The Republican Party of Texas is at a crossroads. The social conservative takeover of the party took place almost six years ago. It's time to take a look at what it has meant.
During the last eight years the GOP has completed a statewide takeover of the executive and legislative branches, so "our people" are the elected leaders. This has resulted in some progress on the conservative agenda, but not as much as one would expect. The party has functioned more as a cheerleader than an actual leader on issues.
This year's choice of candidates for party office are all religious conservatives, so are there any differences?
The answer to that question is YES. Before TCR states its endorsement our loyal readers know in the last two issues we featured stories on "The Battle For the Future of the GOP in Texas" and "Myth and Facts about the Race for RPT Chair." Together, they form an intellectual basis for making a decision in the Chair's race. To add to the previous articles, TCR reviews its concerns with the actions or inactions by the RPT top leadership in the last few years:
- Property Tax caps were killed in the 2003 Legislative session and the RPT did nothing to help advance this critical cause.
- State Party is investigated for illegal use of corporate funds in state elections.
- Key state elected officials duke it out in public and the party leadership is silent and ineffective in promoting peaceful coexistence.
- Turnout for the 2004 primary is dismal for a Presidential year and it would have been considerably higher if a referendum on property tax limitations and pro-marriage wasn't spiked. The current leadership claimed going party-wide may expose our weakness on conservative issues!
- RPT is accused of playing favorites on the release of the 2004 State Convention delegate list. In a strange coincidence the interim administration's campaign sends mail to that list first.
- RPT leadership apologizes to African American leaders for slavery
- RPT Hispanic outreach didn't include a key Hispanic Organization - the Republic National Hispanic Assembly.
- RPT finances are a complex web set up to confuse and obfuscate, they lack clarity and are not an open book to party leaders.
- The Party continues to use a top down Victory program which does little for smaller counties and down ballot races.
- When the statewide debate on taxes and Robin Hood came to a head this spring and legalizing slots in Texas was pushed, the RPT Chair was stunningly silent even though hostility to legalized gambling in any form has been part of the RPT platform seemingly forever.
TCR's impression is the Party's leader's actions speak louder than their words and quite frankly the RPT has not been a leader, has no vision for the future, and has been AWOL on critical conservative issues of the day in Texas.
So what about this year? Clearly it's time for a change. Conservatives should not choose our next RPT Chairman based on familiarity or casual friendship. Conservative activists should vote for the person who will best represent our issues and core principles. TCR has examined and weighed both candidates and finds that Gina Parker is the choice for principled conservatives who want to advance our agenda.
Parker has shown boundless energy in her campaign and demonstrates an understanding of what's not working, has a vision to fix our RPT, and has the know-how to advance the social and economic conservative agenda in Texas.
She understands that Republicans in Texas are the largest underutilized interest group in the state. She wants to lead our Party not just into winning elections, but also in advancing our conservative ideas on life, family, taxes, spending, and government reform. She is the only candidate to articulate a plan to expand Party cooperation and involvement.
She is a candidate who has proven she can work with others which is of critical importance for our conservative SREC.
She is the only candidate with a plan, Texas 2020, to preserve our GOP majority into the future by working with local county parties and expanding our base into nontraditional communities. She has a plan for setting up advisory committees with key constituencies, interest groups and will hold regular leadership summits to bring us together.
This year the future of the RPT, the future of Texas and the future of principled conservatism is at stake and will be determined by who leads our state party. TCR does not make this statement lightly.
As we all know, Texas is a beacon state others follow. As a party we can reach for the stars or we can settle for just getting by. That is the choice in the race for RPT Chair. TCR for one says we need to reach for the stars with Gina Parker.
President Bush Hits It Out of the Park
in a Speech on the War on Terrorism
TCR was privileged to be present for a major address by President Bush on May 18, 2004 in Washington Park before AIPAC - the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In a speech, interrupted regularly with wild applause, standing ovations and chants of four more years, the President articulated the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world in clear, concise and compelling words. It is important you read it and share it with your friends. You can retrieve it at:
Why We Need A Marriage Amendment
By Gary L. Bauer
America suddenly finds itself in the middle of a debate over the definition of marriage. Many Americans are perplexed by this debate, and understandably so. Marriage has always meant the union of one man and one woman. But that truth is under attack from the militant homosexual rights movement and arrogant, unelected judges who have little regard for the clear language of the law or public opinion.
