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2013 budget

We're ALL Popeye the Sailor Man ...

by: Kirk Watson

Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 11:12 AM CST

(If you're not reading The Watson Wire, you need to be.   - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

Some political commentary is just timeless.

I’m talking, of course, about the cartoon Popeye.

Think about the plot of what I recall to be just about any episode (and I say this not having seen an episode of Popeye in about 50 years; that’s how timeless it is): Things are bad in ... whatever town it is that Popeye lives in. He’s getting beat up and/or neglected, and things are looking pretty well hopeless. Then some spinach appears, often in a can, often falling out of his shirt – and yes, it’s totally appropriate to ask why he didn’t know there was a can of spinach inside his shirt that whole time. Popeye eats it, and order is restored.

There are several lessons here: Disorder and tribulation are bad. People should strive to do better. And doing better is a whole lot easier when a can full of green stuff falls out of your shirt.

Fight to the finish when you eat your spinach

Last week, a metaphorical can of spinach fell out of the state’s metaphorical shirt. The Comptroller revealed her estimate of the state’s revenue for the current budget (covering 2012 and ’13) and the next one (for 2014 and ’15).

The numbers were staggering. The current budget will end up with $8.8 billion more than had been expected when it was passed in 2011. And the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which is basically a savings account, is expected to swell to $11.8 billion by the end of the next budget cycle.

If you’re a teacher who’s been laid off – or who’s avoided being laid off by foregoing a raise and adding a couple more kids to an already crowded classroom – feel free to be a little indignant right now.

For the rest of us, let’s try to set aside the fact that the Comptroller’s revenue forecast was off by ALMOST $9,000,000,000 two years ago. Or the fact that had that colossal error been less egregious, the legislature could have come together and avoided many or even most of 2011’s education cuts – the first time in memory that the state cut funding for enrollment growth in our schools.

Now, there’s only one real question: are we going to make things better, fix what’s broken, and undo the damage that’s been inflicted on Texans (especially our youngest ones)? Or are those in control of the Capitol going to just shut their eyes and hope things work out?

We need a better budget

We got an early answer to that question yesterday, and it wasn't encouraging.

Read more below the jump.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 554 words in story)

Weekly Environmental News Roundup For Texas and Beyond

by: Adam Schwitters

Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 03:10 PM CST

This is the first in what will be a weekly rundown of environmental news affecting Texas, the United States, and the world.  In brief, the drought in Texas continues despite recent rains in East Texas, news leaked out of an ongoing oil spill in the Gulf that began in 2004, the Keystone XL pipeline debate made its way onto Comedy Central, nuclear power is making a comeback in the US, and President Obama released his 2013 budget.

The Drought In Texas

  • The water supply system in Texas was built in response to the 1950’s drought. Laura Huffman of the Nature Conservancy argues that Texas needs major investments to meet the needs of today’s population and economy.  The drought cost Texas over $5.2 billion in crop and cattle losses last year.  If water supplies do not improve, losses could reach $116 billion a year by 2060.

  • The drought killed 5.6 million trees in urban areas and up to 500 million trees statewide, or about 10% of the state’s forest cover, according to a report from the Texas Forest Service.  Houston saw some of the worst drought damage, with thousands of trees lost in Memorial Park alone.  Central and North Texas parks tend to feature hardier, drought resistant species, so losses were less in those areas.

  • Arcane water rights laws force East Texas landowners to forgo water from the Sabine River because a hunting and fishing club needs more water, revealing a patchwork of water rights dating back to the 18th century.  More than 1200 water rights permits were suspended in 2011, and with the drought expected to continue through 2012, expect more lawsuits in the future.

The Seven Year Old Oil Spill You Haven’t Heard Of

Keystone XL Pipeline News

  • Republicans in the Senate are attempting to attach an amendment to a highway bill that would force approval of the pipeline.  President Obama has threatened to veto a similar bill in the House.

  • Anti-Keystone activist, Bill McKibben, appeared on the Colbert Report to discuss the widespread public outrage over the Senate Republicans’ plans.  His group, 350.org collected over 800,000 signatures urging senators to vote against the pipeline.

Other News

  • As we all know, our Governor, and national disgrace, Rick Perry loves polluters, and hates anyone (such as the EPA, children with asthma, and even religious organizations) that get in the way of his huge crush on those who poison our Texas environment.  The Texas Tribune has a neat interactive guide to Perry’s pursuit of dirty water and unbreathable air for all.

  • President Obama released his 2013 Budget that would increase funding for clean energy and energy efficiency by 30%.

  • The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) released the agenda for its last meeting, on Feb. 8 showing fines totaling $636,000 were handed down for violations including 11 air quality, 3 municipal solid waste, 7 municipal waste discharge, 3 petroleum storage, 2 public water system, and 2 water quality violations.  One particularly macabre violation was handed out to an Illinois medical waste disposal company, Stericycle, which was improperly dumping human remains in landfills in Austin and McCallen.  Stericycle was fined $42,000.  The entire agenda text can be read here.  TCEQ will meet next Feb. 22.

  • Nuclear power is back in the news after the announcement that 2 new reactors will be built in Georgia.  They are the first reactors approved in the US since 1978.  Nuclear power requires very little fuel, produces a huge amount of energy, and creates almost no waste… Unless something goes wrong.  The biggest obstacle to new nukes is, of course, the fear of another Fukushima like tragedy, but the cost of new plants is prohibitive as well.  The Georgia plants are expected to cost $14 billion!  Gizmag has a fascinating piece on Small Modular Reactors which are significantly smaller, safer, and, potentially, orders of magnitude cheaper than the current massive plants.  Its definitely worth a read.

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