Economy

 Bob Daemmerich

The Road Funding Hole

It's no secret the Texas Department of Transportation is broke. Texas Transportation Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi tells the Tribune's CEO/Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith just how broke the agency is.

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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Grissom on the fall of Norma Chávez; M. Smith and Ramsey on the runoffs, the results, and the aftermath; Hu on the Tea Party's birthday party; Thevenot and Stiles on the path between schools and prisons; Ramshaw on prosecutors' reaction to helping hands from Austin; Hamilton on self-appointed lawyers; Galbraith on property rights and power lines; Aguilar and Grissom sit down with the mayor of Juárez to talk about his crime-ridden city; Kraft on telling the stories of Texans and other Americans who died in Vietnam; Ramsey on slots and horses and casinos; and Hamilton goes on a field trip with Jim Hightower to hear the history of populism. The best of our best from April 5 to 9, 2010.

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What are the Odds?

Start with a shortfall and a Legislature that doesn't want to raise taxes, then dangle budget-balancing money from "volunteers" — a.k.a., gamblers. With that strategy, promoters think they've got their best shot in years to legalize slot machines while adding $1 billion a year to state revenues.

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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Grissom on her two hours in Juárez, Grissom, Ramshaw and Ramsey on four of the runoffs on Tuesday's ballot, Ramshaw on the religious experience that is voting for Dallas County's DA and an energy regulator's play for a job at the entity he regulates, Mulvaney on the Texas Senate's biggest spenders, Aguilar on whether — as U.S. officials claim — 90 percent of guns used in Mexican crimes really flow south from Texas, M. Smith on the continuing Texas Forensic Science Commission follies, Stiles on how inmates spend their money behind bars and how counties are responding at Census time, Hamilton on the creative accounting and semantic trickery that allows lawmakers to raise revenue without hiking taxes when there's a budget shortfall, and Hu on Austin's first-in-the-nation car-sharing program. The best of our best from April 5 to 9, 2010.

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 Graphic by Matt Stiles

The Senate's Biggest Spenders

The 31-member body spent nearly $16 million last fiscal year on travel, staff and office expenses, according to records from the office of the Secretary of the Senate. Overall spending by individual senators ranged from $206,000, by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, to $637,000, by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

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A Taxing Session?

Lawmakers will find themselves in a multibillion-dollar ditch when they return to Austin in January 2011. Constitutionally, they can't write a deficit budget, so they're expected to use not just cuts but revenue raisers to keep the books in balance. Ben Philpott, who covers politics and public policy for KUT News and the Tribune, filed this report.

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TribBlog: Holding Steady

Texas unemployment held steady at 8.2 percent last month, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. That's the same seasonally adjusted rate as in January, December, and November, but it's up from 6.8 percent in February of 2009.

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 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Ranking the Recession

A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas compares the 2008-09 recession to other downturns — and puts it at the top of the list. Ben Philpott filed this report for KUT News and the Tribune.

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Ranking the Recession

Both Texas and the U.S. at large have begun climbing out of the latest economic recession. Now economists have begun looking back on the 2008-2009 downturn to see how it compared to other recent down economies. KUT reports on a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas that puts the most recent recession at the top of the list. Ben Philpott is reporting for KUT News and the Texas Tribune.

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 Caleb Bryant Miller

Read My Lapse

"You have to do a few things when you run for office in Texas," says one of Rick Perry's allies. "You have to debate. You have to release your tax returns. And you have to say you won't raise taxes." Bill White will surely debate the governor before November's general election, but at the moment he hasn't done the other two. The former probably won't sink him, but the latter could — by declining to drink the no-new-taxes potion, he's handing his opponent a weapon to use against him. Unless, of course, he's successful at changing the way the argument goes.

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A U.S. Census Bureau worker confirms addresses with a hand-held device.
 U.S. Census Bureau

Let the Counting Begin

Census Bureau questionnaires arrive at 8.4 million Texas homes this week. "Fill that sucker out," the bureau's regional director says, "so we don't have to come and knock on your door."

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Bamboozled by the Establishment

The big-government crowd in Washington and elsewhere are bankrupting our country. And Republicans are just as culpable as Democrats in treating our taxpayer dollars as “other people’s money” to be spent as they and the special interests decide.

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 Caleb Bryant Miller

2010: White Starts the Argument [Updated]

Democrat Bill White said he won't rely on "Soviet-style budgeting" and "hot air politics" if he's elected governor, and said the state should make education its first priority and would be better off with a governor who's got business experience when it comes to economic development.

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Data App: Homeland $ecurity

Loving County, in far West Texas, spent about $1,100 per resident in U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant funds from 2003 to 2008. Compare that with Harris County, which spent less than $6 per resident. Contemplate the disparity — and search for individual purchases with DHS grant money — using our latest data application.

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"Big Government Conservatism"

Sound economic policy was sacrificed on the altar of short-term political gain in the George W. Bush administration. This buying of political support with taxpayers’ money brings to mind the words of Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America: “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

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George W. Bush Was No Ronald Reagan

When the George W. Bush administration turned out to be a failure, “conservatism” got the blame — even though Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney (like so many others who served alongside them) had been part of the anti-Reagan wing of the Republican Party.

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