Friday, March 27, 2009

What the ETF?

The announcement from the governors office was probably meant to evoke a commitment for Texas to lead the nation in medical research and higher education.

Instead, the governor's announcement of a $50 million grant to create the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing (NCTM) at Texas A&M System has become his blunder of the week. Governor Perry's press release tried to generate excitement about this new laboratory:
The center will be an international destination for research and development of medications to combat diseases such as cancer, diabetes and influenza, and will serve as a model for future national facilities that will protect the nation from bio-terror threats and attacks.

“There is no question that the biotechnology industry is essential to developing products that can improve and save lives, and Texas is working to foster continued growth of this industry within the state,” said Gov. Perry. “I want Texas to be the place where innovative ideas can go from the lab room to the marketplace and this ETF investment will play an important role in bridging that gap. The development of this center will bring Texas to the forefront of the international stage of disease and biotechnology research and drug manufacturing.”

Hold the presses. What is this ETF the governor speaks of. His press release explained that:

The ETF is a $200 million initiative created by the Texas Legislature in 2005 at the governor’s request and was reauthorized in 2007. A 17-member advisory committee of high-tech leaders, entrepreneurs and research experts reviews potential projects and recommends funding allocations to the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house.

For more information on the ETF, please visit
The Emergency Technology Fund (ETF) seems to catch Texas lawmakers off guard. The Austin American Statesman reported in an article today by Jason Embry and Ken Herman about the firestorm brewing over the use of ETF funding:
When Gov. Rick Perry and two other state leaders gave the Texas A&M University System $50 million for a new research facility in January, they did not seek approval from a 17-member panel that usually advises them on such decisions.

Perry moved the $50 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, which the state uses to attract businesses, to the Emerging Technology Fund, which often pays for universities to partner with the private sector on technology-related projects. With the required approval from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and then-House Speaker Tom Craddick, Perry then awarded the money to the Texas A&M system for a facility for vaccine and drug-therapy research.

Perry aides had indicated previously that the advisory panel had signed off on the grant. Governor's office officials said Thursday that they misspoke.

Some lawmakers have long called for more oversight of the funds, and the grant has drawn scrutiny this week from state House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie. Pitts said he hopes to put language in the state budget that would prevent the governor from making similar transfers in the future. He said testimony from Perry aides in his committee led him to believe the advisory panel had signed off on the grant.

"Don't like it," Pitts said.

He said he plans to ask Perry aides more questions about the project when his committee meets today.

The 17-member panel usually recommends an Emerging Technology Fund project before the three state leaders sign off on it. But Perry did not seek the full panel's input on the project for the A&M system. Because the dollars started in the Enterprise Fund — and because Enterprise projects are not subject to the advisory panel — the full panel did not weigh in, said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Perry.

"The 17-member committee is advisory in nature and has no fiduciary role in the program, nor is their favorable recommendation required," Castle said.

So basically, its Perry "the Aggie" vs. the Legislature on this one. For someone that has declared his intent to be re-elected, this bad press can't be good. Who's running Ricks strategy?!? Must be an Aggie.

Sen. Hutchison & Secretary Clinton together at Dallas Women's Museum event

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, praised Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today at the Dallas Women's Museum.

Gromer Jeffers Jr., reports from the Dallas Morning News' Trail Blazers Blog:

During an emotional moment at the Dallas Women's Museum, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison praised Hillary Rodham Clinton for "keeping a confident face" during the 2008 presidential campaign when "you were getting so many disappointments."

"You were completely devastated and you never let it show on your face," Hutchison said during the forum. "That character is why you are secretary of state today."

Clinton smiled as her eyes began to water. The audience then gave her a major ovation.

Senator Hutchison and Secretary Clinton were together for what the State Department reported in a press release as:

“Stories from the Top” is the premier event of Women’s History Month hosted by The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future. The purpose of this program is to recognize and applaud the achievements and contributions of our nation’s most outstanding women while raising funds for The Women’s Museum outreach and interpretative programming targeted to girls in the area surrounding Fair Park, Texas.

Senator Hutchison is the author of American Heroines: The Spirited Women who Shaped Our Country a book published in 2004 and Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers published in November 2008.

I wonder if anyone from the Governor's Commission for Women was present at today's event?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Perry's Missed Opportunity with Mexico

The latest news from Mexico is bad. Really bad. Over the weekend the El Paso Times reported in an article written by Diana Washington Valdez that:
Mexican authorities have excavated more than 100 bodies of men and women from clandestine graves in Juárez over the past 14 years.

