Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Texas vs. California Update for April 15, 2015

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Hope you’ve finished your taxes already! Time for another Texas vs. California update:

  • Detroit and Stockton’s bankruptcies may signal further problems nationwide, says New York Fed President William Dudley. “While these particular bankruptcy filings have captured a considerable amount of attention, and rightly so, they may foreshadow more widespread problems than what might be implied by current bond ratings.”
  • The Texas senate approves a $211.4 billion biannual budget, which will need to be reconciled with the $209.8 billion House budget. Both budgets offer tax relief, but of different kinds.
  • The senate also zero funds two rogue agencies the Texas Racing Commission and the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. Expect Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, with deep ties to the gambling industry, to go to the mat to save the Racing Commission.
  • The Texas senate has also passed signifcant spending limit reform in Senate Bill 9.
  • CalPERS raises contribution rates by 6%.
  • California senate OKs yet another restrictive energy policy bill. Yet another in their continuing “Let’s send as much business to Texas as possible” acts…
  • Los Angeles Unified School District extends lavish employee benefits package another three years, despite existing underfunded liabilities. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California sets aside $261 million for cost overruns on its already pricey high speed rail boondoggle.
  • California’s drought is something environmentalist liberal elites have brought on themselves: “Those who did the most to cancel water projects and divert reservoir water to pursue their reactionary nineteenth-century dreams of a scenic, depopulated, and fish-friendly environment enjoy lifestyles predicated entirely on the fragile early twentieth-century water projects of the sort they now condemn.”
  • More on the same theme.
  • San Diego builds a desalinization plant (Hat tip: Moe Lane.)
  • Central California is already starting to suffer water-related thefts.
  • In the wake of the Vergara ruling, California Republicans want to overhaul how teachers are hired and fired. Naturally teacher’s unions are opposed…
  • Judge rules that California must pay for sex change operations for prisoners on Eight Amendment grounds. “To contend that ‘forcing’ a prisoner to continue as a man violates the Constitution is absurd…It is nonsensical to grant imprisoned convicted felons health-care ‘entitlements’ that many law-abiding, hardworking taxpayers don’t enjoy.”
  • California prostitutes demand prostitution be legalized. You’d think they’d get a sympathetic hearing from California’s Democrat-controlled legislation, what with all they have in common… (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Stanford student council candidate grilled over Colleging While Jewish. This could go in the regular LinkSwarm, but I noticed that both of these recent incidents took place in California.
  • Texas vs. California Update for April 2, 2105

    Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup. The Texas House passed a budget, but I haven’t had a chance to look at it in any detail yet…

  • Unemployment rates in February: National average is 5.5%, Texas at 4.3%, California at 6.7%.
  • Even though hiring slowed to 7,100 new jobs in Texas in February, it was still the 53rd straight month of positive job creation, and Texas added 357,300 new jobs over the preceding 12 months.
  • A report from the Dallas Fed goes into more details.
  • California institutes mandatory water restrictions due to drought. California is indeed suffering a horrific drought, but it’s imposition of or acquiescence to idiotic environmental restrictions (see also: Delta Smelt) have made things much worse.
  • Some have proposed free market solutions to California’s water problems.
  • Workers comp abuse at LAPD/LAFD. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Add Richmond, California to the list of cities that have radically underfunded their public employee retirement plans. “The shortfall of $446 million works out to about $4,150 for every city resident.” (Ditto.)
  • San Bernardino reveals its bankruptcy deal with CalPERS. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Volokh the Younger examines the legal framework around the California rule (“not only that public employees are entitled to the pension they’ve accrued by their work so far, but also that they’re entitled to keep earning a pension (as long they continue in their job) according to rules that are at least as generous”), as well as its practical effects:

    The California rule distorts what the salary/pension mix would otherwise be, given employer and employee preferences, and given the tax code as it is. Because underfunded pensions are a popular form of deficit spending, public employee compensation may already be too pension-heavy, and the rule makes it more so by freezing pensions in times of retrenchment. The incentive effects of the rule, given the political economy of government employment, may well exacerbate this tendency. And the possible theoretical reasons for preferring a pension-heavy mix don’t go very far in justifying this particular distortion.

