ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY


Many Texans are poor, not because they don't work, but because their work pays too little to raise a family out of poverty. To ensure economic prosperity, Texas public policy must support work, make work pay, and help families build their assets. The most important thing the state can do to enhance economic opportunity is to invest in public education—from early childhood education all the way through higher education.

Recent Economic Opportunity Publications

Texas Jobs Snapshot for 2012 (12/5/2012)

"What we need are good jobs that pay us a living wage, provide health benefits, and allow us to build assets. And what businesses really need are customers. They hire when we are buying more. Our policies should encourage growth in good jobs that provide ALL of us the opportunity to be productive Texans." ­— Don Baylor, Senior Policy Analyst

Testimony: Senate Committee on Business and Commerce (10/12/2012)

The center delivered written testimony to the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce on Oct. 9. on limiting the payday loan and auto title loan fee amount and how many times the fee can be charged.

New Texas Poverty and Uninsured Numbers Make the Path Forward Clear (09/12/2012)

CPPP on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey:

“We are encouraged by the Census Bureau’s preliminary report that more Texans have the security of health insurance coverage. The data show the overall uninsured rate slightly improved thanks to the Affordable Care Act."

“But U.S. Census Bureau data show the number of Texans living in poverty remains stubbornly high and unacceptable."

Testimony: Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services (09/12/2012)

The center testified before the House Committee on Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services on payday and auto title lending. Speaking on behalf of the Texas Fair Lending Alliance, the center expressed concern over the affordability of payday and auto title loans in Texas.

The Cost of College: How Texas Students and Families are Financing College Education (09/11/2012)

Click here for a link to access the presentation and audio recording from our College Financial Aid Policy Webinar.

Financial aid enables thousands of Texans with limited financial resources to pursue postsecondary education, but need-based grant aid is under attack at state and federal levels. With new restrictions on need-based aid coupled with state budget cutbacks, financial aid rationing threatens college access, persistence, and success for a young and growing population in Texas.

Testimony: Combating the Student Loan Burden (09/11/2012)

The center submitted written testimony on the Senate Higher Education Committee interim charges exploring student financial aid and the issue of student loan debt Texas institutions of higher education.

Understanding U.S. Census Bureau Data on Poverty and Uninsured (09/10/2012)

How Texas families fare when it comes to poverty and health care coverage affects the strength and overall physical and fiscal climate of our state. The Current Population Survey (CPS) and American Community Survey (ACS) data being released this month provide a picture of where Texas stacks up against others, giving us a sense of what it really takes for Texas families to get by, get ahead, and create a productive life for their children.

Texas Funding for Schools Much Lower Than Before Recession (09/4/2012)

In response to the Great Recession, the Legislature chose to make extensive cuts to school funding instead of using the Rainy Day Fund to protect Texas school children, putting the state’s economy and long-term prosperity in jeopardy.

State and local funding for preK-12 education is 11.2 percent below 2008 levels in Texas after adjusting for student growth and inflation, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Savings Soars: OpportunityTexas’ Tax-Time Savings Project Triples Impact from Last Year (08/20/2012)

The OpportunityTexas Tax-Time Savings Project (TSP) " a partnership with the United Ways of Texas and Foundation Communities " aims to increase household savings and reduce asset poverty. TSP provides modest incentives to clients who get their taxes prepared at Volunteer Income Assistance (VITA) sites to encourage them to save a portion of their tax refunds by purchasing at least one U.S. Savings Bond. As a result of our partnerships promoting savings at tax time, the number of VITA savers has soared. The numbers of savers tripled and the amount saved quadrupled from last year.

Texans Support Protections for Payday and Auto Loan Borrowers (06/21/2012)

New poll results released today show that Texans support legislation to protect payday and auto loan borrowers from high interest rates and fees. The majority of those registered Texas voters polled want more state regulations on this issue, and the center is committed to helping protect consumers from crippling debt. The center joins more than three dozen other organizations that represent consumers, financial institutions, low-income communities, and the elderly, in forming the Texas Fair Lending Alliance to push for new state laws to control high-cost lending and protect the borrower.