The latest such grave -- with the bodies of seven men and two women -- was discovered March 13-14 in a desert patch near the Villas de Alcala area in far northeastern Juárez, across the border from San Elizario.

Marisela Ortiz, a founder of the Nuestras Hijas, said "the Mexican government itself will be on trial in the case before the international court."

Jaime Hervella, an El Paso businessman and co-founder of the International Association of Relatives and Friends of Disappeared Persons, is asking the FBI to help families of victims find relatives who may be missing in Mexico.

A Juárez member of the organization contends the cartel is suspected of abducting more than 900 people during the past 14 years, including 30 to 50 U.S. citizens.

"We would like for the FBI to help the families who want to know if they match the DNA samples taken from victims of the (clandestine) graves in Juárez," Hervella said. "The families are afraid of the Mexican authorities, and won't go to their offices.

Wow, mass graves in Mexico that are in all probability linked to drug cartels?!? The last time Americans heard about mass graves was nearly ten years ago during the Bosnian-Serbian war.

As if that weren't enough to worry folks along the Mexico/Texas border, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory to Americans on February 20, 2009:

Mexican drug cartels are engaged in an increasingly violent conflict - both among themselves and with Mexican security services - for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the U.S.-Mexico border. In order to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed troops in various parts of the country. U.S. citizens should cooperate fully with official checkpoints when traveling on Mexican highways.

Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades. Large firefights have taken place in many towns and cities across Mexico but most recently in northern Mexico, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. The U.S. Mission in Mexico currently restricts non-essential travel to the state of Durango and all parts of the state of Coahuila south of Mexican Highways 25 and 22 and the Alamos River for U.S. government employees assigned to Mexico. This restriction was implemented in light of the recent increase in assaults, murders, and kidnappings in those two states. The situation in northern Mexico remains fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements cannot be predicted.

The situation in Ciudad Juarez is of special concern. Mexican authorities report that more than 1,800 people have been killed in the city since January 2008. Additionally, this city of 1.6 million people experienced more than 17,000 car thefts and 1,650 carjackings in 2008. U.S. citizens should pay close attention to their surroundings while traveling in Ciudad Juarez, avoid isolated locations during late night and early morning hours, and remain alert to news reports. A recent series of muggings near the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez targeted applicants for U.S. visas. Visa and other service seekers visiting the Consulate are encouraged to make arrangements to pay for those services using a non-cash method.

All of this alarming news gave Governor Perry a unique opportunity to take the national stage during a moment of not just an international border crisis, but a crisis affecting border towns in Texas. Yet instead of working to foster stronger relations with federal and state agencies to protect communities along the Texas border, the Governor instead asked the White House for a martial law like response.

Today's press release from the Governors office provides his reasoning (and seemingly whining) about the President's refusal to send troops to Texas' border:

Statement by Gov. Rick Perry on the Obama Administration's Plan to Combat Mexican Drug Cartels:

"Texas is pleased the Administration recognizes that securing the U.S.-Mexico border is vitally important to public safety and homeland security.

"While we appreciate the additional investigative resources, what we really need are more border patrol agents and officers at the bridges to conduct increased northbound and southbound inspections, as well as additional funding for local law enforcement along the border to deny Mexican drug cartels access to the United States.

"I have asked the Administration for an immediate deployment of 1,000 additional National Guard troops to support civilian law enforcement and border patrol agents and remain hopeful that we will get the resources we need. The state of Texas will continue to fill in the gaps until the federal government provides adequate resources necessary to secure our border and protect our citizens from those seeking to do us harm."

Texas is currently spending $110 million to secure the Texas-Mexico border and the governor has requested an additional $135 million from the Texas Legislature to continue these border security efforts and combat transnational gangs.

Here are a few steps Perry could have taken:

  • Inviting the Governors of New Mexico, Arizona and California to Texas for a "border state summit";
  • Sending envoy's to the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and Coahuila -- the Texas Secretary of State's office already works with Mexican states on other issues;
  • Sending the Governor's Director of Homeland Security, Steve McCraw, to border communities to get intel of his own from those that live there;
  • Specifically requested money for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to setup temporary task forces with local law enforcement to combat drug cartels in Texas communities.