  • California runs out of room on death row. Maybe they could subcontract to Texas…
  • Fresno’s deputy police chief busted on drug charges.
  • George P. Bush Bans Comic Sans

    Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

    This is one of those rare April Fools jokes that works as both a joke as sound policy:

    In tandem with his plan to foster technological innovation at the Texas General Land Office, Commissioner George P. Bush today announced an agencywide ban on the use of the font Comic Sans in all agency documents and correspondence:

    “As land commissioner, I am committed to making the GLO a technological leader in state government. While this unrefined font is appropriate for early childhood instruction in our Texas schools, the use of Comic Sans is not befitting when conducting business on key matters concerning the state of Texas. Comic Sans has no place at an agency positioning itself as a technological pioneer.”

    And the tell a bit further down:

    “Current agencywide substitute font recommendations are Helvetica, Times New Roman, or even Arial,” Elam said. “Any of the standard ones really. Except Papyrus. It’s terribad.”

    Comic Sans+

    Wallace Hall Fires Back at Straus

    Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

    After the grand jury failed to indict him, Wallace Hall fired back at Texas House Speaker Joe Straus:

    “The campaign by Speaker (Joe) Straus, Representative (Dan) Flynn and Senator (Kel) Seliger to criminalize my service as a Regent constitutes abuse of office,” Hall said in a statement. “Their use of the levers of political power to cover up wrongdoing by legislators should now be investigated, and those exposed for their abuses should be driven from office.”

    The piece also points out the numerous vested interests of people who have weighed in against Hall.

    Grand Jury Declines to Indict Wallace Hall

    Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

    That should be the headline as yet another establishment attempt to punish UT regent Wallace Hall for the crime of actually doing his job fails. Or, if you prefer: “Wallace Hall: More Honest Than a Ham Sandwich.”

    But chances are good that you’ve seen headlines like “Jury Criticizes Wallace Hall” or “Wallace Hall should step down,” based on four pages of “recommendations” from the Travis County jury. The lack of an indictment is important, the non-indictment condemnations are just dicta, statements of opinion that have no force of law. We do not let grand juries establish public policy for the same reasons we don’t have legislatures indict random citizens for crimes: it is not among their enumerated responsibilities.

    Those trying to bury UT’s admissions scandal have thrown everything possible at him, but Hall has been proven right time and time again. After the latest grand jury shenanigans, Hall is still standing while UT President Bill Powers was forced to resign in disgrace.

    Further attacks on Hall will only continue to prove that his critics are spiteful, petty defenders of corruption.

    Austin Getting Ready To Declare War on BBQ

    Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

    Austin has one of the nation’s best barbecue joints in Franklin Barbecue. So how does the city celebrate that fact? If you’re the People’s Republic of Austin, you see if you can kill the goose that lays the golden eggs through over-regulation!

    A proposed city council resolution could threaten Austin’s continued status as an international destination for Texas barbecue. District 3 council member Sabino “Pio” Renteria is spearheading a code change to limit barbecue smoke in residential areas, as reported by KUT. Pitmaster Aaron Franklin tells Eater if such a code were to pass, it could force Franklin Barbecue and many other barbecue joints in Austin to go out of business.

    The proposed code change would require any restaurant or food truck using “a wood or charcoal burning stove or grill” within one hundred and fifty feet of residential zoning to install an exhaust system known as smoke scrubbers. Franklin estimates the cost of such a system would run between $15,000 and $20,000, which he says is not an option for even his hyper-successful business. “Cost aside, the barbecue would not be the same—it would modify how the cooker smokes,” Franklin says. “If this resolution passes, we would be forced to close or move. It would destroy Austin barbecue.”

    Yes, because so many normal people (as opposed to radical vegetarians) hate the smell of barbecue.

    Franklin has threatened to move if the ordinance passes. Mr. Franklin should feel free to move up to Williamson County, where people appreciate barbecue and he won’t be hassled by The Man…

    Followup: Villalba Pulls Police Filming Bill

    Sunday, March 29th, 2015

    It turns out that even the supposed beneficiaries of state Rep. Jason Villalba’s unconstitutional and ill-conceived H.B. 2918 are opposed to it as well.

    “Dallas Rep. Jason Villalba withdrew his proposal — which would incriminate independent bloggers who film police activity within 25 feet, or 100 feet if they carry a handgun — from a committee meeting Thursday.

    “That came a day after he heard complaints from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.”