Moreover, the federal government has repeatedly acted in defense of traditional marriage - from denying Utah admission to the Union until it banned polygamy to passing the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). There is a proper role for federal action in the preservation of our most basic values.
Yet, despite the fact that 38 states have expressly banned homosexual "marriage," it is painfully clear that our "robed masters" on the courts will impose same-sex "marriage" on the country by judicial fiat. Already same-sex couples getting "married" in Massachusetts are preparing their lawsuits to force states like Texas to honor those "marriages."
In Lawrence v. Texas, the United States Supreme Court signaled its embrace of the radical homosexual agenda. That 6-to-3 decision leads many legal scholars to believe that the Supreme Court will strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. If they do, the states will be defenseless against the onslaught of lawsuits filed by homosexuals "married" in Massachusetts.
The surest check against our rogue courts is a constitutional amendment. I believe it is imperative that the American people forever protect traditional marriage by passing a federal marriage amendment as quickly as possible.
As I have said before, there will be a national standard for marriage. The only question is who will decide that standard: unelected judges or the American people?
Gary L. Bauer, a 2000 Republican presidential contender and former Domestic Policy Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, has quickly risen to become one of America's best-known and leading voices for conservatism. Prior to running for president, he was instrumental in the founding and development of two of America's most prominent conservative groups.
Currently, Bauer serves as chairman of one of America's leading political action committees, the Campaign for Working Families, and previously served as president of the Family Research Council, one of Washington's most respected centers for public policy.
Prior to joining FRC, Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan's administration for eight years, during the last two years as President Reagan's Chief Domestic Policy Advisor. Previously, Bauer was under Secretary of Education beginning in July 1985, when he was confirmed by unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate. While serving at the Education Department, Bauer was named Chairman of President Reagan's Special Working Group on the Family. His report, "The Family: Preserving America's Future," was presented to the President in December 1986.
TCR Comment - Campaign for Working Families can be reached at www.cwfpac.com where you can obtain an essential daily free email on public policy.
Texas Homeowners Need Property Tax Relief
By Hon. Paul Bettencourt
Are you one of the millions of Texas homeowners who have seen their property tax bills go through the roof in the past five years? If so, you need to know that property tax bills are calculated by a simple formula which is the taxable value of your home times the tax rates levied equals your tax bill. What is happening around the state is that the average appraised value of homes is skyrocketing from the Rio Grande to the Red River by nearly 48% from 1997 to 2002.
The problem in the urban areas of the state are even more severe, as these homeowners on average have seen their appraised values increase 60% from 1997 to 2002 in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. When you add on tax rate increases or decreases for counties or cities, and almost always increases for independent school districts, the actual single-family residence tax bill has risen dramatically.
Property tax bills for homes in Austin are up 89%, in Dallas 86%, in Houston 82%, in Fort Worth 71%, and by 39% in San Antonio in just the last five years of reported data from the Comptroller's Office. Homeowners in these areas cannot withstand an average $1,086 increase in their combined property tax bill that continues to go up each year by as much as four to five times the rate of inflation or their ability to pay measured by the change in median household income.
I proposed three solutions in 2002 that have been debated in the Texas Legislature at varying levels in 2003, and the special session in 2004. The state could increase maximum homestead exemption allowances for cities, counties, and school districts, reduce the 10% homestead appraised value cap on annual increases to a 5% maximum, or even consider freezing home values from the date of purchase for five years.
A bill filed by Representative Bohac, with dozen of bi-partisan co-authors, to limit real-property appraisal value increases to 5% annually, passed 134-0 in the House but died in the Senate in 2003.
In 2004, Governor Perry proposed a 3% homestead appraisal cap and the House leadership embedded a 5% homeowner appraisal cap in their School Finance Reform Bill in the recent special session because once school property tax rates are cut, everyone realizes the importance of keeping property tax bills from re-inflating faster than the homeowners ability to pay.
The problem around the state is quite simply that as appraisals go up, tax rates are not cut by local elected officials, and as a result, all taxing units took in 54% more property tax revenues in these same five years. That is almost $10 billion more in revenue that was spent by all local governments from 1997 to 2002, and the only way that this spending habit of government can be easily controlled is by the taxpayers keeping some of these yearly property tax increases in their own pocketbooks!
The Texas Legislature will vote on property tax relief in either the next special session or by the start of the regular session in 2005 as part of the continuing School Finance Reform debate. Just a 5% appraisal cap, if passed, could save $150 for the owner of a $100,000 taxable value residence in the first year of implementation, adding up to a cumulative $2,741 by year five as compared to the existing 10% cap under current property tax law. This is an important public policy initiative that could be a solution to rising homeowner property tax bills around the state.