Asking the legislature for another $25 million isn't going to do much. With the upcoming gubernatorial election just 587 days away, Governor Perry needs to demonstrate real leadership. Whining about the President not sending troops to the border in a martial-law like manner isn't going to get many votes.

Today's New York Times reminded Americans that:

The suggestion by Mr. Obama that American troops might be moved toward the border to combat drug cartels prompted Gen. Guillermo Galván, Mexico’s defense secretary, to assert that no deployment of foreign soldiers would be allowed on Mexican soil. History was at the root of the concern here, as even Mexican schoolchildren know of the war a century and a half ago in which the United States seized half of Mexico’s territory.

To understand a more about the drug cartels impact on border states, click here to watch an ABC News report that aired earlier today.

As Texans we certainly expect more solutions and clearer stances from Senator Hutchison as she moves from her exploratory committee to actually announcing her official intent to run against Rick Perry.

The Difference between Perry & Hutchison on Unemployment?

Yesterday's speeches by both the Senator and Governor made several of us scratch our heads about where each stood on the subject of stimulus funding for unemployment.

Click here for a link to the Houston Chronicle's video interview with Senator Hutchison at yesterday's Texas Daily Newspapers Association meeting.

Senator Hutchison would be wise to understand that nearly one million Texan's are out of work. With funds for the Texas Workforce Commission expected to become insolvent within six months, this issue should be a high priority. If the Senator were to clearly set herself apart from Governor Perry's outright rejection based on the claim that the State's legislature has opposed the type of unemployment insurance coverage required by the federal stimulus bill, she could probably jump up in the polls a bit.

With so much media attention on this issue, its clear that the November 2, 2010 gubernatorial election in Texas is going to be interesting. Only 587 more days to go...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sen. Hutchison says Perry not acting like a Leader

Jason Embry has posted additional information regarding Senator Hutchison's comments during a speech earlier today at the TDNA:

“The reason Texas is in good shape today is because of the attributes that we have that neither the governor nor I produced,” Hutchison told the newspaper group, speaking a few hours before Perry.

Earlier this month, Perry announced that he did not want the state to take $556 million in federal stimulus money in exchange for broadening the state’s unemployment insurance program.

The state’s unemployment trust fund is projected to be $750 million below a required threshold next fall, which would trigger a tax increase on employers to replenish it.

A federal infusion would not make the trust fund whole or preclude the rate increase. But it would reduce the amount needed to bring it back to the required level.

Hutchison criticized Perry’s approach but did not say whether she would have also rejected the federal aid.

“I agree with him on the point that the fed government should not have mandated the specifics in the coverage,” Hutchison said. “However I believe that we look at all of the aspects of this, that we are in a position where it’s not status quo in the fund. I think there are management questions about where we are.”

She added, “A leader would be taking time to look at all of these aspects and coming up with a better solution.”

Perry has said that taking the federal dollars would have cost more in the long run.

Listen to Senator Hutchison's exchange with reporters via the Houston Chronicle's media player:

Governor Perry was the keynote speaker for the same group at the Texas Daily Newspaper Association and spoke shorly after 12:30pm. Jason Embry also included the following comments from the Governor in his post:
“Our low taxes, controlled government spending and fair legal system give us a leg up on other states,” Perry told the Texas Daily Newspapers Association on Monday.

Perry has said that taking the federal dollars would have cost more in the long run.

“I think most Texans look at Washington, D.C. today and see what’s going on up there and they’re like, ‘Listen, the last thing we want is Washington coming down here to Texas and telling us how to run our state,’” Perry said. “We have a system in place that works. The people who lose their jobs by no fault of their own are going to be covered.”

Signaling how he will run against Hutchison, Perry used the word “Washington” seven times in a 100-second exchange with reporters.

KBH wants Perry to accept $555 Million Federal for Unemployment

Senator Hutchison has made clear her stance on Perry's rejection of $550 million for unemployment from the federal stimulus bill.

The Associated Press reports:
Gubernatorial candidate Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison says Gov. Rick Perry should be looking for ways to accept $550 million in unemployment fund stimulus money but without committing the state to future federal mandates.

She told reporters at a Texas Daily Newspaper Association meeting Monday there may be a way to do that. She said Perry should be looking at every avenue to keep employers from facing higher unemployment taxes next year.

Perry faces Hutchison in the 2010 Republican primary. He recently rejected the federal money that would rescue the struggling unemployment insurance fund. He said it would commit the state to expanding jobless benefits.

