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June 23rd, 2005:

Same old same old

Perry’s plan helps rich at others’ expense

Gov. Rick Perry’s plan for property tax relief would provide a windfall for the wealthiest families in Texas, but for lower-income renters the governor’s plan would be a financial drain on the family budget, a Houston Chronicle analysis showed.

And after more than a year of legislative wrangling over property tax relief, the tax savings for the median family in Texas would amount to about $150 a year under Perry’s plan — a savings of about $12.75 a month.

The real winner of the school property tax cuts would be business, which pays about 54 percent of all the school property taxes in Texas.

Same stuff, different day. Quelle surprise. Got any new ideas, fellas?

One thing to keep in mind here, and it’s a fallacy that I’ve fallen prey to before, is that it really is (or at least should be) a question of when, not if, a new school finance plan passes. This is because Governor Perry can call as many special sessions as he sees fit, and given the smell of toast already wafting about him, he’s sure to be bullheaded on this point. Unless the Lege basically tells him to drop dead, or unless the Texas Supreme Court comes riding to his aid in the immediate future, don’t expect this session to be the end of it (barring an actual agreement, of course).

Which is why Rep. Scott Hochberg is dead on right when he says Make sure the fix isn’t worse than the problem. We don’t need a plan, we need a better plan. Rick Perry doesn’t have one. Let’s not lower our standards even further to accomodate him on that. Link via Greg.

We need a mall where your house is

It’s pretty rare that I side with Rehquist/Scalia/Thomas on any Supreme Court decision over Ginsburg/Stevens/Breyer, but this is one of those times.

The Supreme Court ruled today that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses – even against their will – for private economic development.


The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

“The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including – but by no means limited to – new jobs and increased tax revenue,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.


Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random,” O’Connor wrote. “The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”

She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

I can appreciate Stevens’ logic, but I think O’Connor nails it. This is a bad, bad decision, and it’s going to affect a lot of people.

More Mofo

Rick Perry, hipster? Hey, it could happen.

Perry’s open-mic gaffe caused a lot of people to take notice. Some were outraged, some pretended to be outraged, and some said, “Dang, who knew our governor knew such a raunchy term?”

“I think it’s hilarious,” said Robert Lanham, author of The Hipster Handbook (Anchor, $10.95), who wants a T-shirt.

Lanham recalls the term from 1980s hip-hop slang. Today most people use it for camp value, Lanham said, but he hasn’t heard any Republican governors saying it.

“It doesn’t strike me that (Perry) has the self-awareness to know that maybe that term is a little bit silly. But who knows, maybe he’s cooler than I think,” Lanham said.

“I’d be worried if he started answering reporters’ questions with ‘word up.’ ”

I believe that would count as an official sign of the apocalypse. Speaking of which, Jim D has given us the Rick Perry Remix. Consider yourself warned.

The NBA will go on

The NBA managed to come to a six-year labor agreement on Tuesday, thus avoiding a lockout and possibly having to cancel games next season. I don’t much care one way or the other as to the fine points of the deal. All I know is that it shouldn’t have taken this long to forge one. If I could have done so, I’d have locked David Stern and Billy Hunter into a room and played a recording of the words “National Hockey League” over and over until they both cracked. I’m just glad it wasn’t necessary to do so.

Oh, and the Game Seven tonight is the first in the Finals since 1994, when the Rockets won their first of two consecutive titles. Those were good times.