Texas’ Credit Rating

Last week, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar raised concerns about the future of our state’s AAA-credit rating to members of the Senate’s budget writing committee.

During the hearing, Hegar said“I am actually very concerned…that in the very near future, if we don’t find creative ways to address these very real pressure issues, Texas can be downgraded. I want to make sure we avoid that because that is a black eye on Texas.”

What will a change to our credit rating mean for Texas? It will cost our state more to borrow money and sends a message that we have a fiscally irresponsible government.

The concerns stem from mounting liabilities — expenses that the Legislature has pushed off by using accounting tricks such as postponing payments and low-balling budget projections. Our credit rating is at risk because we have obligations that the Legislature is ignoring, including healthcare, education and transportation. Last session:

  • The Legislature postponed a constitutionally-mandated transfer of $1.58 billion in sales tax revenue to the Texas Department of Transportation
  • Thanks to Dan Patrick, the Legislature continues to under-fund our public education system and didn’t fully address the Teachers Retirement System’s funding shortfall, estimated at $700 million
  • The Legislature intentionally low-balled the Medicaid caseload projection, resulting in a likely $2.5 billion budget shortfall next year
  • The Legislature did nothing to address the Texas Tomorrow Fund shortage of $240 million 

These accounting tricks and gimmicks are not sustainable.  The Legislature is digging a fiscal hole that is increasingly difficult to climb out of.   According to the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, we will begin the next session about $7.9 billion in the hole, and that’s before we spend a dime to help the Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Harvey. To top all that off, the Comptroller projects that we’ll have a lot less money to start with than in past years.

Despite all this, there is continued resistance by the state Republican leadership to use the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, — projected to be $12 billion next year — to help address critical health, transportation and education needs. By the way, that’s your money the state’s Republican leadership is hoarding for political reasons.

This isn’t fiscally conservative budgeting; it’s smoke and mirrors. It’s time our state’s leaders start being honest with the people of Texas.

P.S. If you have questions about our state’s budget or the Rainy Day Fund, join me on Saturday, April 14th from 10:00 to 11:30 am at the Arlington Municipal Airport for our Town Hall. Click here to RSVP

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In my Capitol office, on the wall beside my desk, hang two pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The photograph on top is of Dr. King waving to an audience of 250,000 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. That day, he gave what many consider his most notable speech and where, in a boomingMLK National Mallvoice, he delivered the words that moved a nation.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The picture below it is of Dr. King in the Oval Office, sitting in the foreground, listening, or perhaps deep in thought. President Lyndon B. Johnson can be seen behind him.  I hung thisMLK and LBJphoto as a reminder of the progress these two made addressing civil rights and voting rights. It also serves as a reminder of the constant battle to fight for and to protect these rights.

Today, we remember Dr. King’s words, we celebrate his life and we honor his legacy. Let’s not just focus on thoughts and celebrations. Let’s act.  Let us work collectively to serve our communities and make our cities, state and country a better place for all.

The night before he tragically died, Dr. King delivered his final speech. In it, he challenged those listening to come together to work for the greater good.

He said, “Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”

These words ring as true today as they did in 1968.

I ask you to please join me in making a commitment to stand with greater determination and to help the people in our communities, our state and our nation. Not just today, but every day.

I filed

Today, I filed for re-election in House District 101 and I released the following statement:

“Serving the constituents of our district is the best and most important part of my job,” Turner said. “I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of Arlington and Grand Prairie by fighting for local priorities, such as transportation. I will also continue to work hard for UT-Arlington, Tarrant County College and the Arlington and Mansfield school districts. 

“In Austin, I look forward to continuing to fight for greater transparency and ethics reform, better access to healthcare, more funding for public education and making higher education attainable for all Texans who want to attend college,” Turner continued.

“And as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, I will continue to oppose the Dan Patrick/Greg Abbott extreme right-wing agenda, which puts divisive, Trump-style politics ahead of the real solutions Texans deserve.”  

Turner has received numerous awards and honors for his legislative service, including “Legislator of the Year” from the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars (2009), “Best of the House” from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) (2013), “Legislative Champion”from Planned Parenthood Texas Votes (2017), the Sierra Club of Texas’ “New Leadership in Environmental Protection Legislative Service Award” (2013), and “Champion of Equality” from Equality Texas (2013 and 2015).

Turner is a native Texan who grew up in Dallas and is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.  A 20-year Tarrant County resident, Turner lives in Grand Prairie with his wife, Lisa.   


The Democratic primary election will be held on March 6, 2018

Health Care: Take Action Now!

This week on Capitol Hill, there’s been a lot of talk about the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill, the Republicans’ latest scheme to repeal Obamacare.

I know that it’s hard to keep track of all the proposals the Republicans in Washington have been floating around; however, according to every report I’ve read, this may be, by far, the most harmful plan yet.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, if Graham-Cassidy becomes law, those with low to moderate incomes, Medicaid recipients (read: seniors, people with disabilities and families with children), and people with pre-existing conditions will be the most negatively impacted. Based on Congressional Budget Office calculations of a previous measure, it’s estimated that a repeal-and-replace plan like Graham-Cassidy could mean 32 million people would lose healthcare coverage.