Testimony: Student Success in Texas Higher Education (06/20/2012)

On Wednesday, June 20, Policy Analyst Leslie Helmcamp submitted written testimony on the Senate Higher Education Committee interim charges exploring student barriers to college success, the use of technology in college courses, and developmental education programs at Texas institutions of higher education.

Texas Regional Opportunity Index: Midland (06/11/2012)

Over the past decade, Midland enjoyed population and employment growth at rates faster than the state average. Despite concerns about a “boom and bust” cycle, Midland’s economy and employment fell only in tandem with the past two national recessions (2001-02, 2008-09). The economy remains heavily shaped by Midland’s natural resources"with about 37 cents for every dollar in private sector wages being earned in the Natural Resources & Mining supersector; statewide, the average is about six cents of every dollar.

Nearly 25,000 Texans to Lose Unemployment Insurance this Saturday (05/11/2012)

Texas is among eight other states getting hit by cuts to the federal unemployment insurance (UI) program on Saturday. Nearly 25,000 Texans will be cut off from federal UI tomorrow, leaving more Texas families without needed assistance while the economy recovers.

State Board of Education Approves Financial Literacy for Math Curriculum (04/23/2012)

“CPPP applauds the State Board of Education for approving robust curriculum standards for the new statutory requirement (SB 290) that financial literacy be incorporated into the K-8 grade math curriculum. The standards, which include content about the connection between educational attainment and earnings, along with instruction about financial preparation for postsecondary education, will help Texas students become more financially capable adults.”

Testimony: Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (04/3/2012)

On Tuesday, April 3, OpportunityTexas Project Coordinator Laura Rosen presented testimony before the House Committee on Pensions, Investments & Financial Services about the positive developments for consumers resulting from the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

The Center Has a New Home! (04/1/2012)

The center has officially moved to our new home on North Lamar! Our new address is 7020 Easy Wind Drive, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78752.

Comment: Sunset Staff Report of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (03/21/2012)

The center along with four other groups that work to improve college access and success in Texas submitted comments to Ken Levine, director of the Sunset Advisory Commission, on his agency's review of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and to offer additional proposals to strengthen our state’s higher education system.

Texas Saves Week: Saving Up (02/22/2012)

This week Texas is one of many states celebrating America Saves Week, a campaign to promote personal savings and encourage individuals to take responsibility for their finances. America Saves works with state and local partners to raise awareness about the importance of saving and helps low- and moderate income individuals open savings accounts. Having savings is key for low-income families to move up to the middle class.

One in Two Texans Has Almost No “Rainy Day” Savings to Bank On (01/31/2012)

In Texas today, 27.7 percent of households are “asset poor,” meaning they have little or no financial cushion to rely on if unemployment or another emergency leads to a loss of income, according to a report from the national nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). Excluding important assets such as a vehicle or home, the (liquid) asset poverty rate increases to 50.6 percent of Texas residents.

City of Austin Triples OpportunityTexas Tax-Time Savings Project (01/18/2012)

OpportunityTexas, a joint project of CPPP and RAISE Texas working to expand economic opportunity through education and asset building, is entering its second year of promoting savings at community tax centers by providing incentives for low-income filers to save a portion of their tax refunds.

Statement: McCown Rates PolitiFact PANTS ON FIRE for UI Column (12/19/2011)

Center for Public Policy Priorities Executive Director F. Scott McCown made the following comments on the Austin American Statesman’s PolitiFact:

“In a post on December 15, and again in today’s newspaper, the Austin American Statesman’s PolitiFact labeled ‘Mostly False’ a point made by U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett that is supported by mainstream economists, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. To that we say, PANTS ON FIRE.

OpportunityTexas: Building a Strong Middle Class (11/2/2011)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor and OpportunityTexas Project Coordinator Laura Rosen gave this presentation about OpportunityTexas at the RAISE Texas Summit at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on November 2, 2011.

College Access, Success and the 82nd Texas Legislature (11/2/2011)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor gave this presentation, “College Access, Success and the 82nd Texas Legislature," at the RAISE Texas Summit at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas November 2, 2011.

Building a Strong Middle Class: the Role of College Savings Accounts (11/1/2011)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor gave this presentation, "Building a Strong Middle Class: the Role of College Savings Accounts," on the State Platforms for College Savings Accounts panel at the College Savings Forum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on November 1, 2011.