Lawmakers call the move politically motivated.

Perry's aides did not immediately respond to Hutchison's remarks.

Not sure where Team Perry is or why they haven't responded. Usually the Governor's team is pretty quick at responding to comments. Perhaps they are still trying to figure out Empower Texans' conference call system from last night?

New York Times Editorial Pleads with Perry to Accept Stimulus Funding

Yesterday's editorial in the New York Times sharply criticized Governor Perry:

The unemployment portion of the federal stimulus package offers generous support to the states. To accept it, these states must make two reasonable changes in their unemployment insurance law. They must expand eligibility requirements that bar too many low-income workers from receiving compensation. And they must choose from a menu of options that include extending benefits to part-time workers and those who leave jobs because of family emergencies.

The claim by some governors that the unemployment aid would lead directly to tax increases has also been discredited. New taxes are triggered automatically when unemployment trust funds fall below specified levels. In many cases, filling their coffers with stimulus aid would actually postpone tax increases. When the stimulus money is spent, states would also be free to revert to the old unemployment insurance laws.

In Texas, Governor Perry’s decision to reject the money has sown considerable anger in the State Legislature. A House committee urged the full Legislature to overturn the governor’s decision. Lawmakers acted after seeing projections that the state unemployment fund was on track to run out of money in the fall, which would drive up taxes. Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina now says that he won’t accept $700 million in education money unless he can use it to pay down debt.

The time has clearly passed for posturing. With large numbers of people losing their jobs, Mr. Jindal and Mr. Perry need to do what is best for their states and their struggling workers.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Live Blogging: Conference call with Gov. Perry

Just dialed into the conference call, but only music plays with a recorded message reminding us that, "the conference will begin when the speaker arrives."

Still waiting. Music never changes. Same recording.

The music stopped, but because I was disconnected.

Just dialed back in. Same music. Still waiting. Same recording.

Still just hearing music and the same recording...

One can only wonder what's going on. Still the same music and recording. The conference call was scheduled to begin at 7:00pm this evening. Comment or send a msg to @kayvsrick on Twitter if you know more about what's going on?!?

Just got disconnected again. Dialing back in.

Had to dial the conference call number a couple of times to get through. Either they are having major technical difficulties or Governor Perry and guests aren't available yet.

Sources within the Perry camp advise us that the conference call is still on, but they are experiencing some technical difficulties. Meanwhile, same music and recording.

The conference call that was scheduled to begin at 7pm still hasn't started. Same music. Same recording.

Looks like the conference call has been postponed. Details to follow.

New tweet from @GovernorPerry confirms the call has been postponed:
@mslinda25 Conference call tonight with @mqsullivan postponed to another day..... looks like they had a major technical malfunction...
An email from Michael Quinn Sullivan at Empower Texans sheds further light about the technical problem:
We are sorry for the inconvenience, but the conference call this evening had to be cancelled this evening due to technical difficulties on our vendor’s end.

We hope to reschedule the call shortly.

Again, I am very sorry for the inconvenience.

Respectfully Yours,
Michael Quinn Sullivan
& the Team

The email was sent from Mr. Sullivan at 7:40pm, but ended up in many people's spam/bulk mail folder.

Conference Call with Governor Perry at 7pm

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (d.b.a. Empower Texans) is sponsoring a conference call with Governor Perry, Phil King, Geanie Morrison and Ken Paxton this evening.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, simply dial toll-free (888)-356-3090, and then enter extension 12715.

The call will be focused primarily on the effects of the federal stimulus package on Texas' taxpayers and policy.

You will be able to ask questions by pressing "0" on your phone's keypad. An operator will confirm your name and get the substance of your question so we can structure the time.

We will try to get to as many questions as possible.

The organization's website states that, "Empower Texans exists to create and sustain a system of strong fiscal stewardship within all levels of Texas government, ensuring the greatest amounts of economic and personal liberty, and promoting public policies that provide individuals with the freedom to use their strengths and talents in pursuit of greater opportunities."

I'll be live blogging during the conference call, so visit for updates!

Friday, March 20, 2009

KBH Fundraiser in Round Rock today

Gardner Shelby at the Austin American Statesman reports that a fundraiser will be held for KBH in Round Rock this afternoon:
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is scheduled to alight in Round Rock at midday Friday for a fund-raiser for her governor’s campaign hosted by the chairman-elect of the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce, Tom Vaughan, and his wife, Jana. U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, likewise is penciled in to be there; he earlier aired his support for Hutchison for governor.

