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Spread the Word – 2014 is Coming!

Date posted: March 27, 2013

JoAnn Fleming

By JoAnn Fleming 

Fellow Texas Constitutional Conservatives: 

In 2010, we worked together to send conservatives to the state legislature. In 2011, the Austin ruling class worked against our conservative legislators and ignored our cries for reform. In 2012, we rose up to fight again and sent a larger contingent of conservatives to the legislature. We sent Ted Cruz to the US Senate. In 2013, the establishment is working overtime to silence the reformers, and they are working harder than ever to hold their fairy tale together. But, fellow Texans, 2014 is coming…

We want you to know that grassroots conservatives from across the state are in the trenches in Austin. We want you to know what we are fighting for, and we ask you to spread the following unified message because 2014 is coming.

We are sending a strong, commonsense, liberty-advancing message in Austin that must apply to all legislation:

  • Stop the “borrow and spend” practices. Why? Today, Texas state government has more debt than the US Postal Service ($16 billion). “Borrow and spend” is just as bad as “tax and spend” because it threatens liberty for future generations. According to the Legislative Budget Board, the amount of state debt outstanding is $40.99 billion, an increase of $22.81 billion, or 125% over the amount of state debt outstanding 10 years ago in fiscal year 2003. Sounds like Washington, DC.

 

  • Stop digging holes and fill in the ones you’ve already created. Why? On top of the state debt, the Texas Tomorrow Fund has a $644 million hole (parents pay into a fund to secure their child’s college education at today’s prices). The Teachers Retirement System is underfunded, creating a $27 billion hole. Our state government is incurring costs today, without setting aside the money needed to meet tomorrow’s obligations. Sounds like Washington, DC.

 

  • Stop the diversions. Why? Our legislature uses millions of dollars in taxes and fees created for one purpose and diverts them to another purpose. One big example is the gas tax diverted from road construction to non-road uses. There are too many examples to list! Sounds like Washington, DC.

 

  • Stop the accounting gimmicks and deferrals to balance the budget. Why? We need truth in budgeting! Since sales tax collections for the 2012-2013 budget exceeded the Comptroller’s revenue projections, the $7.1 billion planned shortfall from last session is being paid from the “surplus” revenue and from the Rainy Day Fund; however, our legislature, governor, lt. governor, and house speaker need to stop just balancing the budget on paper and actually practice truth in budgeting. Anything less sounds like Washington, DC!

 

  • Don’t raid the Rainy Day Fund. Why? The Rainy Day Fund should always maintain a balance large enough to ensure our AAA credit rating AND provide funds to endure a natural disaster or a terrorist attack (made possible with open borders and sanctuary cities) without having to depend on the federal government. Frankly, our elected officials need to prepare for getting less federal dollars since the financial collapse of the federal government may be coming. Texas is no longer a donor state. For the last 8 years, Texas has received more federal dollars than were paid into the federal treasury by taxpayers. Texas is helping to build the federal debt. This is the history of federal dollars in our state budget for the last 3 biennial periods: 

2008 – 2009: federal funds were $55.1 billion or 32% of state budget revenue

2010 – 2011: federal funds were $72.6 billion or 38.7% of state budget revenue

2012—2013: federal funds were $54.7 billion or 31.5% of state budget revenue

If they ignore these facts and do anything less than prepare for tough times ahead, our state officials will be acting like Washington, DC!

  • Stop gazing lovingly at our wallets. According to the Legislative Budget Board, Texas state spending rose 310% between 1990 and 2012, while population growth plus inflation totaled only 132%. This is why we don’t support adding new taxes and fees to fund the core constitutional functions of state government, and we won’t until the legislature actually practices real budget transparency and truth in budgeting. After all, “TEA” stands for Taxed Enough Already! Stop acting like Washington DC, telling us you need new revenue. We the people didn’t make the mess, but we will stand with those of you who work to clean it up.

 

If you agree – and we hope you do – please circulate this information. “We the People” of Texas must understand that although our state is stronger than most, we can and must do better. 
cracksThe cracks in the foundation are showing…

 

Texas is not the Land of Oz…

The fairy tales coming out of Austin must be debunked. That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the Texas Constitutional Conservative Grassroots. Since we aren’t funded by special interests, we are free to tell it like it is – the pure, unvarnished truth. Why? The elections of 2014 are coming.

