previously served on the Board of Trustees for the UT law school foundation (yes, that UT Law School foundation).  Shortly after the presidential election, their dreadfully boring editor in chief quit under strange circumstances.

They announced the new editor in chief this morning, and you'll never guess who they picked.
Texas Monthly selects new editor, creative chief
Tim Taliaferro, most recently editor of Alcalde magazine and vice president for communications and digital strategy for Texas Exes, has been named the new editor in chief of Texas Monthly magazine, where he once served as an intern.
The magazine also named Scott Brown as chief creative officer, said Paul Hobby, Texas Monthly’s chairman and CEO. Brown was previously president and CEO of the Company and Others, a Houston marking and research firm.
“I am thrilled to announce the appointment of both Tim and Scott,” said Hobby, whose private equity firm, Genesis Park, purchased Texas Monthly earlier this year for $25 million. “I believe they are the perfect individuals to lead our brand forward, particularly in the areas of digital journalism and live events.”
[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
The "Texas Exes" are the alumni association for UT-Austin.  While most people have only ever heard of them for their game-day football tailgates, the Texas Exes are actually one of the most quietly powerful political organizations in the state.  Suffice to say, they're a mouthpiece for the Politburo.

And Paul Hobby just chose to make the editor of their main publication the new editor in chief of "Texas Monthly."

For more of Tim Taliaferro's priceless history, see here and here.

Bottom Line: Move along, no good ol' boy network to see here....

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Texas Senate begins PROPERTY TAX RELIEF journey....

"But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
Nehemiah 5:15

Press Release from Bettencourt:

Followed by a statement from Patrick:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Herman says all the right things at Introductory Press Conference

"Yet the righteous will hold to his way,
And he who has clean hands will be stronger and stronger."
Job 17:9

In a late-breaking development, we attended Tom Herman's introductory press conference yesterday.  Based upon what we heard, we came away reasonably content.  It looks like a good hire on paper...but Charlie Strong also looked like a good hire on paper.

That being said, we do have to comment upon the softball questions from the sycophantic, fan-boy, media.  As you can see below, the assembled press corps was more interested in asking Herman softball questions about following in Mack Brown's footsteps than fleshing out his plan to address the team's obvious deficiencies.  Had we been called upon, we would have asked Coach Herman about his plan to address penalties and turnovers on a team that lost five games this past season by less than a touchdown.

One positive note: During his opening remarks, President Fenves made clear that maintaining the character development standards Charlie Strong implemented was a top priority.  That's key because, while it's a lot of fun to win football games, doing so the wrong way always comes back to bite you in the end.  Just ask Baylor (or, for that matter, USC).

But, yeah, we're reasonably content for the moment:

  • Fenves prepared remarks:
    • blah, blah, "excellence...."
    • Expect character development stuff to continue.
    • Decided about Charlie Friday evening.
      • Met with Herman Friday night.
    • Had been doing due diligence for awhile.
  • Herman prepared remarks:
    • "We will win championships."
    • "We will build men of character."
  • Fenves/Perrin Q&A:
    • Fenves met Herman on Friday "after a very long day" for both.
    • Any contracts will have to be approved by the Board of Regents.
    • Perrin declines to go into detail on differences between Herman and Strong.
  • Herman Q&A:
    • "I surround myself with great people."
    • "I've recruited this state for 20 some-odd years.
    • Had first meeting with team at 4:15 pm that day.
      • Note: The press conference started at (about) 5:15pm.
    • Hasn't studied roster yet.
    • "Changed the culture" at UH.
    • "The most physically and mentally tough team on the field each and every Saturday."
    • For players: "This program's going to be really, really, hard."
    • "Some things will be similar" to Charlie.
      • ie. Character stuff
    • "It's not going to be Camp Texas around here."
Bottom Line: It looks like a good hire, but there's no substitute for actually playing the games (especially for this program).