Saturday, September 23, 2006

SA Express-News Meets Larry, With Frank

Frank Corte and I sat side by side in a question and answer session with the San Antonio Express News editorial board. Of course, Frank knew 4 of the 5 by name as he been through this rite 6 previous times. As we were waiting for the rest of the interview team to arrive, Frank talked to one team member about the recent Texas A&M versus Army football game; apparently they were at the game together.

Luckily for Frank,this was not a debate; just question-and-answer for one hour. We both answered the same questions. We actually agreed on two questions:

1. Could we work with whoever was governor? YES
2. Did we support gambling to raise money for public schools? NO

On the others, we were nearly completely opposite:

3. What could the State of Texas do about illegal immigration?

Frank: talked a good deal about homeland security and ended stating it was a federal issue.
Larry: I stated that citizenship and national borders were a federal issue, but the state should crack down on companies that are licensed by the state and are hiring illegals at below-market wages and getting by with it.

4. Tolls: for or against?

Frank: Continues to say citizens voted in 1991 by a 70% margin wanting the state to look at alternatives for the state to fund road construction including tolls.
Larry: I talked at length about tolling an existing road, the cost of a minimum gas tax hike compared to toll fees - tolls being, on average, 7 times greater; and I talked at length about Cintra and the secret contract. I reported that most folks in the many public hearings I attended agreed that a small gas tax is preferable to toll fees.
Frank commented again, saying the Texas Legislature would not vote for a gas tax but admitted a gas tax could be regional; voted on by citizens. He too thought the Cintra contract was a bad idea. (He knows which way the wind is blowing on that issue.)

5. Vouchers: for or against?

Frank: Talked at great length about his family educational needs, claiming that Northside School District could not teach his dislexic son, so he is in a private (religious) school. (His web site, however, says his son is there so that he can pray at school.) He closed by saying he supports a pilot voucher plan.
Larry: I explained that the impact of taking dollars from public schools would guarantee the schools' failure. I continued by making a case for keeping tax dollars out of tax exempt institutions because 90% of the private schools were supported by a church. I explained how bad Texas schools are nation-wide: close to last in graduation rates, low SAT scores, etc. I explained the school-within-a-school concept and suggested careful consolidation could save millions of dollars in overhead costs. I an against vouchers, and made that very clear.

6. Health care: Should Texas provide a single payer plan?

Frank said he would have to study the issue and any supporting documentation more; then talked a lot about his father, a small business owner for 55 years, who provided health care for his employees. He stated small business should not be taxed so heavily that they could not afford to provide health care for employees. He did not indicate whether he provides health care for his own employees.
Larry: I explained that I have worked in health care for over 20 years, and Bexar County already had a single payer health plan; CareLink. CareLink is insurance with premiums based on income for the uninsured. I explained that publicly-funded preventive medicine would save tax payer money by avoiding really expensive intervention when medical conditions go untreated.

7. State income tax - for or against?

Frank is against it. He actually said it is more regressive than consumer taxes and it somehow hampers home ownership.
Larry: I am against another tax until government is accountable to citizens for the taxes it already collects. I talked about the lottery claiming to provide $8 billion to education, fuel tax dollars supposedly given to public schools, as well as the fact that state parks raise over $120,000 and only receive $37,000 to operate on. I elaborated on the “shell game” going on in Austin - that funds are not being spent on what they are generated for, there is no audit trail, and until there is accountability and an extensive audit and extensive public report, no other revenue should be collected.

Now, just who do you think the E-N is gonna endorse? My guess is that it's the guy who thinks the income tax is more regressive than a consumer tax.

(Cross-posted on TXKaos and BOR)