Texas Budget Winners and Losers of 2015


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Border Spending

“The border funding was substantially increased, this time we ended up giving about $800 million to the border for border security, and I think that’s almost more than $300 million [more] than we did the last session.” — Rep. Sylvester Turner from Houston (D)

Medicaid Spending

Eva de Luna Castro, budget analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, says the $61 billion legislators budgeted for the next two years of Medicaid almost certainly won’t be enough. “What basically happened was the full amount of cost for Medicaid isn’t in this budget that they passed–they left medical inflation out, so that’s like assuming that your rent isn’t going to go up in this year. You know it probably will be, but you just aren’t going to deal with it right now.”

Correctional Officers

Turner says they were big winners. “They received a pay boost of 8.8 percent,” he says. “That was certainly needed, because the prison system has been facing a vacancy rate of anywhere between 3,000 to 3,500 correctional officers mainly because we have not been able to compete with the private sector.”


Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, says the legislature funded the Department of Public Safety with general revenue and left gasoline tax revenues for the Department of Transportation to maintain the roads. But…

“…Well, I mean, it’s an additional $1 billion a year in roads which is a good thing, however TxDOT estimates they need anywhere from $3 to $5 million additional each year just to maintain the current level of congestion.”

Tax Cuts
It’s a mixed bag depending on who you ask.

“Tax cuts will have a good impact,” Craymer says. “Puts more money in people’s pockets that helps stimulate the economy.”

But de Luna says the cuts are a bad thing. “If you looked at where the tax cuts—where the benefit goes—the franchise tax, for example, was about $2.6 billion of that roughly $4 billion in tax cuts that the legislature made,” de Luna says. “A third of that franchise tax cut goes to out-of-state. It doesn’t even help companies here in Texas.”

Two Bills That Could Affect Your Insurance Coverage

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Sometimes filing an insurance claim can seem like a staring contest. You versus your insurance company – and your insurance company has eye drops.

Anna Bohart’s office building was badly damaged in March 2012 – that’s when a record strong hailstorm hit McAllen.

“It looked like a tornado had come into the city, there were no leaves left on the trees, limbs had been broken, pets had been killed because of the hail,” Bohart says. “The buildings looked liked they had measles they had been so pockmarked with hail hitting the buildings.”

But Bohart says the real headache came when she started to file a claim with her insurance company.  “I had to call or email every day for 12 months practically,” Bohart says. It took public and private adjustors and dozens of phone calls before she got a check.

“It was terrible because you wanted to stay as nice as you could with someone who wasn’t cooperating or at least wasn’t answering, they would answer but they wouldn’t provide you with an answer,” Bohart says.

Attorney Mark Kincaid says some insurance companies make the process complicated because they want you to give up. “Insurance companies always have an economic incentive to deny the claim because they make more money that way,” says Kincaid.

But Senator Larry Taylor says he filed Senate Bill 1628 because fraudulent legislation is slowing the insurance industry down. “These is one of the issues if we allow it to keep going, the consumer is going to pay for it either through higher premiums or they’re going to lose coverages,” Taylor says.

Consumer advocates say the bill would make it almost impossible to sue your insurance company. “What would happen to consumers is they would be denied any effective remedy against insurance companies,” Kincaid says.

Senator Taylor says that’s just not true. “We’re not taking away people’s right to sue, I’m a big believer in the right to trial of your peers – if you have a legitimate complaint you should be allowed to take that to court,” Taylor says.

So will the bill pass? Alex Winslow with consumer protection group Texas Watch says if it does, you probably won’t even hear about it.

“Insurance is not an exciting topic, the insurance industry would like to use the fact that this is a dry topic in hopes that people won’t pay attention,” Winslow says.

Winslow says if the words “insurance”, “claims” and “lawsuits” make a lot of people’s eyes gloss over. The Senate bill is currently pending in commtitee and the House bill has not yet been heard.

Lobbyists Push Legislature to Open up Rules on Alcohol Sales


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Texas has a few laws surrounding alcohol: liquor stores are closed on Sundays,  you can’t put the American flag on beer bottles, and publicly traded companies can’t own liquor stores.

Travis Thomas says it’s only a matter of time before that last law is changed. He’s the spokesman for Texans For Consumer Freedom, a lobby that wants the law removed.

“To exclude public companies from competing is arbitrary, is anticompetitive and when you consider the fact that retail stores of all kinds all compete with publicly traded companies and they do not enjoy state-mandated protections,” Thomas says. “So then what is it that makes the retail liquor market different?”

Thomas says a public company doesn’t mean what it sounds like when it comes to the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission.

“According to TABC, a public company is one that has more than 35 shareholders,” Thomas says. “Now there are many, many companies that are not publicly traded that have more than 35 shareholders.”

Brookshires Grocery is the latest one of those publicly traded companies to join the Texans for Consumer Freedom, whose members include Costco, Walmart and the Texas Business Association. The lobby says it wants to amend existing state laws and has backed bills filed in the Texas House and Senate that would eliminate the prohibition on publicly traded companies.

Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, filed one of those bills. He says that existing laws are against the principles of Texan’s belief in free market capitalism.

“We filed the bill, so we’re waiting on filing a request on the committee hearing,” Isaac says. “Once the bill goes through the committee hearing, we’re going to have testimony on both sides, and then you request a vote on the bill and then it goes to another committee called the calendars committee.”

Isaac says that he’s hopeful his bill will pass.

“Once they’re voted on the floor of the House, if they’re voted on favorably, it would go over to the senate.”

The bill has to pass those legislative hoops before it would change a law that’s been on the books since 1995—and the governor would still have to approve.