Congress Should Pass the American Jobs Act to Get the Economy Moving and Texans Back to Work (10/7/2011)

The American Jobs Act takes the right approach to creating jobs and reducing long-term unemployment by expanding employment and training programs for unemployed Americans and continuing unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to those out of work for more than six months. Texas has suffered from persistently high unemployment over the past two years. Our state simply has more people looking for work than available jobs. If Congress does not continue federal UI benefits, an estimated 150,000 unemployed Texans will be cut off, leaving them without help and creating a drag on our economy.

Statement on the American Jobs Act (10/4/2011)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor regarding the American Jobs Act:

“The American Jobs Act takes the right approach to creating jobs by using proven state-level reemployment efforts that get Americans back to work. More urgently, we also need to continue unemployment insurance benefits while Texans build job skills and intensify their search for work."

How Texas Measures Up in the 2010 American Community Survey (09/22/2011)

American Community Survey

New data from the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey (ACS)1 illustrates that poverty and uninsured rates vary dramatically by age, race and ethnicity, and across Texas’ metropolitan areas. Our analyses of the ACS data, released September 22, focus on 10 of the most striking findings.

Under Attack: Texas' Middle Class and the Opportunity Crisis (08/19/2011)

(AUSTIN, Texas) " The American Dream means working hard to learn, earn, save, and build assets so that our families are financially secure. These opportunities are in short supply in Texas. As today’s new jobs numbers show, Texas’ unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent, marking the 23rd month the state unemployment rate has exceeded 8 percent, which ties the modern-day stretch set in the wake of the 1980s oil and real estate bust (Feb. 1986-Dec. 1987). With the state’s jobless rate higher than the past two recessions, many more Texans are experiencing sharp losses in their family income. A new report released today titled, “Under Attack: Texas’ Middle Class and the Job Crisis" suggests that stagnant incomes, a lack of good-paying jobs, and a lack of health insurance are the real issues that are crippling Texas’ middle class.

The report, co-published by CPPP and national policy center Demos, examines how stagnant wages, falling union participation, the lack of good jobs and health benefits, and the rising cost of a college education are all squeezing the Texas’ middle class.

Funding Public Education (08/1/2011)

This presentation provides a quick overview of the status of funding for public education in Texas after the 2011 legislative session.

Ready, Steady, Go! Strategies to Improve Texans' Financial Readiness to Pay for College (07/12/2011)

Texas faces numerous challenges, but also abundant opportunities to build the middle class and increase prosperity. Unfortunately, too many Texans are sidelined, lacking access to opportunities to learn, earn, and save to secure a prosperous future for themselves and their families.

Promoting College Success (04/26/2011)

Expanding economic opportunity in Texas depends on our state’s ability to increase the college graduation rate for the thousands of college freshmen arriving on campuses each year. The pending budget bills would hamper college access for thousands of Texans through severe cuts to successful financial aid programs, including TEXAS Grants (Towards Excellence Access and Success) and other grants for aspiring college students. Despite these cuts, several bills aim to promote college success through developmental education, performance-based funding, and more eligibility restrictions for TEXAS Grants. This policy page provides an overview of this pending legislation.

CPPP Applauds Bipartisan Effort to Reform Payday and Auto Title Lending (04/21/2011)

Over the past several years, unregulated and high-cost, short-term lending has taken a toll on Texas consumers and communities. Without state oversight, Texas consumers do not have basic protections against abusive lending practices or a way to escape the cycle of debt which traps Texans with unlimited fees. The 82nd Legislature has a unique opportunity to address these problems by enacting House Bill (HB) 2592, 2593, and 2594.

Testimony: HB 120 Builds on Success of NCP Choices Program (04/11/2011)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities supports House Bill (HB) 120, which would codify and expand the award-winning noncustodial parent (NCP) Choices program. NCP Choices has demonstrated great success in helping noncustodial parents find employment, increasing the amount and consistency of child support payments, and increasing the household incomes of custodial parents. By increasing child support payments to low-income families, the program has the added benefit of reducing the reliance on TANF cash assistance by custodial parents and decreasing unemployment insurance claims.

