House Sends Campaign Disclosure Bill to Perry
Updated May 14, 1:40 p.m.
A divisive measure requiring the disclosure of certain unreported political donors passed the Texas House on a 95-52 vote on Tuesday, denying the Texas Senate’s desire to have it back in its clutches. The measure, which passed Tuesday with little of Monday’s debate, now heads to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk.
Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said now that the measure has passed the governor will take a final look at the language before determining whether he’ll sign it.
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Texas House pushes for more aggressive rainy day investing
AUSTIN — The state comptroller would have to take a bit more risk investing most of the money in the rainy day fund under a bill the House approved Thursday.
Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said his measure is about “being safe” with taxpayer dollars but also “being a better steward.”
Even if Comptroller Susan Combs continued to invest the rainy day money very conservatively, she could earn about 3 percent interest on slightly more than half of the fund balance over the next two years, Branch said. The more aggressive approach would generate about $450 million in additional earnings, he said.
The bill would require about $4.3 billion of the $8 billion currently in the rainy day fund to continue to be kept in highly liquid, low yield assets.
They are not all that different from cash, said Branch and another author of the bill, Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls.
Branch invoked a parable from the Bible as he urged colleagues to put at least some of the money to better use.
“We shouldn’t be burying our treasure,” he said.
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Obama kicks off jobs campaign in Texas
President Obama was back in campaign mode Thursday as he sought to push his plans and his administration’s record on job growth during a trip to Austin, Texas.
The president told roughly 400 people crammed into a technical high school gym that the “rubble” from the worst recession since the Great Depression has now been cleared away — the economy has added millions of jobs and the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since 2008 — and now it’s time to work even harder to realize more gains.
“All of us have to commit ourselves to doing better than we’re doing now,” Obama said.
The president ticked through his plans to grow the middle class — “the true engine of economic growth” — including making America a magnet for good jobs, helping people get the education they need to perform those jobs, and ensuring that people who are working hard are able to earn a decent living. Though he conceded some of his proposals to realize those goals, from tax reform to a minimum wage increase, haven’t gone very far.
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Obama, Perry And The True Source Of The Texas Jobs Miracle
Here’s a fact: Texas has been a monster job creator over the past ten years, a non-stop, high-rev employment machine. Look at these charts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which show steady employment growth despite massive increases in the state’s labor pool and a spike in unemployment in 2009.
Now, since it is an immutable rule of politics that nothing good ever happens except thanks to humble, hardworking politicians, there has been a Texas-size dog-pile over who should get to take credit for the jobs boom. King of the Hill has been Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose truncated run for the White House in 2012 was predicated almost entirely on his job creation claims. Texas is responsible for a large percentage of the jobs created in America since the recession ended in June 2009, and while its unemployment rate has ticked up slightly in recent months to 6.4% thanks to labor market growth, it continues to generate work in everything from construction to manufacturing to financial activities to mining.
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Incentives for Business Scrutinized in Texas
From: Texas Tribune
The billions of dollars in incentives that Texas hands out to businesses each year are set to draw fresh scrutiny this week on the heels of a New York Times series that raised new questions about the practice while also ruffling some feathers.
On December 3, the Times devoted Part 2 of its three-part “United States of Subsidies” series to Texas. The article alleged that the state gives out $19.1 billion a year in business incentives, far more than any other state. (Disclosure: The Texas Tribune has a content partnership with The New York Times.)
The question of whether Texas’ incentive programs are effective or too generous has long stirred debate among state lawmakers, some of whom have criticized them as ”corporate welfare.” After the 2011 legislative session, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus directed legislative committees to study the programs.
Two committees are scheduled to examine the state’s approach to economic development this week. The Senate Economic Development Committee will hear testimony Tuesday on state programs designed to encourage investment from the state’s largest industries. On Wednesday, a select joint committee on economic development, which includes House and Senate members and private citizens, will meet to hear testimony “concerning state and local economic development policy.” Among the committee’s members is George Brint Ryan, an influential Dallas-based tax consultant whose firm helps businesses land incentives in Texas and who was featured prominently in the Times story.
Report: Dallas-Fort Worth among 3 U.S. areas to recover fully from recession
From: Dallas Morning News
North Texas is one of only three U.S. metropolitan areas that have fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution.