Mr. Vaughan, a retiree, told me he’s supported GOP Gov. Rick Perry, but believes Hutchison deserves a shot in 2010. Hutchison and Perry are poised to face off in the March 2010 Republican primary.

“I’ve been a little disenchanted; I don’t think (Perry has) treated us as fairly as I think we should have been treated on our property taxes as well as our insurance; homeowner’s insurance specifically,” Vaughan said. And, he said, “he seems to be spending a whole lot of time on the border and not enough on education.”

Shelby's report says that, "An invitation shows tickets available for $40 for givers 25 and younger up to $500 per person on the host committee. Hutchison’s campaign has more information at 512-236-8656."

Last month the Community Impact Newspaper reported that Senator Hutchison, "was in Round Rock Feb. 17 to take part in a Republican steering committee meeting urging citizens to get involved with her campaign for Governor in 2010." Additional text from the newspaper includes:

U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-District 31, introduced the senator. Hutchison outlined key points of her campaign at the meeting, including lowering property taxes and electricity rates, reforming the education system to eliminate the high rate of dropouts, improving transportation, private property rights and access to health care.

"These are just some of the many areas to be addressed," Hutchison said. "We have to be good stewards of government so the Republicans can stay in control." Hutchison and Republicans in Williamson County and throughout the state are working to maintain Texas as a red state, she said.

Keep in mind that in December, KBH transferred $7.9 million from her federal campaign account into her state fund, which gave her an instant and early lead over Governor Perry. Around the same time, Perry reported having $6.6 million in campaign cash on hand at the end of December.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why the TWC will eventually end up with the $555 Million for Unemployment

Call it a change in political strategy or crisis management, but a lot has changed in past few days since Gov. Perry has publicly rejected the $555 Million in federal stimulus money intended to shore up Texas's unemployment funding.

This weekend a number of Texas newspapers decried Perry's rejection in editorials. An editorial in Sunday's Houston Chronicle was the first to outline a possible means of accepting the federal unemployment stimulus funding:

The governor doesn’t have to accept this on our say-so. It’s according to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. In a visit with the Chronicle editorial board on Friday, Straus said it may be possible to do a “hard sunset” on the program.

Translated from the Austinese, that means that the program could be ended when the federal stimulus dollars run out. There would be no permanent costs to the state’s business owners; no permanent changes to the state system dictated by Washington, as Perry evidently fears. Meanwhile, think of the good this would do tiding deserving folks over till the good times return. Straus said language in the stimulus bill may even offer guidance.

Then on Tuesday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram offered a little more insight into a possible plan to accept the stimulus money:

But under a proposal by commission Chairman Tom Pauken, Texas would make the mandated changes to accept the money and then revert to current law after the federal dollars run out. Pauken floated the idea at his nomination hearing in February and has since met with lawmakers in both parties to further discuss the plan.

Pauken’s efforts were made independently of Perry’s office and reflect an apparent difference of opinion between the two men.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is advancing a similar plan in legislation gaining ground in the Senate. Pauken has also been praised by lawmakers who want to overturn Perry’s rejection of the money.

Tom Pauken's efforts to go around the Governor and work with the Legislature shows what a political hot potato this has become; especially over the weekend.

A number of news outlets reported on an interesting public meeting held on Saturday in Arlington hosted by Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding

Governor Perry's rejection of stimulus money for the unemployed lead to an overflow crowd of 500 at UT- Arlington on Saturday. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports it was part of the legislature's process for deciding how stimulus money is spent.

As citizens jammed the university conference hall workers removed room partitions to double the seating. Still a hundred more stood in the hallway unable to squeeze in.

  • A new Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas prediction of the state economy said globalization and international economic turmoil “are largely overwhelming the ability to dampen the downturn through local efforts.”
  • Exports are down. The energy industry is contracting. Commercial building is facing a drop-off.
  • Unemployment is growing rapidly, with a loss of 296,000 Texas jobs predicted for this year.
  • Texas lost 75,800 jobs in January alone, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
  • There are now an estimated 797,000 unemployed Texans, with 196,000 collecting unemployment.
Nearly one million unemployed Texans... hey Rick, can you spare a dime?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Needle-exchange bill bothers Perry

Jason Embry at the Austin American-Statesman has blogged about Governor Perry's opposition to a needle-exchange bill in the Legislature:

Legislation passed in the Senate today that would allow addicts to exchange dirty syringes for clean ones could run into a veto from Gov. Rick Perry if it continues to move through the Legislature.