Testimony: Enhancing College Access through a Statewide Financial Preparation Model (03/9/2011)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor and OpportunityTexas Project Coordinator Laura Rosen presented testimony before the House Committee on Higher Education regarding House Bill (HB) 34 and enhancing college access through statewide financial preparation. This testimony emphasizes the importance of FAFSA completion as a college access support.

Payday Lending by Any Other Name Is Still Payday Lending: Closing the Credit Service Organization Loophole (02/21/2011)

A thriving economy needs access to credit to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. Many Texas working families living paycheck-to-paycheck also need consumer credit to bridge the gaps between their income and basic needs. Consumer credit products should have protections, enabling Texans to meet their obligations while building their credit. Unfortunately, the Texas Credit Service Organization (CSO) loophole allows payday and auto-title lending without state oversight and consumer protections. On Tuesday, February 22, the Texas Senate will hear testimony on Senate Bill 253 to close the CSO loophole, restore consumer protection, and create opportunity for Texans.

Proposed State Budget Denies 96,000 Aspiring Texas Students Financial Aid (02/9/2011)

The proposed state budget in Senate Bill 1 cuts Texas’ college financial aid grant programs by 39 percent, reducing the state’s investment in postsecondary grant aid by $385 million. Even at current funding levels, Texas’s grant programs only reach about half of eligible students. Funding cuts for state grant programs will further shift costs to hard working students and families and will serve as a barrier to college access and success in Texas.

OpportunityTexas: Learn. Earn. Save. (12/9/2010)

Texas faces numerous challenges but also has abundant opportunities to build the middle class and increase prosperity. Unfortunately, too many Texans are on the sideline, lacking access to opportunities to learn, earn, and save to secure a more prosperous future for themselves and their families.

To create jobs, increase income, and promote savings, Texas must develop and expand programs and policies to ensure greater prosperity for all Texans.

Baylor Talks Implications of Financial Reform for Texas and Consumers at Bankers' Breakfast (10/5/2010)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor presented, "Federal Financial Reform Implications for Texas and Consumers," at a Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas roundtable breakfast in San Antonio on September 30.

Federal Funding for Child Support is Critical to Children and Families (09/16/2010)

Over $1 billion in funding for state child support programs could potentially be cut from the 2011 federal budget if Congress fails to repeal funding cuts enacted as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and restore full funding for the child support program. A cut of this magnitude would be devastating to states and needy children. According to the Congressional Budget Office, child support collections would decline by over $2 billion. What’s at Stake Because the cut would be to the federal matching funds on incentive payments earned by state child support programs, states, such as Texas, with the best performance would stand to lose the most funding. Because the cut would be to the federal matching funds on incentive payments earned by state child support programs, states, such as Texas, with the best performance would stand to lose the most funding.

A Cut to Child Support Funding Would Jeopardize Successful Employment Programs for Noncustodial Parents (09/13/2010)

As the U.S. Congress returns to work today from their Labor Day recess, members must take action on Senate Bill (SB) 1859 to further their commitment to strengthening American families.

Laboring for Less: As Texans Celebrate Labor Day, New Numbers Show Their Personal Income Loses Ground to Other States (09/2/2010)

Recent data on personal income and per capita personal income released by the Bureau of Economic Statistics (BEA) demonstrates the devastating effects of the recession on Americans across the country, especially in Texas where per capita personal income fell from a rank of 26 to 29 in the United States. Despite a 2 percent population increase in Texas between 2008 and 2009, total personal income declined by 1.6 percent to $904.2 billion. Although Texas had a lower unemployment rate (8.2 percent) compared to the national average (9.5 percent), per capita personal income in the state declined faster than the national rate. Twenty-one out of the 25 Texas metro areas (MSA) experienced declines in per capita personal income. Statewide, the decline in per capita personal income has been most pronounced in the larger MSAs during the recession. The data also indicate the role of unemployment insurance (UI) as an income stabilizer. Without the state UI program and federal UI extensions, per capita income would have fallen as much as 4 percent in 2009.

Federal Financial Reform: Implications for Texas and Consumers (08/10/2010)

How will financial reform affect Texas and consumers? CPPP Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor recently spelled out the implications of reform at an FDIC Alliance for Economic Inclusion (AEI) meeting.

