The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 25, 2013

The Big Conversation

The quickly approaching sequester deadline in Washington has brought the potential consequences for Texas into sharp relief.

Hoping to gain leverage in its fight with congressional Republicans, the Obama administration on Sunday released details of how the sequester — a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts designed to goad Congress toward a budget compromise — would affect each state. The cuts are set to take effect Friday.

A White House memo said that if lawmakers don't reach a deal to avert the cuts, Texas could lose more than 900 teaching jobs as a result of a $68 million cut in public education funding. More than 600 teachers and workers who help children with disabilities could also face layoffs, and about 4,800 children would lose Head Start services. More than 50,000 Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, putting military readiness at risk. The state would lose about $8.5 million in environmental funding, as well as money for law enforcement, job-search assistance, children's vaccines, work-study jobs for college students and meals for seniors. And cuts to airports and seaports could create delays for travelers and businesses.

"Republicans should compromise and meet the President in the middle," the memo said, echoing President Obama's call for a congressional budget plan that includes cuts as well as more tax revenue. "We cannot simply cut our way to prosperity, and if Republicans continue to insist on an unreasonable, cuts-only approach, Texas risks paying the price."

After agreeing to a tax hike on wealthy individuals as part of last month's "fiscal cliff" deal, Republicans have balked at allowing another. 

"There is a very substantial likelihood that the sequester will go into effect," U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said last week, according to the Houston Chronicle. "I am hopeful that if it does … it will result in some compromises."

The release of the state details came as worried governors from both parties began stepping up their calls for an agreement in Congress.

"They need to stop having press conferences and start meeting," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, told Politico. "The time for shows is over. We’ve had 18 months."

Culled

•    Ted Cruz responds: Harvard Law was full of Communists (The New Yorker): "Senator Ted Cruz has responded to The New Yorker’s report that he accused Harvard Law School of having had 'twelve' Communists who 'believed in the overthrow of the U.S. Government' on its faculty when he attended in the early nineties. Cruz doesn’t deny that he said this; instead, through his spokesman, he says he was right: Harvard Law was full of Communists. His spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told The Blaze website that the 'substantive point' in Cruz’s charge, made in a speech in 2010, was 'was absolutely correct.'"

•    At Capitol Education Rally, Tough Words for Legislature (The Texas Tribune): "Public education advocates at a rally at the Capitol on Saturday accused lawmakers of strangling public schools with out-of-control high-stakes testing and funding cuts. Organizers said about 3,500 people attended."

•    Rick Perry cool toward UT President Bill Powers, says regents must decide his fate (The Dallas Morning News): "Gov. Rick Perry did little Friday to tamp down suspicions that he’d like to engineer the ouster of Bill Powers, the president of the University of Texas at Austin. 'I’ll just simply say that the role of the Board of Regents is to set policy. The administrators’ is to implement policy. If there is a conflict there, there are ways to deal with it,' Perry said when asked by The Dallas Morning News about his appointment of three new regents a day earlier, and what that bodes for Powers’ future. 'You need to talk to the Board of Regents about employment issues.'"

•    Pelosi in S.A.: Let's 'grow up and do the job' on immigration (San Antonio Express-News): "Though Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over how to avoid the looming sequester deadline, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and freshman Congressman Joaquín Castro believe enough bipartisan support may exist to push through comprehensive immigration reform. Speaking to the San Antonio Express-News editorial board Saturday, Pelosi and Castro also emphasized reform must include a path to citizenship. 'I actually think there are existing bipartisan coalitions on comprehensive immigration reform, on gun reform, and even many of these fiscal issues,' said Castro-D-San Antonio."

Quote of the Day: "The University of Texas will change its colors to maroon and white before Texas goes purple, much less blue." — Gov. Rick Perry in an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the the National Governors Association's winter meeting

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