    Given the nigh-on-universal opposition, one wonders why Villalba came up with such an appallingly stupid bill, and why he foolishly defended it from widespread criticism for so long.

    (Hat tip: Push Junction.)

    Texas vs. California Update for March 26, 2015

    Thursday, March 26th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • Forget all those snide liberal cracks about Texas’ public education system, since we have some of the highest graduation rates in the country.

  • “San Bernardino has defaulted on nearly $10 million in payments on its privately placed pension bond debt since it declared bankruptcy in 2012.”

    The missed payments illustrate the trend among cities in bankruptcy to favor payments to pension funds over bondholder obligations, which has increased the hostility between creditors and municipalities.

    San Bernardino declared last year that it intends under its bankruptcy exit plan to fully pay Calpers, its biggest creditor and America’s largest public pension fund with assets of $300 billion.

    The city continues to pay its monthly dues to Calpers in full, but has paid nothing to its bondholders for nearly three years, according to the interest payment schedule on roughly $50 million of pension obligation bonds issued by San Bernardino in 2005.

    If you’re a bank, a retirement fund, or a hedge fund, why on earth would you buy California municipal debt when there are safer alternatives? (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ Doom roundup.)

  • So how’s that San Francisco minimum wage law working out? Exactly like everyone who understands economics expected. “Some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland’s Chinatown have closed after the city’s minimum wage was raised. Other small businesses there are not sure they are going to survive, since many depend on a thin profit margin and a high volume of sales.” Plus this: “Low-income minorities are often hardest hit by the unemployment that follows in the wake of minimum wage laws. The last year when the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate was 1930, the last year before there was a federal minimum wage law.”
  • California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office suggests phasing out state health care for workers entirely.
  • California is dead last in spending transparency among the 50 states, with an F rating and a piddling score of 34. Texas ranks 13th with an A- and a score of 91. (Hat tip: Cal Watchdog.)
  • “North Texas gained an average of 360 net people per day from July 2013 to July 2014, a testament to the job-creating machine in the Lone Star state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau…North Texas and Houston were the only metropolitan areas to add more than 100,000 people during that one-year period.”
  • Just because California has some of the highest taxes in the nation doesn’t mean that the state’s Democratic legislature doesn’t want to add still more.
  • Meanwhile, the Texas Senate just passed a $4.6 billion tax cut.
  • California is rolling out more subsidies for Hollywood.
  • The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power not only has the highest employe costs in the country, it also ranks last in customer satisfaction. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • While Texas is certainly in much better shape than California on public employee pensions, things here are not entirely cloudless either. “The Texas Employee Retirement System is reporting unfunded liability of $14.5 billion in 2014, compared with liability of just $6.3 billion in 2013. By comparison, all of the state government’s general obligation debt as of 2013 was $15.3 billion. The Texas Law Enforcement and Custodial Officer Supplemental Retirement Plan is reporting unfunded liability of $673.1 million in 2014, compared with $306.7 million in 2013.”
  • Unlike California, Texas looks to get ahead of the curve on pension concerns with House Bill 2608, which restores control of pension funds to the local level by eliminating legislative approval for pension changes. I”nstead of locking up significant benefits in state statute, HB 2608 would allow city pension systems, like the Houston Firefighters’ Relief & Retirement Fund, to solve pension problems at the local level by changing benefit structures, if they so chose.”
  • “Support for the “bullet train” is ebbing across California, except, perhaps, in the Governor’s mansion.”
  • California raisin packer West Coast Growers files for Chapter 11.
  • American Spectrum Realty, a real estate investment management company that operates self-storage facilities under the 1st American Storage brand, has somehow managed to file for bankruptcy in both California and Texas. I think it’s safe to say that financial shenanigans are involved…
  • Lawsuit over misappropriated funds in a Napa Valley winery leads to a murder/suicide. It’s one of those stories that sounds too strange not to link to…
  • Ted Cruz’s Presidential Race Announcement Speech

    Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

    Here’s Ted Cruz’s full kickoff speech for his 2016 Presidential campaign:

    Ted Cruz Announces Presidental Run With a Tweet

    Monday, March 23rd, 2015

    Despite advance word that Cruz would announce his run today, he actually did so with a tweet Sunday night:

    Cruz had a very strong social media team for his 2012 Senate race, so this move isn’t a big surprise. Now we’ll see if it, and his early jump, can get him any separation in a very crowded field…