Texas Tuition Promise Fund: Using College Savings To Increase College Success (06/28/2010)

The old saying, “You have to learn to earn,” underscores the importance of investing in higher education. Yet rising tuition, limited financial aid, and a lack of savings keeps college out of reach, and out of mind, for many Texas families, especially low-income families.

Although the Legislature created the Texas Tuition Promise Fund explicitly to reach low-income students, an analysis of the plan’s first two years demonstrates that students who most need college savings accounts largely remain untouched.

To close the gaps, the state must align its college savings plans and master plan for higher education to seamlessly provide incentives for economically disadvantaged students to begin college savings.

Common-sense Principles for Immigration Reform (04/29/2010)

As Arizona’s controversial new immigration law makes clear, Americans are frustrated about immigration. While we share Arizona’s frustration, we strongly reject its approach. Congress must act to reform our immigration system"it is critical to our national security, our economy, and who we are as a nation. As the President has said, "failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others."

To promote responsible action, we propose a common-sense approach. Our approach is similar to that of a broad-based coalition of Texas employers that have joined together as Texas Employers for Immigration Reform (TEIR). This convergence of views says something important: The divide on immigration is not between business and workers or conservatives and progressives; it is between the informed and the uninformed. If our nation follows common-sense principles, we can reform our immigration system in a way that that protects our national security, strengthens our economy, enhances labor standards for all workers, and honors American traditions and constitutional principles.

Senior Fiscal Analyst Dick Lavine Testifies Before House Ways and Means (04/28/2010)

Senior Fiscal Analyst Dick Lavine testified before the Texas House Ways and Means Committee about the optional homestead exemption.

Turning Community College Drop-outs into Graduates (04/22/2010)

Texas community colleges have a high dropout rate, which limits economic opportunity for Texans and poses a major barrier to building and sustaining a skilled workforce. Although two-thirds of Texas college-bound high school graduates are prepared for college work, a large number of recent graduates and adults returning to pursue higher education are not college ready. Those underprepared for college face the hurdle of completing remedial courses-known as developmental education-in one or all core subject areas of math, reading, and writing--before enrolling in credit-bearing coursework.

Nationally, fewer than 40 percent of students who are referred to developmental education actually enroll in college-level courses. With emerging demand for higher-skilled workers, developmental education reforms are key to maximizing access to good jobs and moving the Texas economy forward.

Census Jobs in Texas (02/26/2010)

The U.S. Census Bureau is hiring thousands of workers in Texas to help conduct the 2010 Census. More than 84,000 jobs will be created throughout the state during peak operations. This policy point tells you more. An accurate Census count has direct implications for every Texan. Many government funding decisions for services such as schools, housing, job training, roads, health care, and social services rely on Census data. Many communities are historically undercounted. Census workers can help ensure an accurate count for the 2010 Census.

A One-Year Anniversary Report on ARRA and Jobs (02/16/2010)

On the one year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, this policy page provides an overview of the impact of ARRA on employment in Texas and makes recommendations as Congress considers proposals to protect existing jobs and create more jobs.

Fighting Hunger, Improving Nutrition: Progress and Opportunities in the Texas Legislature (01/22/2010)

CPPP senior food and nutrition policy analyst Celia Hagert delivered this presentation on "fighting hunger, improving nutrition" to the Texas Food Policy Roundtable, a new initiative founded by the Christian Life Commission of the General Baptist Convention of Texas.

Economic Recovery Act Keeping 640,000 Texans Out of Poverty During Recession (12/17/2009)

Austin, Texas"The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) today highlighted a new report showing that, along with boosting the economy and saving and creating jobs, seven provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) enacted in February kept 640,000 Texans from falling into poverty this year. According to the study, released today by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), ARRA also reduced the severity of poverty for another 2.9 million impoverished Texans by boosting their incomes, in most cases by at least $700.

Texas in Boom: Did the Growth Help Working Families Get Ahead? (12/15/2009)

Despite strong growth in indicators related to GDP, population, employment and exports in one of the state’s largest boom times, the overall conditions for low-income working families saw little improvement since 2004. This report updates how Texas’ working families fared during a period of economic growth and proposes policy solutions to ensure that the state invests in work force and skill development for working Texans.

