The Brief: Top Texas News for Dec. 3, 2012

The Big Conversation:

A new report has intensified the spotlight on business incentives in Texas.

For its latest installment in a series investigating tax breaks and incentives for businesses in the U.S., The New York Times has zeroed in on Texas, which Louise Story reports has doled out about $19 billion per year in such incentives, more than any other state.

Citing companies, like Samsung and Amazon, that have received millions of dollars in state and local incentives as state funding for services like education is slashed, the story sheds light on the vast sums of state money that have gone to corporations, possibly at the expense of the people of Texas.

"While economic development is the mantra of most officials, there’s a question of when does economic development end and corporate welfare begin," says Dale Craymer, the president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, which supports business incentives.

The story also centers on G. Brint Ryan, an influential consultant who helps businesses like ExxonMobil land incentives in Texas. Earlier this year, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appointed Ryan to the state's Select Committee on Economic Development, which will report to the Legislature.

Ryan has donated millions of dollars to office holders across the state, including Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry, who controls the Texas Enterprise Fund, through which the state pays out incentive money.

"When you give money to a state regulator who you appear before, there are potential conflicts of interest," Craig McDonald, the executive director of the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, tells the Times. "And Texas law is way too weak in allowing those conflicts to exist."

Read the full (warning: several-thousand-word) story here.

Culled:

  • Despite fierce GOP opposition, some Texas Democrats think they'll be able to reach a deal with Republicans next year to bring in billions of federal dollars, as part of the Affordable Care Act, to help expand the state's Medicaid program. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, who who has filed a bill to put Medicaid expansion on a statewide ballot as a provisional amendment to the state Constitution, said conservatives in the Legislature may come around because "the alternative is going to cost us much more economically and dig a much deeper hole in our budget." The Tribune's Becca Aaronson reports.
  • The United We Dream network, an influential coalition of young undocumented immigrants, voted on Sunday to push for federal legislation that would open up a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. The vote represented a broadening of goals for the group, which had previously only pushed for citizenship for young immigrants. As the Times notes, the vote is likely to increase pressure on President Barack Obama and Congress to enact comprehensive, rather than piecemeal, immigration reform next year.
  • Amid protests, newly elected Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on Saturday, unveiling a hefty agenda that included plans to increase spending, cut crime, improve education and reduce poverty. On Sunday, Peña Nieto, a member of the country's resurgent Institutional Revolutionary Party, signed an accord with opposition leaders to help promote his agenda.

"To support a guest worker program is to affirm several things that need affirming, the most important of which is, conservative Republicans don’t mind Hispanics in their communities and as their neighbors. That’s the problem with the entire immigration debate." — Conservative commentator Joshua Treviño to Politico on the Texas Republican Party's success appealing to Hispanics

Must-Read:

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