“The governor is opposed to the needle-exchange proposal,” said Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle. “We need to focus on substance abuse prevention, not providing an incentive to continue illegal drug use.”

0n March 3rd, Emily Ramshaw a blogger for Belo's, provided more background on the bill Perry now publicly opposes:

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee yet again passed Sen. Bob Deuell's controversial needle exchange bill - one that made it through the full Senate last session but never got a vote in the House.
The measure, which Dr. Deuell didn't always support, would allow drug addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones - which is medically proven to reduce HIV and Hepatitis transmission, and actually, to help addicts find their way into rehab. Texas is the only state in the nation that doesn't allow it.
"There has been no evidence to show doing this increases drug use," Deuell said, noting that organizations that run needle exchanges find about 20 percent of their patrons enter rehab programs. The programs generally reduce HIV infections by 30 percent - and the Department of State Health Services projects such a program would prevent 100 new cases of HIV a year in Texas.
The measure "alleviates a lot of human suffering and also saves states money," Deuell said, because the state ends up footing the bill for a lot of the HIV treatment.

If the bill were to make it through the legislature, each individual county would be able to create a needle-exchange program. Such a program would probably be seen only in urban counties like Travis, Bexar, Harris, Fort Bend, Dallas and Tarrant -- I doubt we'd ever see a needle-exchange program in Trinity County, but who knows?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Is Hutchison Spending Enough Time Campaigning?

Paul Burka of Texas Monthly suggests that she isn't, and there is good reason to agree with him.

After Sen. Hutchison announced that she will not be resigning from the Senate, the question must be asked how, exactly, will she balance campaigning with the need to be in Washington to vote in the U.S. Senate.

I realize that there is still almost a year until Election Day, but Perry has already entered campaign mode and Hutchison must follow suit soon or she will lose ground.

From Burka Blog:
Speaking of whom: Where is she? Hutchison hasn’t been heard from much. I know from the story that I wrote on the governor’s race in February that their strategy is not to engage with Perry. That is the advice that Karl Rove gave them. (There is no love lost between Rove and Perry, going back to Perry’s 1998 race for lieutenant governor. Rove wanted Bush to demonstrate his strength among Hispanic voters by carrying El Paso, and the more Hispanics he turned out, the more votes he produced for Perry’s Democratic opponent, John Sharp–at least that’s the way Perry saw it.) Hutchison is going to have to start positioning herself in this race. Perry wants to make her the candidate of Washington (as opposed to himself, the candidate of Texas), and she is going to have to burnish her GOP credentials by taking on Obama and the Democrats. Perry is not going to let her run on her personality.

So many people seem to think that Hutchison will win this primary walking away. That just isn't going to happen. Perry continues to have a strong lead among Republican men and social conservatives. As long as he can hold on to those two groups, this will be an extremely competitive and close primary.

Monday, March 16, 2009

QR: Could Perry Be Planning Special Session?

Via Twitter, Quorum Report is hearing rumors from House members that Gov. Rick Perry could call a special session to keep the focus on Voter ID and his opposition to federal bailout programs.

Of course, that is just a rumor. But we thought it was worth mentioning.

What do you think the chances of that happening are?

Update - More from QR:
But the word on the House floor today was that there are only a million Texans the governor cares about right now -- likely Republican primary voters. Both voter ID and rejecting stimulus dollars work for him with these voters. He would keep center stage as he battled Washington and "liberals", so the storyline goes.

The storyline that Perry ONLY cares about next year's primary and is putting politics before governing is gathering strength. Will it have an affect on the race? At this point, too early to tell, but KBH is likely to try to make it stick.

Dunnam, Coleman: Perry's Decision Will "Not Play Well in Conservative Circles"

From the Quorum Report:
Reps. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) and Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) predicted today that Gov. Perry’s decision to reject $555 million in enhanced unemployment insurance aid would not play well in conservative circles once people realize that the state’s employers would have to make up that money through higher unemployment taxes.

“We’re talking doubling the tax on small employers,” Dunnam said while meeting with members of the Capitol press corps this morning. He said the facts in favor of accepting the aid would make it difficult for Perry to maintain his position.

