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Ross Ramsey

Ross Ramsey is executive editor and co-founder of The Texas Tribune, where he writes regular columns on politics, government and public policy. Before joining the Tribune, Ross was editor and co-owner of Texas Weekly. He did a 28-month stint in government as associate deputy comptroller for policy and director of communications with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Before that, he reported for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as its Austin bureau chief, and worked as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, writing for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ross got his start in journalism in broadcasting, covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.

Recent Contributions

What Will You Say When You Get Home?

Imagine you're a House member and the Senate has handed you a chance to vote to cut school property taxes in half, to replace them with a penny-and-a-half addition to the state sales tax and an expansion of that tax to a bunch of stuff that's not taxed now, and to kill the Robin Hood system of finance that's so unpopular with voters. Fast-forward to a town hall meeting after the session. Somebody asks why you didn't fix school finance while you were in Austin. The senator says she voted to kill it and halve property taxes, and then hands the microphone to you.

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Framing the Issues

Now that he's been briefed, Gov. Rick Perry isn't sufficiently impressed with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's school finance plan to push it during the regular session. Perry has been putting off the school finance issue since early in the session—he said then that legislative leaders weren't experienced enough to pull it off. Now that Dewhurst is gathering Senate support for a fairly specific plan, Perry says there's not enough time to deal with it during the regular session.

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Let the Big Cats Eat

Democrats in the Texas House are starting to look like the Christians who appeared in the Roman Coliseum–they speak their faith quickly and to an inattentive audience, and then the lions eat them.

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Scarce Resources, Abundant Discord

Budgets are unhappy things, even when oodles of money are available: They're designed to put a collar and a leash on spending. It's worse when there is no money, because you can't feed the dog on the other end of the leash. Even if you don't like dogs, that is unpleasant business.

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Feeding the Bears

And now, a non-surprise: If you keep doing things that are interesting to prosecutors, prosecutors will stick around. If prosecutors are hanging around, people will begin to talk about it, and start noticing things that might be interesting to prosecutors. The same dynamics drive good soap operas. You soon have an environment where everything looks like it might be a piece of the puzzle and where everybody is lurking about, talking to each other, trying to fit pieces together.

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Sinking the Titanic

A rules-breaking private meeting upended a massive rewrite of Texas' tort laws, leaving supporters of the effort scrambling to get back on schedule. The bill was well on its way to passage in the House. But after two days of debate, Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, called a point of order to say that bill was fatally flawed by a secret meeting after a committee hearing. The bill was discussed out of public hearing by more than half of the committee. After two hours of private consultation, House Speaker Tom Craddick announced he would leave the decision to a vote of the House. But after more confused consultation and some speechifying by members, he decided to sustain Dunnam's objection.

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R.I.P., CHIP?

Supporters of the Children's Health Insurance Program must feel like kids on a hotel balcony with Michael Jackson: Odds are against actually being dropped, but a safety net would be nice.

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Dan Morales Indicted

Former Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Dan Morales was indicted on federal charges related to his handling of the state's tobacco lawsuit and settlement when he was AG. He was also accused of converting campaign money to his personal use, lying on a federal income tax return, and lying on a loan application.

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Chicken Little Economics

The details are always tougher than the general idea of budget-cutting when you're talking about government programs that have a direct effect on people's lives. That's why discussions about health care in any form–Medicaid, CHIP, whatever–eventually come to fit the headline above.

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Get 'em While They're Hot

You can't keep weeds out of buffalo grass. Beer and soda pop taste better when cold. Somebody prominent always gets arrested when the Legislature is in Austin. And if the state deregulates college tuition, it'll go up.

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Bumps on the Fast Track

The newest obstacle to medical malpractice liability legislation is this question: Would limits on liability increase the availability and number of abortions done in Texas every year?

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Dark Clouds Over Sherwood Forest

Gov. Rick Perry has said on several occasions that he thinks school finance ought to be rebuilt during his administration, which lasts four years, but that he doesn't think the Legislature has either enough experience or enough time to do it during this legislative session.

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Key Change: From Minor to Major

The last time the House got committees, Texas had a different speaker who was in his fifth term in office, running a chamber where his party had been in control for over 100 years. Turnover in the membership was slight, and the changes in committee assignments were slim.

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The Other Kind of Political Fundraising

The three guys at the top of Texas government are all sworn in and official, and they are scratching around for cash. The state's current budget is flowing red, and the next budget mismatches declining revenues with increasing costs. Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and Speaker Tom Craddick started off with a letter to state agencies asking for the equivalent of 7 percent of their current year budgets. Some programs won't be touched: public school funding, acute care Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and debt service (which can't be cut without defaulting).

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