The State of Working Texas 2009 (10/16/2009)

Although Texas was late to feel the effects of the national recession, economic indicators including the unemployment rate, underemployment, home foreclosure rates, and declining wages demonstrate that Texas is feeling the full impact of the economic downturn. For example, unemployment numbers released today show that our unemployment rate has climbed to 8.2 percent, with 44,700 Texas jobs lost in September. In addition, underemployment, household poverty, and labor force participation are headed in the wrong direction. The State of Working Texas 2009 annual report summarizes the employment situation in Texas and analyzes various indicators to highlight economic conditions for Texas workers.

Labor Day Update: Texas' Unemployment Insurance System (09/6/2009)

With the unemployment rate reaching 7.9 percent in July, coupled with a decrease in job creation, Texans face greater financial hardships, with many unable to pay their mortgages, afford health care and provide for their family’s basic needs. With unemployment on the rise, more Texans turn to the unemployment insurance (UI) system for financial relief to bridge the gap between jobs. Unfortunately, fewer than 35 percent of unemployed Texans became insured during the first quarter of 2009 " maintaining Texas’ ranking of 50th in the nation. Despite a low recipiency rate and a lower unemployment rate compared to the rest of the nation, the chronically insolvent UI Trust Fund ran dry after only six months of elevated claims. The Trust Fund now faces a gigantic deficit heading into 2010, billions of dollars in future debt service, and higher employer rates for years to come.

This Policy Page provides an overview of the Texas labor market and the state of the unemployment insurance system.

Congress Must Not Leave Any Wounded American Worker on the Economic Battlefield (09/3/2009)

If the First Infantry suffered 9 percent wounded, while the Second Infantry suffered “only” 7.9 percent, sending medicine to the First Infantry, but not the Second, would make no sense. Every wounded soldier deserves help. And, if the Second Infantry is bigger than the First, sending help to the Second would be even more important to the strength of the army. Yet, HR 3404 (McDermott) and S 1647 (Reed) propose to trigger an additional 13 weeks of critically important Emergency Unemployment Compensation for unemployed American workers based upon state unemployment rates. Unemployed workers in 28 states, including Texas, would not get help because of state rates below the trigger. This approach is unfair to American workers and counterproductive for the national economy. Congress should help workers in all states equally.

On the November Ballot--Proposition 4: Creating More Tier-One Universities in Texas (08/19/2009)

The most important natural resource Texas has is Texans. Unfortunately, our state suffers from a “brain drain” as many of our best and brightest students leave to further their education. A contributing cause is a lack of “tier one” universities in Texas. Proposition 4 (a constitutional amendment to create a National Research University Fund to help fund certain state universities to become nationally recognized research institutions) would provide funding to Texas universities seeking to attain tier-one status. With more university research, the state hopes for new jobs, increased wages, and more state and local tax revenue. This Policy Page describes criteria commonly used to determine tier-one status, the benefits of having more tier-one universities in Texas, progress of selected Texas schools toward tier-one status, and the specifics of Proposition 4.

It's Getting Hot in Here (08/3/2009)

Texas Weatherization Assistance Program Provides Relief to Low-Income Families and Creates Jobs for the New Economy

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Texas will receive $327 million in additional Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) funds through 2011. The new funds will increase the number of homes weatherized in Texas to between 30,000 and 35,000 homes, up from 4,173 in 2006. Weatherization helps low-income communities by making their homes more energy efficient, thereby reducing the cost of utilities and homes from extreme weather conditions. Weatherization also enhances the value of a family’s primary asset " their home. This policy page provides background on the Texas WAP and explores how ARRA funds can prepare more Texans for jobs of the future, meet consumer demands, and improve the quality of life for low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, and families with children.

SB 1257 Increases Protections and Access to Information for Health Insurance Consumers (04/16/2009)

Texas’ commercial health insurance market is considered “healthy” because it has a relatively large number of carriers writing coverage, is subject to a low level of regulation compared to other states, and generates $22 billion in premiums annually. The effect of this market on Texas consumers, however, is anything but healthy. For Texas health insurance consumers, this market produces some of the fastest growing premiums in the nation, one of the lowest rates of coverage through job-based insurance, and small employer premiums as high as $29,000 a year per employee. SB 1257 makes changes in the health insurance market which will allow consumers to maintain coverage during certain disputes with insurers, provide consumers with more information on health insurance, and establish a mechanism to review large rate increases for small employers to ensure they are justified.

SB 6, Healthy Texas: Testimony to the Senate State Affairs Committee (03/26/2009)

SB 6 will create the Healthy Texas program. With nearly 6 million Texans lacking health insurance coverage and the cost of coverage growing ten times faster than incomes, Texas needs to take bold steps to confront issues with access to health coverage. Healthy Texas has the potential to put private health insurance coverage within reach of many uninsured Texans working for small employers by addressing the primary barrier to coverage"the high cost of premiums"using a public-private partnership.

The Texas Recovery Plan (03/25/2009)

Public structures such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Unemployment Insurance were created to help families in tough economic times and to help the economy recover from a down cycle. These are indeed tough times"we face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Tragically, many Texans are becoming aware for the first time of the crumbling nature of many of our public structures, weakened by years of neglect when times were good. Now that times are tough, we find our systems unprepared. Fortunately, though, the new federal economic recovery law makes resources available to help repair and improve these systems, which will in turn energize economic activity and get Texas on the road to recovery.

But, Texas will only get the federal funds"and the needed improvements to our public structures"if state policymakers make the right choices, soon.

HB 531: Minimum Medical Loss Ratios: Testimony to the House Insurance Committee (03/24/2009)

Consumers and employers deserve to know that their hard-earned money going to health insurance premiums is used by insurance companies primarily for health care costs rather than insurance company administration, marketing, and profits. HB 531 sets standards for how insurance companies use premiums dollars that will introduce a much needed level of accountability and transparency to the health insurance market.

Modernizing the Vehicle Asset Test (HB 1625): CPPP Testimony to the House Committee on Human Services (03/19/2009)

Reliable means of transportation are essential for families trying to get to and from work, and they are especially important for out-of-work Texans trying to find employment. Current asset tests for determining eligibility for public benefits unfairly penalize Texan families for owning reliable means of transportation. CPPP staff recently offered testimony in support of updating Texas' asset tests to ensure that needy individuals and families get the help they need and still have transportation.

Recommendations to Select Committee on Federal Stabilization Funds (03/12/2009)

ARRA provides enough funding for additional eligibility staff and 12-months continuous coverage of children on Medicaid. The TANF Emergency Contingency Fund also gives us the opportunity to help extremely poor families during the economic downturn.

CPPP Calls On Texas State Officials to Target Federal Recovery Act Funds to Those Hurt Most by Recession (03/6/2009)

With more than $16 billion in federal recovery spending coming to Texas through state agencies, the Center for Public Policy Priorities urged state policymakers to invest in programs that will give struggling low-income families and unemployed workers new opportunities to succeed economically. CPPP also called on the state to ensure that recovery money helps stabilize the economy and benefits those hurt most by the recession. Spending should be done openly, efficiently and with accountability.

CPPP: Texas Lawmakers Should Seize Opportunity to Fix Unemployment Insurance (02/25/2009)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities today urged state policymakers to draw down available funds for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in the federal recovery law. The center highlighted an exchange yesterday between Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) regarding the counterproductive effects of states forgoing money for UI:

BERNANKE: If unemployment benefits are not distributed to the unemployed, then they won't spend them and it won't have that particular element of stimulus.

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): So if this was done on a wide basis, it would be counterproductive, not productive?

BERNANKE: It would reduce the stimulus effect of the package, yes.

Federal Economic Recovery Legislation and Texas (02/13/2009)

Today, Congress released the details of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provides $789 billion to stimulate the economy. Many of these measures will also help protect vulnerable Texans during this economic downturn. To take full advantage of the benefits in the recovery package and set our economy on the road to recovery, Texas must plan immediately. We applaud Speaker Joe Straus for appointing the Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, charged with monitoring federal action and suggesting to standing committees needed steps to qualify for federal economic recovery funds. This paper summarizes the portions of the bill that affect the state budget.

Strengthening the Texas Unemployment Insurance System (12/17/2008)

Yesterday, CPPP brought together state and national experts to discuss steps Texas could take to strengthen our unemployment insurance system. We were joined by Maurice Emsellem, the Policy Co-Director of the National Employment Law Project.