 

Where applicable, a political advertisement paid for by

the Grassroots America – We the People PAC, P.O. Box 130012, Tyler, TX 75713.

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Grassroots coalition calls on Perry, Dewhurst, & Straus to lead the way on a new vision for roads

Date posted: March 13, 2013

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Texans want leadership to implement new vision for roads

TURF – Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom

TURF

Sensible bills should not be held hostage to promote special interests, more road debt, tax hikes, and budget-busting tolls that will only burden small businesses, families, seniors, and young adults on limited income!
(Austin, TX, March 12, 2013) – On Tuesday morning, Texans from across the state converged at the capitol to stress the need for Texas Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, and House and Senate budget writers to prevent the most fiscally sound, long-term road funding solutions from being held hostage to more tolls, debt, and tax hikes. Activist leaders Terri Hall (TURF) and JoAnn Fleming (TEA Party Caucus Advisory Committee Chair and Grassroots America director) sounded the alarm to Texans that soon every major road will be tolled, and foreign corporations can take over our  roadways, driving up the cost of daily travel with unfettered tolling. 

“Texans don’t take kindly to unelected boards and commissions raising taxes on them, and that is just what these toll agencies can and will do if we don’t change course now,” warned TURF’s founder and director, Terri Hall.

Hall says the word around the capitol is that the bills that would solve the road-funding shortfall by dedicating the existing vehicle sales tax (SB 287/HB 782) to roads — have been sent to the budget committees to die. 

“They don’t want to prioritize spending in order to get the money we already pay in taxes over to roads,” fumed Hall.  “Instead, the Governor (in support of SB 1632) wants Texans to pay back their own tax money with interest through tolls or local tax hikes for all these toll projects that can’t pay for themselves without taxpayer bail outs.”

“If our leaders insist on dealing with the problem with more tax hikes, more tolls, and more debt, there will be a voter revolt. People are already saddled with higher payroll and income taxes from Washington, DC, and property taxes and local debt are rising around most of the state. Just as we cannot afford more tax and spend from government, we cannot afford more borrow and spend for roads,” insists JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director of Grassroots America.  

“Some of the folks inside this building are the architects of this debt cliff with their fairy tale, smoke and mirrors budgeting and creative financing – they’ve maxed out the credit card. We can get out of it, but it will take leadership and somebody standing up for the taxpayers,” Fleming said. 

She added, “If our wallets are the first solution they will be the only solution that survives the session. We aren’t going to give anybody a green light for raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees until our leaders clear the debris they put in the road, out of the road.” 

Proposals the Coalition Opposes
Governor Perry’s endorsed solution is to redirect federal highway funds into the State Infrastructure Bank (SB 1632) to be used to guarantee toxic local toll road debt and even mass transit projects, (which these funds currently cannot be used to do). Perry’s proposal also encourages local taxes and tax hikes to bailout toll projects that can’t pay for themselves.

Terri Hall says this won’t solve the funding problem in a fiscally-sound, transparent way. “If this is the solution, Texans will not be able to get to work or get their kids to school without paying $10 or more a day to get across town. It’s insane, especially when gas prices are going through the roof! How is this not a tax hike?” asks Hall.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Tommy Williams proposes (SJR 38) a similar loan guarantee program for economic development toll road and mass transit projects using the Rainy Day Fund as well as a separate proposal (SJR 39) to increase vehicle registration fees to build new road capacity. Neither solve the long-term road funding shortfalls nor get the state back to pay-as-you-go. 

Unsustainable Debt Spiral
Securing a reliable, long-term source of revenue, coupled with operational reforms, are necessary for cost-effective highway planning and the avoidance of more debt; however, the state has no sustainable policy for funding roads. The Grant Thornton audit of 2010 states that our debt path is unsustainable. According to an April 24, 2012, Associated Press account (citing federal data), Texas leads the nation in road debt ($31 billion, principle and interest). This is supported by documents provided by Senator Robert Nichols, which show debt (principle only) to be $23 billion.

Incurring more road debt, whether at the state or local level, is not fiscally responsible, conservative, nor sustainable. Several sources have also indicated that there are no more viable toll projects in the state — where the tolls could ever hope to pay for the expense of the road without considerable taxpayer subsidies.We must return to pay-as-you-go.