You can get a complete copy of these statewide statistics and written property tax relief testimony to the State Legislature at www.hctax.net. Any truly comprehensive solution on property tax relief will require a constitutional amendment voted on by the public, so do not hesitate to get informed on this important issue for all Texas homeowners!
Paul Bettencourt, was elected Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector in November 1998. The hallmark of his administration has been smart government which he sees as accountability to the taxpayer.
Paul recognizes that taxpayers are customers and remains committed to improving customer service and reducing costs for the taxpayers of Harris County. He has led the effort to modernize the Harris County Tax Office by implementing new systems in automobile, property tax, and voter registration services. His efforts have lowered his department's budget. Bettencourt is also a key statewide leader in the fight for lower taxes.
The Solution for Teacher Shortages:
By Royal Masset
An editorial in the Austin American-Statesman on February 26, 2004 proclaimed, "Either this state values teachers and will take appropriate steps to ensure they are up to the challenge of educating Texas students, or it doesn't, and will permit unqualified instructors into its classrooms." The editors, along with many other editorial boards in Texas, don't understand what is causing teacher shortages. Their ideas for solutions are usually bad ones provided by teacher unions.
Most areas of teaching do not have shortages. Wouldn't it make sense to know where teacher shortages exist in order to know where the problems were and then come up with solutions that would solve them? According to the Teacher Demand Study, in 2000-2001 the area with the highest teacher shortage was Elementary Bilingual/ESL where 48% of newly hired teachers were not certified.
One good measurement of teacher shortages is the number of teachers who are uncertified in given areas. The second highest area of teacher shortage was Secondary Bilingual/ESL where 40% were not properly credentialed. Secondary Foreign Language was at 36%, Technology at 33%, Special Ed. at 33% and Science at 30%.
The two categories with the greatest shortfall relate to bilingual education and teaching classes to students where English is a second language. This obviously caused by the fact that the percentage of Hispanic students is increasing rapidly. In the 1996-97 school year, only six years ago, 46% of all students were Anglo and 37% were Hispanic. In the 2002-2003 school year 40% of all students were Anglo and 43% were Hispanic.
The number of Anglo students has dropped while the number of Hispanic students has increased 342,000 in the last five years. Many if not most of those new Hispanic students speak English as a second language, if at all. Far more important to their future ability to learn, than traditional certification, is whether they have teachers with the ability to either speak fluent Spanish or at least teach in a manner they can understand.
There are simply not enough bilingual/ESL teachers in the traditional teacher college credentialing process pipeline to remotely meet the demands of Hispanic students for decades to come. We can only find enough Bilingual/ESL teachers by broadening our net for attracting applicants. Bonus pay will be helpful but because of the great shortfall in credentialized teachers who speak fluent Spanish, some form of alternate certification is essential.
Three of the remaining four subjects where there is a shortage of credentialed teachers are in Secondary School and are the result of job competition from the marketplace: Foreign Language, Technology (usually computers) and Science. The only way to get credentialed teachers in these subjects is to pay premium salaries. Texas' Medical, Law and Business schools would cease to exist if all professors had to be paid the same union mandated salary.
Increasing pay for all teachers to reduce shortages in a few areas makes no economic sense. I know of no other profession outside of public school teaching where everyone gets paid the same salary.
Universities somehow manage to pay professors different salaries without offending or demoralizing everybody. Even in similar jobs, like for nurses, soldiers or civil servants there are wide ranges of salaries and promotions based on performance. Why should teachers be treated different from every other profession in the world, except maybe in a few remaining communist bureaucracies, which don't have a stellar record of productivity?
Price controls always create shortages. Remove the price control and you remove the shortage.
Royal Masset is a long time GOP activist who has served as Executive Director of Austin Citizens League where he was instrumental in lowering Austin's property tax rate, and as Executive Director of Texas Taxpayers League, and as a Political Director of the Republican Party of Texas, and today CEO of Royal Masset & Associates, a political consulting firm. Royal invented ORVS, Optimal Republican Voting Strength, which enabled the RPT to target races with great accuracy and has trained over 3500 candidates and activists at campaign schools. www.RoyalMasset.com
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who recently completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his ninth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last three years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant and can be reached at (713) 621-6335.
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