Houston City Controller Annise Parker sharply criticized Texas Governor Rick Perry today for rejecting $555 million in federal stimulus money that would have funded unemployment benefits for out-of-work Texans.
"In January alone, more than 65,000 Houstonians were unemployed - the most since 2004 - and our economy is slowing," said Parker. "While the Governor makes his political point, our local economy is losing out on millions of dollars in stimulus funds - and Houstonians are hurting."
Parker recently called on Perry to allow more transparency and local input into decisions about allocating stimulus dollars, to ensure that Houston receives its fair share of funds. She also met with local legislators in Austin to discuss the use of stimulus funds.
"I support the efforts of our local representatives to bypass the Governor's rejection of these funds and bring more stimulus dollars to Texas and to Houston," said Parker.
"As the impact of the national economic crisis hits home in Houston, our leaders should be doing everything they can to keep our economy growing," she said. "The Governor's rejection of these badly needed funds is a failure of leadership."
Of course, if there's one person you'd think would be taking the lead on this, it would be Perry's main opponent in the 2010 primary, Kay Bailey Hutchison, since this stunt (like everything else he's doing these days) is about the primary. But so far, nothing but some meaningless platitudes from KBH, which one presumes isn't making her supporters happy. What pushback there has been has mainly been from Dems in the Lege and responsible economic types.
"The tax implications for 2010 are much, much worse if you do not take the stimulus money," said Don Baylor, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income Texans. "The fund is basically going to be out of money by the OU game." In other words, by October.
Economist Ray Perryman testified to a panel of lawmakers earlier this week that "it is unrealistic to assume the system can continue in its current form."
The federal money would be enough to pay for the increase in benefits, including changes in state law, for a decade, Perryman told the House committee charged with making recommendations to spend the federal stimulus money.
House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, who chairs the committee, said the move is so counterproductive it "has to be 100 percent political."
"What is taking the money going to do to your taxes? Nothing," Dunnam said. "Put this $555 million up and it will pay for the whole program for a decade. Maybe in a decade there may be some impact ... there is no rational basis for it."
Bills to expand benefits -- and thus allow Texas to get the money -- have been filed by lawmakers including Reps. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, and Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound; and Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, whose bill was signed onto by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, has backed taking the money. Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, filed a resolution to take all the stimulus money.
"It's a bipartisan effort in the House to get these funds," Dunnam said. He noted rising unemployment and said a state jobless benefit fund could need a federal loan and state bonds to stay in good shape. Business taxes pay for the fund.
A veto override would require a two-thirds vote -- particularly difficult in a Legislature dominated by Republicans. The last veto override occurred in 1979.
Dunnam said an override isn't the only option: "There are more than a handful of ways to skin a cat."
Rep. Garnet Coleman agreed, noting that legislative bargaining is common as the session's end nears. "There may be ways to move forward that don't require a veto-proof majority," said Coleman, D-Houston. "At the end of the day, there are things that Rick Perry wants."
The group name "Rope With Hope" signifies - R.O.P.E. (Recruiters Offering Professional Expertise) With H.O.P.E. (HR Offering Professional Expertise) - and it is an online network of Corporate Recruiters and HR personnel that have come together to assist area Job Seekers in their attempts to gain meaningful employment.
Unemployed Houstonians are encouraged to email their resumes if they would like a professional assessment to HoustonRWH@hotmail.com, and every HR or Recruiting professional that would be interested in volunteering for "Rope With Hope" is asked to do one of the following:
* Allot 1-2 hours per week (can be after-hours/weekends) to offer your HR, Interviewing, Recruiting, or Resume review expertise to unemployed candidates.
* Attend an event or meeting that would either allow you to announce this new resource for displaced or unemployed workers; or conduct a presentation on interviewing or resume writing techniques. This is as simple as appearing at your own existing HR Society, Civic Association, Church Group, or Chamber of Commerce meeting and introducing the concept of "Rope for Hope - Houston".
Anyway, I wanted to introduce the concept and group to you and encourage you to spread the word if you could. Even if you could just pass this info on to your Corporate HR/Recruiting folks at your "normal job".