Raising Taxes Not the Answer
“Any tax collected from road users should be going to fund roads first, especially before any politician asks us to dig deeper into our pockets to fund roads with tax hikes and more tolls,” contends Hall. “Tolls are taxes the way they’re being done in Texas today, since $10 billion in public funds are going to build toll roads, yet they’re still charging us a toll to drive on them.”

Conservatives feel the state leadership is behaving as politicians in Washington do – holding out for tax increases so they don’t have to cut spending and reform TxDOT.

“Texans are fed-up with out-of-control government that never gets its priorities straight, and keeps asking us to pay more when the taxes already collected aren’t going for their intended purpose,” reiterated Fleming. 

Gas tax a source of diminishing funding
The state gas tax, the primary source of revenue for TxDOT, has been unchanged for 20 years. This has caused a reliance on toll roads to bridge the funding gap, which costs Texans prohibitively more than a tax-funded road (1-2 cents a mile vs. 15 – 75 cents a mile for tolls). 

We cannot expect to build today’s roads with a 20-year-old revenue source. This structural shortfall must be addressed without more tolls, more debt, and more taxes. 

Between 1990 – 2012, Texas state spending rose 310%, while population growth plus inflation totaled only 132%. [Source:  Texas Public Policy Foundation analysis of Legislative Budget Board documents]. Lawmakers should refocus on the core constitutional functions of state government.

Comprehensive transportation package needed
The proper pay-as-you-go funding of road construction can be done with a comprehensive transportation package, which should include:

– State government restructuring to eliminate overlapping, duplicated effort;
– Phase-out of funding for budget items beyond the core constitutional responsibilities of state government;
– TxDOT operational reforms;
– Reigning in flagrant waste (documented) via “local control” RMAs, MPOs and COGs spending millions on “enhancements”;
– Refocus on building highways to relieve traffic congestion – not funding light rail, street cars, biking/hiking trails, parks and roads for economic development (the “build it and they will come” scenario); 
– Ending diversions;  
– Dedicating vehicle sales and use tax revenue to highway construction (the Nichols Plan – SB 287);
– Early debt retirement, if approved by the people (the Eltife Plan – Constitutional Amendment via SJR 47)

State leaders should work together on this commonsense, taxpayer-friendly transportation package by first actively supporting Nichols’ bill (SB 287) which phases in the dedication of vehicles sales/use tax to roads. A dedicated vehicle sales tax revenue stream will keep pace with inflation on its own and help meet the growing transportation needs of Texas. 

The vehicle sales tax currently represents $3.3 billion a year (and growing), and coupled with ending gas tax diversions, which the Governor estimates is $650 million a year, it gets the State very close to the $4 billion it needs to build and maintain our state highway system. The Nichols’ phase-in facilitates long-range TxDOT construction planning, and it does not provide a sudden shock to general revenues, since the vehicle sales tax is growing so rapidly.

Summary of solutions
The conservative activist leaders admit their recommendations are not easy, but insist they are workable, sustainable solutions a majority of voters will support to end the current “borrow and spend” cycle:

Reforms:
 – Return to pay-as-you-go; no more public road debt (state or local). 
 – No more Public Private Partnerships (P3s), handing control of our Texas infrastructure to private, even foreign, corporations. This applies to roads and other public facilities such as the Capitol Complex. No more use of eminent domain for private gain.
 – No more public subsidies, credit enhancements, or loan guarantees for any type of toll project.
– Comprehensive financial audit of TxDOT prior to the agency’s next   sunset review in 2015 to gain efficiencies and end practices that drive-up costs, e. g., Design-Build CDAs, P3s, and multi-million dollar “enhancements” that have nothing to do with moving traffic.

New Revenues:
– End diversions of all road user fees (motor fuel tax, vehicle sales tax, tire sales, auto parts sales tax) to non-transportation uses.
– Phase-in motor vehicle sales/use tax revenues to the Highway Fund, consistent with Nichols’ SB 287.

Constitutional restrictions on the use of New Revenues
– No diversions: May only be used for planning, design, construction of new state highway system road capacity and the maintenance of this new capacity once built.
– Not Used for Toll Roads:  May not be used on comprehensive development agreements or projects involving the construction of toll lanes.
– No Debt:  Shall be used for pay-as-you go projects and may not be used as backing for new debt financing (whether at the state or local level).
– No non-road expenditures:  None of these funds may be used for any expense related to bike trails, transit or pedestrian walkways.

