Currie & Casper
Why Am I For Proposition 1
by David Currie
The Texas Transportation Funding Amendment, Proposition 1 is on the November 4, 2014 general election ballot in the state of Texas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.
The measure would divert half of the general revenue derived from oil and gas taxes from the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), also known as the Rainy Day Fund, to the State Highway Fund for the purpose of providing transportation funding for repairs and maintenance of public roads. It's anticipated that this will result in approximately $1.2 billion per year going toward transportation funding instead of the Rainy Day Fund.
I support Prop one for a very simple reason – our roads need fixing all over the place, and especially in West Texas where oilfield traffic is destroying them quickly. This is a way of letting income from oil and gas taxes fix some of the problems they are causing with our highways.
Is this the ideal way to do this? No, it is not. Money should be appropriated by the Texas Legislature to do this but that might mean raising taxes and the quickest way to get run out of the Republican Party that runs every aspect of Texas politics is dare to mention “raising taxes.” So this is the best we can do.
My late Mother, Mary Jim Currie, who died at age 94 in December of 2011 was a brilliant woman. Born in a house in Paint Rock, she lived there all her life until her last three years at Baptist Memorials. She did spend one year at Hardin-Simmons.
She had a lot of “sayings” and one of her favorites was, “you have to live in the real world.”
Well, the real world is Texas politicians love to run around saying they won’t raise taxes because they are scared that if they did do what is right, they’d get called a RINO (Republican in name only). Because a real Republican will never vote to raise taxes.
This nonsense started with a man I consider one of the worst influences in America - Grover Norquist - founder of Americans for Tax Reform. He has a “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” that 95% of the Republican members of Congress have signed which basically has them promising to never vote to raise taxes EVER. So, when we go to war with Iraq, we don’t raise taxes to pay for it, we do it “off budget.”
This national Republican mentality filters down to states and therefore all Republicans have to govern with “one hand tied behind their backs.” They have to try and fix serious problems without ever having the option of raising revenue, sort of like having to tie your shoes with one hand, not an easy thing to do.
Therefore when Republicans realize they HAVE to address some serious issues, like fixing the roads or addressing the serious water issues we face in Texas they have to figure out some “gimmick” to pay for it. This year’s gimmick is Proposition One. They can’t raise gasoline taxes or vehicle fees or do something responsible people would do because it would mean raising taxes. So, Republican leadership gives us a gimmick because that is the “real world”, the best they can do. They don’t dare show real leadership.
Friends, this is what Mother called “the real world.” If we want to fix our roads, this is the way we have to do it right now and for the foreseeable future. This will only stop when Republicans stand up to people like Grover Norquist and others who are doing great harm to this country. Or we could elect Democratic leadership in Texas!
When we truly elect leaders, this might change, but I’m not very optimistic for the near future. So if you want to fix our roads, vote for Proposition One. It’s the best we can do with leaders who won’t stand up and do the right thing.
Or you can vote no because it’s not funded the right way and is a gimmick, but then guess what, the roads won’t get fixed.
David R. Currie is the new Tom Green Democratic Chair. David is a native of Paint Rock in Concho County where family came in 1879, and continues to ranch there as well as in the Christoval area where he and his wife Loretta live. Married for over 30 years, they have a blended family of 5 children and 10 grandchildren.
He is a graduate of Howard Payne University and also has masters and doctors degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminiary in Fort Worth where he did his doctoral work on agricultural policy and the Bible and received his degree in Christian Ethics.
He is a former pastor, staff member of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission which focuses on ethical issues and religious liberty and retired Executive Director of Texas Baptist Committed. He was also sheep and goat specialist with the Texas Department of Agriculture in the 80's when Jim Hightower was Ag. Commissioner.
David is the author of two books, On the Way and Songs in the Desert as well as hundreds of articles that can be found at www.txbc.org.
He is currently the president of Cornerstone Builders and Angelo Granite Worx, and managing partner of Stonewall Ranches development company. He has served three terms as president of the San Angelo Home Builders Association, served on the Better Business Bureau board, as a board member of Howard Payne University, The Interfaith Alliance, The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and is current Vice-chair of the San Angelo Adult Literacy Council. He and Loretta are members of Southland Baptist Church.
Why Am I Against Proposition 1
by Ken Casper
Proposition 1 will transfer $1.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the maintenance and improvement of our roads.
