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May 25, 2018      2:17 PM

Smith: Memorial Day Thoughts

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith writes that on Memorial Day we honor those who perished or suffered that we may live on “to love one another.” Those who today sow hate and discord should reflect upon their actions, too.

A group of people are gathered in a room. The light goes out, as lights sometimes do. Rather than change the bulb, a loud voice gathers half the room into a group that blames the others for the predicament. The others, a new bulb in one hand, fight back with the other. The room stays dark. Welcome to America, 2018.

It’s worse than that. The room is not actually dark. The loud voice is just frightening half the room that the other half wants to turn off the light. The threat of darkness is an apocalyptic fantasy that uses hatred of others to enforce loyalty to the loud voice.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 21, 2018      5:27 PM

Greenfield: Revenue is soaring

Economist Dr. Stuart Greenfield with his finger on the pulse of the state revenue situation: So what will the ending FY19 balance be? At a minimum, it will be an order of magnitude greater than the current $93.8 million

The state has postponed appropriating substantial funding to address the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, primarily relying on federal funds.  Maybe my analysis of the state’s fiscal condition as we enter the summer months of FY18 will help our snoring legislators to arise from their slumber. 

As Comptroller Hegar recently noted, sales tax increased 13.4 percent from April 2017.  This substantial increase was accompanied by substantial year-to-date (YTD) increases in other General Revenue-Related (GRR) revenue sources.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

May 18, 2018      12:57 PM

Smith: A Story to Undo Trump

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith suggests Democrats learn the lessons of rival TV networks efforts to beat Dallas and J.R. Ewing in the ratings. Tell a completely different story.

You’ve noticed, of course, that Donald Trump never smiles. The film loop running in his head comes from his beloved World Wrestling Entertainment: all Mussolini-jawed bluff, virtual body slams and cheers for the steely-eyed victor scripted in advance.

If nothing else, Trump stays on his mark, in character. Humiliated by Bill Gates, Kim Jong-un or Stormy Daniels, Trump plays on. He’s happiest as the popular soap-opera villain, the center of every televised storm.

Admit it, Texans. If Trump could wear a cowboy hat and drawl, he’d be J.R. Ewing from the 1970s’ prime-time soap, CBS’s Dallas. His character can’t grow because the show’s ratings demand his dependable menace.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 16, 2018      2:17 PM

Colbert: TEA is way off on allotments for public education

Former Rep. Paul Colbert breaks down the claim that allotments have increased 772% while student enrollment grew by 63%; and says “it is no wonder that the members of the Commission – and of the Legislature – have a hard time figuring out what is currently being spent on programs

Last Monday's article in the Quorum Report called “Allotments a growing part of school finance funding, especially in last decade may create the mistaken impression that Texas has acted to specifically increase funding for the programs that serve students with various special needs. This is the result of a Texas Education Agency presentation to the Texas Commission on Public School Finance which created that false impression by including a lot of data without proper explanation.

The biggest sources of confusion in this presentation were contained in page 5 and page 43 of the document, which you can see here.  

The page 5 headline announced that "allotments have increased by 772%” while student enrollment only grew by 63%.  Let's break that down, using these numbers reported in the article from page 43 of the presentation:  "the cost per student for special programs has grown from $336 per student in 1986 to $1,797 in 2017."

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By Paul Colbert

April 20, 2018      1:02 PM

Smith: Can We Be Saved Again by High School Civics?

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith writes that if our faith in democracy is shaken, maybe we should return together to the lessons of high school civics

Remember Texas high school civics classes? I do. They weren’t easy, at least mine at Bellaire High School in Houston weren’t easy.

Despite their thoroughness and demands on critical thinking, my civics classes offered welcome, patriotic signs of hope in a troubled time of political division and racist-driven strife, an unpopular war, and, in the very year of my senior class, 1972, troubling portents of a coming constitutional crisis.

I was reminded of those classes not too long ago when I was lucky enough to sit at dinner with former national Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele. I’d talked to conservative radio host Charlie Sykes, a critic of President Trump, at the same affair. Anti-Trump Republican Rick Wilson was there, too.

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 11, 2018      2:04 PM

Grusendorf: “We need more money,” the dilemma of school finance

Former House Public Ed Chair Grusendorf says there are no easy answers to funding the current school system and that it has “been structured to meet the needs of adults at the expense of students. That is not surprising since adults vote, and students do not.”

Listening to recent testimony before the new Commission on Public School Finance you were assured of hearing one common theme –“ We Need More Money.”  Virtually every education interest group testified to the fact.

However, no one could tell the Commission how much money is enough. 

This is not new. In fact, if you were around in in 1984 when HB 72 (the bill by which Texas moved from the Personnel Unit system to the current weighted-student funding system) was passed into law, you would have heard the same common theme: “We need more money.” 

The truth is, you can go back even further.

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By Kent Grusendorf

April 6, 2018      11:00 AM

Smith: Sis Boom Bah

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith writes that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has finally earned his Trump Team letter sweater, but wonders what the future holds for moderate Texas Republicans.

A thin, scratchy voice crackles from the little speaker nailed high on the classroom wall and protected against vandalism by a steel (not Chinese steel!) screen. “Children, we are pleased to announce that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has won his cheerleading letter sweater at Donald Trump’s Very Best High School.”

Patrick had longed for the honor since he was an underclassman apparently ineligible for Trump’s varsity squad or cabinet appointment. He cleared the last cheerleading requirement with his response to Trump’s manly man dispatching of 2,000 to 4,000 National Guardsman to the Mexican border.

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 3, 2018      5:58 PM

Grusendorf: Don’t Weaken the House?

Former Texas House Public Ed Chairman and New Leadership PAC contributor Kent Grusendorf lays out the shift of power in the House over the decades as he sees it

In the 1st Legislative Session the Texas House had six different speakers. One speaker served only six days.  In the 21st century we seem to be moving towards speakers serving six terms.  Why and how has the house speakership in Texas evolved from primarily a position of honor to a position of concentrated political power? 

Some argue that the shift over the past few decades of power from individual house members to the house speaker was necessary to elevate the power of the house vis-à-vis the Senate.  They argue that returning house rules to their historical norm would weaken the house in negotiations with the senate.

Upon analysis, this appears to be a flawed argument. 

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By Kent Grusendorf

March 28, 2018      11:48 AM

Greenfield: We are halfway through FY18 and who could ask for any more gelt?

Economist Dr. Stuart Greenfield adds up where we are with state revenue, noting that oil and gas severance taxes are far outpacing what the comptroller had estimated

Before offering my analysis of the state’s revenue situation through the first six months of FY18, I would like to thank a reader for pointing out my lack of attention and misstating the state’s revenue situation through January. 

I originally wrote that the state’s General Revenue-Related (GRR) revenues were almost collected by January which was a little outlandish.  As was pointed out, through January the expected increase ($2.3 billion) in GRR for FY18 had almost been received, not the entire $54.6 billion.

I can now report in Table 1 with certainty that the expected increase for FY18 in both GRR tax collections ($2.50 billion) and GRR total revenue ($2.30 billion) has been exceeded. GRR tax collections have increased by $2.55 billion through February, and GRR total revenue has increased by $2.59 billion.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield