Month: <span>July 2022</span>

Abbott will continue to neglect school and public safety…and lie about it

Unless the NRA forgets his name or his extremist political base is suddenly struck with a bolt of reason, Gov. Abbott will not address the gun reform issue in any meaningful way. But he will continue to play games – to the point of lying – with gun-weary Texans, including the families and friends of mass shooting victims.

Recently, the Uvalde school board made the politically necessary but wasted effort of passing a resolution asking the governor to call a special legislative session to raise the legal age for purchasing an assault-style rifle from 18 to 21. This, of course, was in response to the fact that the 18-year-old shooter who killed 19 elementary students and two teachers with an assault rifle had easily and legally purchased his weapon from a local gun store.

When a reporter for The Texas Tribune asked for a response from the governor’s office to the school board’s request, an Abbott spokesperson replied that the governor “has taken immediate action to address all aspects” of the Uvalde tragedy.

That was a deliberate, direct lie because the governor has done nothing to address the most critical aspect of the shooting – the ease with which the shooter obtained his murder weapon. Nor has Abbott done anything to keep guns out of the hands of other dangerous people and potential mass shooters.

His spokesperson added, “All options remain on the table.”

Another lie. As far as guns are concerned, the only thing remaining on Abbott’s table is a pile of campaign cash from the gun lobby.

As long as he is in office, Greg Abbott will never seek to enact sensible gun reform laws, not even to protect young children who are among the most vulnerable of his constituents. I would be happy to see the governor prove me wrong, but that isn’t going to happen.

Uvalde school board pushes Greg Abbott for special legislative session to increase legal age for purchasing assault rifles

Clay Robison

A state revenue windfall will mean budgetary improvements for education only if political obstacles are removed in November

The huge surplus that Comptroller Glenn Hegar says the Legislature will have for next year’s budgetary deliberations could be good news for budget-strapped school districts and underpaid school employees. But even with a $27 billion jump (maybe more) in general revenue and the state’s Rainy Day savings account growing to an anticipated $13.6 billion, additional education funding is not a sure thing.

The first priority for Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, if they are reelected in November, will be property tax cuts with almost everything else — except more wasteful spending on bogus border “security” — an afterthought. But with a careful allocation of funds, there should be enough money for property tax relief as well as some other pressing state needs, including public schools, health care, infrastructure improvements and a long-overdue cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for retired educators.

Patrick’s initial response was to propose using $4 billion of the surplus for property tax cuts and then to shortchange schools. He wants to continue to pay for the teacher pay raises and maintain the education funding approved in 2019 and pay not for a COLA, but another “13th check” for education retirees. That isn’t nearly enough. It is basically maintaining the status quo, which is woefully inadequate.

Patrick and Abbott also are likely to take much of the wind out of the windfall by insisting that legislative budget writers honor the state constitutional spending limit and leave a lot of that extra $27 billion unspent. The spending limit can be overridden with supermajority votes of the House and the Senate. But conservative bragging rights and their goal of squeezing public education and state government are more important to Abbott, Patrick and their allies than taking this rare opportunity to make meaningful progress toward meeting the state’s basic needs.

No one wants to empty the state’s savings account, but there is enough money in the Rainy Day Fund to spend some of it on public needs that are becoming emergencies. Abbott and Patrick, if reelected, are likely to take the extremist position and refuse to spend any of the savings, while the fund continues to grow.

So, even with the huge revenue growth fueled by inflation and high oil prices, writing a new state budget will be difficult. If educators and other Texans who value public services want a fair budget, they will vote to make that possible by electing a new governor and a new lieutenant governor in November.

Inflation, high energy prices mean the Texas Legislature will have unprecedented funds to allocate next year

Clay Robison