He pointed to statements made by Bill Allaway of Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) and the economist Ray Perryman yesterday in favor of taking the UI money. Perryman, who testified Thursday before Dunnam’s select committee on the federal stimulus package said that accepting the enhanced aid would have an immediate impact on the economy and would create $2.66 of economic impact for every $1 in aid. That’s due to the effect of the aid money flowing from unemployed workers into local businesses and through the rest of the economy.

So far, Perry's decision to reject the $555 million federal unemployment funds seems to have helped him rally the GOP base.

But in the long term could Dunnam and Coleman be right? Could this decision come back to haunt Perry? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Perry Campaign Uses Robo Calls to Push Supporters to Committee Hearing UPDATED

After showcasing the power of its email list last week in the Voter ID battle, the Perry campaign is once again flexing its muscle in support of legislation.

This time, Perry is rallying anti-bailout supporters to attend a House Select Committee hearing at UT-Arlington.

From the Ft Worth Star-Telegram:
Beginning with a "Howdy, this is Gov. Rick Perry," the governor's latest robocall encourages those who think like him on this issue to show up and testify at a special hearing at the University of Texas at Arlington tomorrow.

"I'm sorry I missed you but this Saturday you will have the chance to voice your frustration about the federal stimulus and the heavy cost it's going to place on Texans," Perry says in the call.

The Select Federal Economic Stabilization Funding Committee is holding the UT-A hearing to accept public testimony on the stimulus money. Local lawmakers are expected to attend. The committee was created to provide oversight on the billions coming to Texas from the stimulus package.

Perry already started an anti-bailout campaign website and his campaign will certainly continue to attack Hutchison for her past support of bailouts.

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF GOV. PERRY'S ROBOCALL, from the Ft Worth Star Telegram.

Wayne Slater: Perry's Unemployment Decision Was About GOP Primary

From Dallas Morning News political writer's Twitter feed (@WayneSlater), we learn the veteran reporter's opinion Rick Perry's decision to reject federal unemployment funds.
On "Texas Politics" on WFAA this morning; Asked if Perry's unemployment money decision was politics? Absolutely. He's appealing to GOP right.

Whether you agree with Slater or not, it will be interesting to see how the accusations that Perry is "playing politics" instead of governing play out over the next year. The accusations have come from both Hutchison backers and Democrats alike already and they aren't likely to stop anytime soon.

New Poll: Hutchison 36, Perry 30

A new poll from the University of Texas Government Department shows Kay Bailey Hutchison with a smaller lead and has many more undecided voters than previous voters.

Among respondents who said they intended to vote in the Republican primary in 2010, probable candidate US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison led Governor Rick Perry 36%-30%, with 11% saying they would support someone else and a substantial 24% undecided . (The Democratic field had not taken shape at the time the survey was designed.)

Due to the margin of error, this poll shows that the race is essentially tied. Of course, this far out, it is difficult to put too much stock in polling.

Read the rest of the polling report (pdf)

Texas Political News on Twitter

Thanks to one of our great readers, Kay vs Rick is proud to now have one of the most comprehensive collections of Texas political outlets and reporters on Twitter.

Take a look at the side bar. Other bloggers are free to use, but please credit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Perry receives award in DC, but we didn't find out until the next day?!?

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on today that:

Without publicly announcing it, Gov. Rick Perry took a taxpayer-funded trip to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to receive an award from the American Medical Association and hold a breakfast for the Texas congressional delegation the next day.

U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, said most Texas House members attended and listened to Perry talk about the stimulus, troops on the border and toll roads. Reporters were not invited to the "closed" meeting. Texas’ senators, including Perry’s likely GOP gubernatorial rival, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, weren’t there, either.

Perry’s news release announcing the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service, for Perry’s work to cap medical malpractice awards, was issued the day after he received it. The release is datelined Austin and does not mention that the event was held in Washington.

That's odd. If I were receiving an award, I'd want everyone to know about it, especially if I am the Governor from the great State of Texas. A quick scan of @GovernorPerry on Twitter shows the following three related tweets:

Flew into Washington tonight for the American Medical Association's Nathan Davis Awards. About 30 degrees warmer outside right now in Texas.

Just left Texas Medical Association reception here in Washington. They nominated me for the AMA's Nathan Davis award I received last night.

Very grateful for TMA’s support and confidence. Humbled by the award. Leaving DC for God's Country!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Perry Trying to Build Support by Rejecting Unemployment Funding and More...

