Fact Check: Van De Putte at the Democratic Convention

We are using The Washington Post’s Truth Teller fact-checking technology to analyze the speeches given by Texas’ candidates for governor and lieutenant governor at their respective state conventions.

Here, we focus on some of Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s remarks at her state party convention, held in June in Dallas.

During her keynote address to delegates, Van De Putte criticized her Republican opponent, state Sen. Dan Patrick, and his votes in the Senate. Watch below as Truth Teller analyzes Van de Putte’s speech and incorporates fact checks aggregated by the Tribune and the Post.

Investment votes 

 

“He took vote after vote, sometimes the only dissenting vote, against investing in jobs, roads, bridges and water.” — TRUE 

Asked to provide evidence for this claim, the Van de Putte campaign cited several bills from the 2013 legislative session.

The first, HB 1025, transferred funds from the state’s general revenue fund to the Texas Department of Transportation. It also appropriated $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to the state’s newly created Water Implementation Fund for projects to help meet the state’s need for water amid an extended severe drought.

The Senate Journal shows that Patrick was among three senators who voted against the measure. The Patrick campaign did not respond to requests for comment on Van de Putte’s claim.

Van de Putte’s campaign also pointed to a bill she authored, SB 475, which related to municipalities' authority to ask local voters to reauthorize taxes to fund road improvement and maintenance projects. Patrick was among the four senators who voted against the bill, which was eventually passed and signed into law.

As for the "only dissenting vote" part of her claim, the Van de Putte campaign flagged SB 1476, which created a program to assist veterans hoping to start a business. The Senate Journal for April 18 shows that Patrick was the sole vote against considering the bill, and he was the only “nay” vote against the bill during its final reading in the Senate.

Vote against veterans program

“Dan was the only vote, the only one in the entire Senate that voted against a veteran entrepreneurship program, a program that assists veterans … in successfully starting up their own businesses.” — TRUE

 

In this claim, Van de Putte's campaign said she is also referring to SB 1476, which was introduced by state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, to create the program under the Texas Veterans Commission.

Patrick spokesman Logan Spence told PolitiFact that the senator voted against the bill “because it expanded the state’s bureaucracy with a new function that would be more efficiently absorbed in a different agency.”

Legislators eventually passed the bill, which Gov. Rick Perry signed into law.

School finance vote

“He voted for cutting more than $5 billion for Texas neighborhood schools, resulting in nearly 11,000 teachers losing their jobs and increasing class sizes.” — TRUE

Amid a major budget shortfall in 2011, state lawmakers looking to stretch the dollars available to write a two-year budget cut $5.4 billion for public education.

Van de Putte’s claim that Patrick voted in favor of the budget bill that included the massive cuts to Texas’ public education system is true, according to the Senate Journal.

The cuts would eventually lead a coalition of school districts to sue the state, arguing that the school finance system and the Legislature’s cuts violated the Texas Constitution, which requires that schools be funded appropriately.

The second part of her claim is based on figures reported by several news outlets and confirmed by the Texas State Teachers Association. TSTA spokesman Clay Robison told the Houston Chronicle in December 2013 that the massive cuts to public education led schools to lay off about 11,000 teachers. 

Equal pay vote

“He voted against equal pay for equal work for Texas women.” — TRUE

During the 2013 legislative session, state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, introduced a bill that would have made Texas law mirror protections outlined in the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. It sought to extend the statute of limitations for women who want to sue employers over unfair pay.

Current state law requires disparate pay claims to be filed within six months after the discrimination began. Thompson’s proposal would have allowed such claims to be filed when discrimination is discovered.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, a state senator, sponsored the bill in the Senate, where it eventually passed by a slim margin with Patrick among the “nay” votes.

Legislators passed the bill, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it. Van de Putte has said she would push for similar legislation in the next legislative session if elected lieutenant governor.

Patrick told news outlets earlier this year that he believes men and women should be paid equally, but he does not support equal pay legislation. He said the “government shouldn’t be calling the shots” when it comes enforcing equal pay.

Perry and Medicaid

“Our hard-earned tax dollars go to California or New Jersey, because our governor refuses to find a Texas way to insure those without health insurance and expand Medicaid.” — IT’S COMPLICATED

Texas Democrats often criticize Republican leaders for their staunch opposition to expanding Medicaid — the joint federal-state insurer of children and the disabled — to cover low-income, uninsured adults under the federal Affordable Care Act. Democrats claim Republicans are leaving federal dollars on the table by forgoing expansion.

If Texas had expanded Medicaid to cover young adults under President Obama’s health reform law, the federal government would have covered 100 percent of the cost for three years, eventually reducing its coverage to 90 percent.  (The federal government currently provides Texas with $60 in matching funds for every $40 the state spends on Medicaid services.)

To pay for the Medicaid expansion in states like California and New Jersey, the federal government is using taxpayer dollars raised from residents in all states, regardless of whether that state expands Medicaid and receives the federal funds.

Texas would have received about $100 billion in federal funds over 10 years, but it would have had to pay out $15 billion from its own pocket for the expansion.

Republicans have said the increase in state spending that would be required to finance an expansion outweighs the financial incentives the federal government would provide. Gov. Rick Perry has called the Medicaid system “broken” and has said it should be reformed instead of expanded. More recently, he called the ACA’s Medicaid expansion provision “federal blackmailing.”

Perry directed the state’s Health and Human Services Commission to request a federal block grant that would allow the state to reform the program.