That’s clearly unacceptable – and that many people losing health coverage simply means that health care costs will skyrocket for everyone as health care providers provide more and more uncompensated care.  If that’s not concerning enough, the federal government will give states block grants and control of how the money is spent, the power to determine what will be covered and how much that coverage will cost. There are several problems with this. Among them, block grants would disappear after 2026, leaving states to fully cover the cost, unless Congress reauthorizes the funding. Even worse, block grants will give state leaders the power to decide whether or not insurance companies have to cover pre-existing conditions, mental health care, substance abuse and maternity care.

I am afraid of what Texas’ leaders would do with the money. Our current governor has been very vocal in his opposition to the Affordable Care Act and has refused to expand Medicaid, which would insure another 1 million Texans. That’s compounded by the fact that our state has a long history of failure when it comes to healthcare.

For example:

  • Two years ago, Texas Republicans directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to slash spending for acute therapy services for kids, resulting in thousands of children being denied access to speech, occupational and physical therapy.
  • In 2003, Republicans passed a bill that made it harder for lower-income working families to get CHIP health coverage for their kids. As a result, in the three years after the bill was signed into law, 215,729 children lost access to their health coverage.  To add insult to injury, the bill required the privatization of the implementation of the program, at a cost over nearly $1 billion that resulted in scandal and fiscal mismanagement.

It’s important to point out that it’s not just Democrats who oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill; many Republicans do too. Several Republican and Democratic governors have sent a letter calling on Senate leadership to shelve the Graham-Cassidy measure and instead work toward a bipartisan solution.

I hope more Republicans lend their voice in opposition and soon. This bill is on the fast track.

What can you do to help stop this assault on health care? Join me in contacting Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to tell them to oppose Graham-Cassidy.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn
North Texas Office
(972) 239-1310
Washington, DC Office
(202) 224-2934

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz
North Texas Office
(214) 599-8749
Washington, DC Office
(202) 224-5922

This is a bad bill for Texas and for people across our nation. Let’s make our voices heard.

 

Charlottesville

Anger and disgust — those are two of many words that come to mind when I think of what happened in Charlottesville this weekend and of the hatred and division that has risen to the surface during the past several months.

The violence in Virginia was an act of domestic terrorism, plain and simple. These white supremacists and Nazis (or as they call themselves, the alt-right) are anything but patriots – they are un-American. Their goal is simple — to rip apart the fabric of what makes our nation great: its diversity, its compassion and its inclusion of all races, genders, religions and creeds.

On Saturday, after the president made his statement in response to the protests, I was reminded of something the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Two full days later, Trump finally condemned members of the KKK and other white supremacy groups, but as has been his modus operandi, his actions and words were too little too late.

Let me be clear, I know these groups and this hatred existed before the Trump presidency, but it is his harmful rhetoric that has emboldened the Richard Spencers and David Dukes of our nation. Dukes said it himself that, “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”

We — you, me, our neighbors, family members and friends — can stand together to help stamp out this hateful rhetoric. We can donate to groups that fight this hate. We can talk to our friends and family. We must acknowledge and be honest about the divisions of racism. We can call our government officials and ask them to denounce the extreme activities of white supremacists.

We must not let anyone say this comes from “many sides,” because those opposing Nazism aren’t responsible.

Finally, we must remember the innocent lives that have been lost defending the diversity of our nation.

This is a watershed moment in our nation’s history, and our actions now have the power to change its course for the better. The vast majority of Americans denounce bigotry and white supremacy and we must all work every day to resist such hatred.

We have to remember that it is our obligation as Americans to change this, that we can change this, and that we must act.

Helping our neighbors

Early yesterday morning, fire broke out at an east Arlington apartment complex, displacing 37 residents and injuring four. According to news reports, the fire was a result of a domestic dispute involving gasoline, and impacted eight apartment units.

Please keep the residents and those injured in your thoughts and prayers.

Upon hearing the news, my district staff went to the complex to offer help to residents and the apartment staff, and to connect with local Red Cross representatives. During their visit, they learned that those who have been displaced were given housing by the apartment’s management. They also learned that other community partners, including Mission Arlington, are working with the Red Cross to help replace what has been lost.

At this point, it’s our understanding that there is no immediate need for specific items to help these House District 101 constituents, but if that changes, we will post information on my Facebook page. Of course, there are other ways you can help our neighbors in need, both those impacted by yesterday’s fire and others who may be facing other challenges.

To help ensure that others remain safe, the Red Cross will be hosting a smoke detector installation event in Arlington on September 30th. If you’re interested in volunteering or learning more, click here. If you would rather help our neighbors in other ways, visit the North Texas Red Crossand/or Mission Arlington websites today.

As always, if you need help from our office, please call 817-459-2800.

2018

During my four terms serving in the Texas House of Representatives, and as the current chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, I have been on the frontline fighting to create more opportunity for Texas families: better funding for our public schools, improved access to healthcare, protecting the rights of all Texans and expanding consumer protection.