Hall emphasized, “Implementing these reforms, securing all existing transportation-related taxes, and dedicating these taxes to a ‘roads-only priority plan’ will restore an affordable, pay-as-you-go, pro-taxpayer, pro-freedom transportation policy for all Texans.”

“Since we believe the people are taxed enough already, and we know other solutions exist to fund needed road construction, we promise two things:  1) we will work with the leaders on the transportation package; and 2) we will make ending the ‘innovative financing’ gimmicks, waste, and debt spiral a campaign issue in the next election cycle,” concludes Fleming.

Women On the Wall  takes on the issues that matter. Sharing information and updates on our weekly radio show on Monday mornings at 10 am CST. You will not want to miss this show. We will have up to date information on CSCOPE  and guests who are the experts on education and other issues that are effecting our children and grandchildren.

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On the issue of Israel, Perry stands tall….

Date posted: September 20, 2011

Texas Speaker Showdown

 

“Gov. Perry is standing very tall for Israel.  He’s quite correct.  Obama has created the bold atmosphere so that Palestinians seek equal standing from the U.N. and the “Auswitchz borders” (1967 borders renders Israel defenseless).”- Cindy Hyltin

GOP candidates assail Obama on Israel

APBy BETH FOUHY and KASIE HUNT – Associated Press |

AP- Photo of the Day

NEW YORK (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry on Tuesday criticized the Palestinian Authority’s effort to seek formal recognition by the U.N. General Assembly and assailed the Obama administration’s broader policies in the Middle East.

In a speech in New York, Perry pledged strong support for Israel and criticized President Barack Obama for demanding concessions from the Jewish state the Texas governor says emboldened the Palestinians to appeal for U.N. recognition.

“We would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn’t naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous,” Perry said in a speech in New York. “The Obama policy of moral equivalency which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a very dangerous insult.”

In a statement before Perry spoke, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also waded into the tense foreign policy dispute over Mideast policy. He called the jockeying at the United Nations this week “an unmitigated disaster.” He accused Obama’s administration of “repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position.”

Perry also criticized Obama’s stated goal that any negotiations should be based on the borders Israel had before a 1967 war that expanded the Jewish state. While the 1967 borders have been the basis for diplomatic negotiations, they have never been embraced before by a U.S. president. Perry called that stance “insulting and naïve.”

Perry’s remarks came as the Obama administration has redoubled its efforts to block the Palestinian bid. The U.S. has promised a veto in the Security Council, but the Palestinians can press for a more limited recognition of statehood before the full — and much more supportive — General Assembly.

Perry also expressed support for allowing Jewish settlements to be constructed on the West Bank, a practice Obama has asked the Israeli government to cease. And Perry said that the entire city of Jerusalem should be part of Israel, a move that would make key religious and historical sites part of the Jewish state. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967.

Perry even suggested he would move American diplomatic personnel out of Tel Aviv and instead recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “As the president of the United States, if you want to work for the State Department, you will be working in Jerusalem,” he said.

Romney said the policy of limiting Israel’s negotiating flexibility “must stop now.” He called on Obama to unequivocally reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and a promise to cut foreign assistance to the Palestinians if they succeed in getting U.N. recognition.

Both Perry and Romney said the U.S. should reconsider funding for the U.N. itself if the global body votes to recognize the Palestinian Authority.

The GOP presidential hopefuls are intent on standing strongly behind Israel, an effort to appeal to Jewish voters and donors who play a pivotal role in presidential elections. It’s also an effort to reach evangelical Christians, who play a key role in the Republican primary process and who support Israel for theological reasons.

Perry on Tuesday said that his own Christian faith is part of his support for Israel.

“I also as a Christian have a clear directive to support Israel, so from my perspective it’s pretty easy,” Perry said when a reporter asked if Perry’s faith was driving his views. “Both as an American and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel.”

Complaints about Obama’s Israel policy helped a Republican, Bob Turner, win a special election in a heavily Jewish and Democratic New York congressional district last week. Turner appeared with Perry at the speech.

“It’s vitally important for America to preserve alliances with leaders who seek to preserve peace and stability in the region,” Perry said. “But today, neither adversaries nor allies know where America stands. Our muddle of a foreign policy has created great uncertainty in the midst of the Arab Spring.”

Obama is also in New York on Tuesday for meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly. He planned to meet later in the week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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