In an article by Jason Embry in today's Austin American-Statesman, Governor Perry has been stepping up his legislative and seemingly conservative leadership positions in an effort to build support for his re-election bid.
The governor was very clear since Day One that he is opposed to any part of this bill that would have an undue burden on taxpayers, long after the federal funds have dried up," Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said.
Among Perry's efforts cited in the AAS article are:
  • Announcing his opposition to $555 Million in Federal Stimulus funding despite warnings from the chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, Tom Pauken, that the TWC could become insolvent within months;
  • Promoting a new "Choose Life" license plate for Texas vehicles;
  • Calling for a Texas constitutional amendment to forbid the acquisition of land for non-public use through condemnation proceedings.
Other recent moves not identified in the article include the Governors announcement through TxDOT executive director Amadeo Saenz this past January stating the controversial Texas Trans-Corridor project was canceled. Additionally, this week, the Governor took steps to mitigate a potentially damaging report about three generals in the Texas Military Forces that have been double-dipping in pay.

Perry's attempt to build support by rejecting federal dollars for unemployment didn't go unoticed by Senator Hutichinon's team. Wayne Slater was wise to write in yesterday's Dallas Morning News that essentially Hutchinson's response was short, concise and calculated:
"I hope that the governor has carefully thought through the potential outcomes of today's decision," Hutchison said in a written statement.
Now, here in Texas we like to say, them there are fightin' words.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Perry Rejects Unemployment Funds, KBH Denounces Decision

Gov. Perry has decided to reject $555 million in unemployment insurance funds for Texas. Many, including Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie, have (unsurprisingly) describes Perry's move as political posturing.
From Elise Hu's KVUE blog, here is Kay Bailey Hutchison's reaction:
I hope that the Governor has carefully thought through the potential outcomes of today's decision. With the state unemployment fund dangerously close to falling below the legal threshold, it is imperative that the Governor does nothing that potentially burdens small businesses with higher taxes in tough economic times or pushes those who have recently become unemployed and their families into further economic peril," said Hutchison, in a statement.

What do you think of Perry's decision? Tell us in the comments.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Houston Chronicle on "Perry's Perks"

As the longest serving Governor in Texas history, Rick Perry has been living on the state's dime for quite some time. In today's Houston Chronicle, Clay Robison wrote an article "Perry's perks shield him from real woes." The Perry campaign cannot like seeing stories like this ....

From the Chronicle:
Unlike thousands of his fellow Texans, Gov. Rick Perry is assured of a job for at least another 22 months and doesn’t have to worry about mortgage payments.
He has the keys to a big suburban house in Austin’s scenic hills that costs taxpayers $9,900 a month in rent.
These may not be the reasons he is threatening to snub $555 million in extra federal money for unemployment benefits for his more-mortal constituents. But the governor’s perks have made him blind and deaf to everyday realities, some critics believe.
“He’s been living off the government longer than any of these (unemployed) people ever would receive benefits,” said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.

Read the rest of the article.

What do you think? Is this a fair line of criticism?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Waco Tribune-Herald Goes After Perry on VA Hospitals

Carlos Sanchez of the Waco Tribune-Herald has a bruising editorial entitled "Thanks for nothing, Rick" that is worth a read.

From the Tribune-Herald:
Political pundits anticipate a bruising contest that will redefine the meaning of mudslinging.

And I feel compelled to get out early to compare how these powerful figures have done by Waco.

Let’s review: A federal commission recommends that the Waco Veterans Affairs Hospital be shuttered as part of a national cost-cutting effort. Hutchison steps up to the plate on behalf of Waco and convinces the then-VA secretary to reverse that recommendation and save one of this community’s economic mainstays.

Fast-forward several years. Another recommendation haunts Waco’s economic well-being: this time a staff recommendation by the Texas Department of Transportation to freeze McLennan County out of discretionary highway funding from a federal stimulus package worth $1.2 billion.

This time, the ball is in Perry’s court. His response? Absolutely nothing. A final vote by his Texas Transportation Commission last week stiffed McLennan County at a time when it has some real economic momentum for the first time in decades and when such funding could have leveraged our momentum into some real economic vitality for this community. And it would benefit everyone who travels Texas’ most strategic traffic artery.

Based on these two important moments in Waco’s development, which politician did right by us and which one took us for granted?