Our state highways, especially in West Texas, need serious work, no question about that. They’ve become the victims of our thriving oil economy. The problem isn’t that we don’t have the money to fix them or that we’re unwilling to spend it. It will be spent, and the roads will be fixed, as they should be.
This situation, however, exposes another problem: our state budgeting process. It’s a mess.
Texas collects taxes that are supposed to be used to build and maintain our transportation system, but since 1970, 25% of that revenue has been diverted to education. For those too young to remember, Texas was in the midst of an oil boon back then. The revenue generated was huge, and it all went to the Transportation Department. As a result, we were able to build the best roads in the nation with millions of dollars left over. So, thanks to a referendum, a quarter of that tax money was diverted to education. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it was.
Then came the 1980s. The boon turned into a bust. Oil prices plummeted. The 25% diversion from transportation to education, however, was a matter of law and continued in force.
Meanwhile, the state budget was in turmoil as revenues rose and fell. The cure for that volatility came in 1988 with the establishment of a Rainy Day Fund. Its primary objective was to even-flow the budgetary process. In good times we put money into the fund. In lean years we draw it out. That way we don’t have to cut services, borrow money or raise taxes to balance the budget.
In 1992 state lottery proceeds were earmarked for education, but since education was already receiving some of its funding through DOT, a similar portion of the lottery income was put into the General Fund. Now, because DOT is short of the money it needs to properly maintain our ravaged roads, Proposition 1 has been placed on the ballot to take the needed money from the Rainy Day Fund.
Let me make one thing clear: Our highways will get fixed, whether we siphon off the money from the General Fund or the Rainy Day Fund. But it’s time to stop this shell game. These are the good years. Thanks to fracking, oil revenues are up, way up. In fact they’re being referred to as a windfall. So why are we even considering taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund? We should be depositing money into it. Which makes this exactly the right time to put at least one part of our fiscal house in order.
Advocates for Proposition 1 will tell you using the Rainy Day Fund is merely a temporary expedient, that it buys us time to unravel our budgeting tangle. Sounds reasonable, except this is a permanent funding change, like the 25% was 45 years ago. the shell game will go on every year—with one more shell.
Instead of kicking the can down the road yet again, let’s fix the problem. Rescind the 25% diversion from transportation to education. Use oil and gas revenue to maintain and improve our highways, which are vital to our economy. Likewise, keep all the revenue generated by the state lottery in the education fund as originally designed.
We currently have more than $8 billion in the Rainy Day Fund. That makes it an easy target for all kinds of quick fixes and pet projects. But the Rainy Day Fund isn’t a slosh fund and shouldn’t be treated that way. We have a unique opportunity to meet our fiscal goals and do things right.
Our republican form of government requires an enlightened, informed electorate. Consent of the governed is impossible without it. The heart of political power (and corruption) is fiscal control. All Texans want and deserve safe, well-maintained roads. They also need transparency and truth in budgeting in order to properly evaluate how their tax money is being spent. Will rejecting Proposition 1 straighten out our fiscal process once and for all? Certainly not. This particular shell game is but one of many in our multi-billion-dollar budget. But it’s a start. If not now, when?
Ken Casper was born and raised in New York City a long time ago. He graduated from Fordham University with a degree in Russian Studies and shortly thereafter went into the Air Force. He received Intelligence training at Goodfellow AFB, was assigned to Japan, Vietnam and Germany, after which he returned once more to Goodfellow. Here he met and married his wife, Mary. Three months later he was reassigned to Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada.
After another seven years of assignments as a civilian to Camp Pendleton in California and Luke AFB in Arizona, he, his wife and daughter came back to San Angelo, where he headed an Intelligence training branch at Goodfellow. He was subsequently placed in charge of procuring $200M of new technology for the Training Center's new computer-based training system.
He retired from the Air Force Reserve as a Colonel in 1993 and from the Civil Service at Goodfellow in 1997. In 1998 he published his first Harlequin Superromance, A Man Called Jesse. Twenty-four romances followed, including Upstairs at Miss Hattie's and six NASCAR novels. During those years he became good friends with Dr. Pres Darby. In 2011, shortly before Pres's death from ALS, they published a joint novel, Mankillers, a Civil War thriller. Since then, Ken has published three Jason Crow mysteries set in West Texas.
A staunch conservative, Ken was the second president of the San Angelo TEA Party, 2010-2011, and has remained active in local politics ever since.