Output per capita, which measures standard of living, fell 6.1 percent in North Texas during the worst year of the crisis. Employment dropped 3.7 percent in 2009, according to Brookings’ report, which tracked growth in the world’s 300 largest metropolitan economies.
North Texas has stormed back to its pre-recession peak on both measures. Austin and Houston have reached their pre-recession employment levels but haven’t fully recovered in terms of standard of living, Brookings found.
San Antonio has seen employment grow since the recession. But output per capita has fallen, indicating the area is in a partial recession, Brookings said.
North Texas’ gains have been driven by growth of financial and professional services and energy production, said Emilia Istrate, an associate fellow at Brookings’ metropolitan policy program.
Texas projects highlighted in national ‘wasteful spending’ report
Two expenditures —a $24,000 latrine on wheels in Fort Worth and two $30,000 Camaros in Kleberg County — cited in a report on “misguided and wasteful spending” in the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s terror-prevention grant program, were purchased using money from sources other than those cited in the report, said a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The DPS, which includes Texas’ homeland security agency, said that the national report —“Safety at Any Price: Assessing the impact of Homeland Security spending in U.S. cities” by Sen. Tom Coburn — is misleading in saying that the Urban Area Security Initiative paid for those items.
“The report outlines several valid concerns, and DPS agrees that the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA need to provide standardized, risk-based program guidelines that support the original purpose of the UASI program, and that is to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks,” DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said.
But the latrine on wheels was bought using money from the Metropolitan Medical Response System, Vinger said, and the two Camaros were purchased using another Homeland Security source, “Operation Stonegarden,” for patrolling on roads used to smuggle drugs, weapons and undocumented people. He said the department was looking into other examples mentioned in Coburn’s report.
Texas Economy Healthy, But Faces Cross Currents
The latest state index from Comerica Bank shows the Texas economy edged up slightly in September.
The Texas Economic Activity Index ticked up 0.2 in September to a level of 98.9. The monthly index reading is 27 points above the low hit in 2009 and eight points above the index average for last year.
“The overall economic momentum in the state remains strong, and I expect that to carry over into 2013.”
Comerica chief economist Robert Dye says Texas is benefitting from strong job growth and sales tax revenues. But he says the state also faces some crosscurrents. Residential building permits dropped back after a surge in August, while the rig count continues to fall due to low natural gas prices.
Texas added more than 600 mortgage-related jobs in 3Q
From: San Antonio Business Journal
Texas ranked the third best-performing state in the United States for mortgage employment, according to Mortgage Daily’s Mortgage Employment Index.
Michigan gained 1,442 jobs during the third quarter, the best of any other state. Iowa gained 1,229 positions and Texas gained 609 jobs statewide for the third quarter or the period from July 1-Sept. 30.
Nationwide, the mortgage industry experienced a net gain of 2,926 jobs for the third quarter, compared to a net gain of 1,335 people hired during the second quarter.
The industry would have posted stronger numbers if not for states like California, which posted a net loss of 528 jobs; Nebraska, which posted a net loss of 450 jobs; and Indiana, which posted a net loss of 400 jobs.
Bennett: Maximizing the Texas advantage
The list of accolades is long. Texas tops the nation for its business climate, time and again. It’s far too easy to take the state’s strong economy and success in growing jobs for granted.
As the legendary battlefield commander Gen. Hal Moore said, “There is always one more thing you can do to influence any situation in your favor.” As Texas lawmakers look over the landscape of challenges and opportunities before our state, they would be wise to heed General Moore’s words and pursue one more thing, then another, and another to keep Texas on top.
While Texas boasts one of the most business-friendly climates, with low taxes and a predictable regulatory structure, lawmakers cannot rest. Manufacturing constitutes 15 percent of state’s economy and Texas is the number one exporter of manufactured goods. We have to protect that standing. Other states and nations are looking for ways erode Texas’ competitive edge, especially as it relates to attracting manufacturing investment and the high-quality jobs that go with it.
Tennessee is looking to tap into the promise of oil and gas production and recently passed legislation to attract more energy producers. Louisiana passed initiatives to land major industrial relocation projects and embraced new tax policies to attract private investment. And Oklahoma is embracing tougher tort reform measures to keep more dollars and businesses on their side of the Red River.