Back at home, my number one priority has and always will be to engage members of our community and for our office to be a resource for constituents. Through informational events, our Texas 101 Task Force, and effective constituent services, we have been able to accomplish a great deal on behalf of the people of House District 101.

There’s still more I would like to do both here at home and at the Capitol.That is why I am seeking re-election to the Texas House of Representatives.

With your help, I will continue to serve the people of Arlington and Grand Prairie as a strong voice supporting real solutions for ALL Texans – and I will continue to help lead the charge in the House against the divisive, partisan agenda of Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick.

To be successful, I need your help.

I hope you will sign on as an early supporter of my 2018 re-election effort and contribute before today’s critical midnight deadline.

Working together, we will continue to help our neighbors and to fight for what really matters to our community and our state.

#TXLEGE in Review, Part 1

It’s so good to be home. To be perfectly honest, I was happy to see Austin in my rearview mirror when I was driving up I-35 on Tuesday. There is a lot to say about what happened in this just-concluded legislative session, and I won’t try to say it all in one email. There was some good, but a lot more bad.

I have always said my most important job is to work for our district. So, I will start my recap there and let you know some of the things we worked on for the benefit of Arlington and Grand Prairie.

SH 360: The Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway

First and foremost, I am thrilled to announce that once construction is complete, the SH 360 extension from Sublett/Camp Wisdom Road to the northern Mansfield city limit will be named the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway. Paying homage to this Civil Rights icon is an appropriate way to highlight and honor our community’s rich diversity. This effort would not have been successful without the support of so many in House District 101. The portion of the road south of District 101 will be named for former state Senator Chris Harris.

Arlington & Grand Prairie Transit Study

I successfully added language to the budget which will allow the University of Texas at Arlington to study the transit needs of the communities I serve. As you know, Arlington is the largest city in the nation without a mass transit system. Grand Prairie, and its growing population, also lacks transit. The study, which will focus on the transit needs in our community and how they may be addressed, will be completed by the end of 2018. A leading urban research university, UT Arlington is well-positioned to conduct this important study.

Mental Health

We have talked a lot over the last couple of years about the immense mental health needs in Texas.  One of the best displays of bipartisanship this session was significant mental health reforms, aimed at improving access and providing more funding for those organizations doing the important work on the front lines. I was proud to be a joint author of HB 13 by Rep. Four Price, which establishes a matching grant program for community mental health programs. I worked closely with Rep. Price to add provisions to the bill that will make the grant program more accessible for large county mental health authorities, such as MHMR of Tarrant County.

In my next email, I’ll highlight some of the work I did in the areas of ethics, education, voter rights and protecting children. I’m glad to be able to share news of these victories with you, knowing that none of them would be possible were it not for your continued support and involvement.

 

The last full measure of devotion

Today, we reflect on the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation and the freedoms we enjoy. We will never be able to repay the incredible debt we all owe to those who gave their lives, or to the loves ones they left behind.

Each year, on Memorial Day, I am reminded of President Lincoln’s words,“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…”

Today is the final day of the 85th Legislative Session. It has been a long and often trying 140 days, but today, I am reminded how fortunate we are to live in a state and a nation where we can freely debate ideas.  We can’t ever take that for granted, for it is only because of the blood shed by those who have defended our nation that we are able to enjoy the liberties of the United States of America.

Discrimination

Last week, SB 4, the “show me your papers” bill was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. It’s surreal. It’s disgusting. 

The result of this misguided law: local law enforcement and college campus police will now serve as de facto immigration officers, driving many members of our community deeper into the shadows. This law, which was billed as a pro-public safety measure, will make our neighborhoods less safe. Don’t just take my word for it, here is what Arlington Chief of Police Will Johnson wrote about the measure in a recent editorial:

“This will lead to distrust of police, less cooperation from members of the community and the belief that they cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.

“Distrust and fear of contacting or assisting police has already become evident among immigrants here legally as well.”

This was the concern shared by many in law enforcement before the addition of a Tea Party Republican amendment, which turned an already-bad bill into something much, much worse. As a result, Texas has now become a “show me your papers” state, the consequences of which will be felt in our neighborhoods, in our schools and colleges and reflected in our state’s economy.

Since day one, this bill has had one goal — to discriminate against a specific group of people for purely political gains.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this, as our state’s Republican leaders have a long history of passing measures found to have discriminatory intent. In just the past two months, three federal court rulings have highlighted how the Texas Legislature has systematically discriminated against minorities: 

  • March 10th ruling: Texas Congressional districts drawn in 2011 were drawn with discriminatory intent
  • April 10th ruling: Photo voter ID law was passed with a discriminatory purpose
  • April 20th ruling: 2011 Texas House district map — “map drawers were motivated in part by an intent to dilute minority voting strength”

So what’s the Republican response to these rulings?  It’s to pass measures like SB 4, further harming minorities and dividing our communities.

Chris

Photo credit: Texas AFL-CIO

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