Presentations given at the event by CPPP's Don Baylor and Mr. Emsellem are now available online.

The State of Working Texas 2008 (12/17/2008)

As the national recession enters a second year, Texas is retreating from a three-year period of economic expansion and broadbased job growth. With jobs and profits harder to come by, Texas will need to respond to the immediate challenges posed by an impending global recession while crafting a more sustainable economic development strategy that equally considers the economic needs of companies and working families. The State of Working Texas 2008 is the latest in a series of joint projects of CPPP and the Economic Policy Institute, which published The State of Working America 2008/2009 earlier this year.

Inadequate Financial Aid for Higher Education Puts Brakes on Opportunity (12/12/2008)

Meaningful access to higher education is a cornerstone of economic opportunity. Higher educational attainment strengthens the workforce, increases earnings, and often leads to a better quality of life"for individuals and the broader society. To remain competitive in the global marketplace, Texas must support students who are seeking higher education. This policy page discusses the underfunding of Texas’ financial aid programs and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s strategies to improve educational participation and success.

Closing the Educational Gaps: Opening Essay for the 2008-09 Texas KIDS COUNT Data Book (12/11/2008)

Our Texas KIDS COUNT Project reports annually on key measures of child well-being, monitoring our state’s progress to ensure that all Texas children can grow into healthy, secure, and educated citizens who contribute to our common good.

This year’s report includes an essay focusing on the steps Texas must take if we are serious about closing educational gaps between economically advantaged, primarily White students and economically disadvantaged, primarily minority students in achievement (how well children do in school) and attainment (how far children go in school).

A Labor Day Review of Our Unemployment Insurance System (08/29/2008)

Texans are losing jobs and taking longer to find work in today’s tough economic environment, reminding us this Labor Day of the importance of Unemployment Insurance (UI). Unemployment checks enable Texans to buy groceries, pay rent, and meet basic needs, helping both Texas families and the Texas economy. Unfortunately, Texas state policies prevent four of every five jobless Texans from collecting UI. This paper recommends common-sense, affordable changes to shore up this vital public structure that protects Texans in tough economic times. Our recommendations include new definitions for eligibility, modern infrastructure to process claims, and a smarter, sustainable funding plan.

Census Bureau Data Shows Economic Expansion Left Many Texans Behind in 2007 (08/26/2008)

New data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that many Texans did not share the benefits of economic expansion in 2007 and still cannot meet their basic needs. Hard work for Texans was rewarded in far too many cases with very low wages and no employer-sponsored health insurance. While Texas poverty and income improved slightly in 2007, poverty rates remain worse than during the last recession, and Texas still has the worst uninsured rate in the U.S. The data suggest that Texas state policies make it harder, not easier, for hardworking Texans to get out of poverty and to get health insurance.

More Outreach Needed: More than 400,000 Texans Yet to Claim Stimulus Checks (08/8/2008)

More than 400,000 Texans may be eligible to receive economic stimulus checks but have not yet made a claim, according to the IRS. Employers, nonprofits, and state and local governments ought to consider helping locate eligible Texans and encourage them to file for stimulus payments. These rebates can still be claimed by filing a 2007 tax return before the October 15 deadline. Veterans, retirees, and others who typically are not required to file tax returns are at the highest risk of not receiving their share of the stimulus. As of late June, Texans are missing out on more than $124 million in unclaimed rebates.

CPPP Comments on Texas Tuition Promise Fund Rules (07/21/2008)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor provided comments on the rules of the Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board's Texas Tuition Promise Fund. Recommendations include increasing participation by creating “provisional” accounts between open enrollment periods and driving contributions to the Save & Match fund by harnessing the tax-deductibility of donations to a nonprofit foundation.

Income Inequality on the Rise in Texas (04/9/2008)

The gap between the richest and poorest families, and between the richest and middle-income families grew substantially in Texas over the past two decades, according to a new study by the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute. Growing income inequality tears at the fabric of our economy, and shows our public policies are failing to promote shared prosperity. In fact, inequality has accelerated since the late 1990s as incomes have fallen for poor families and virtually stagnated for middle-income families in Texas. (The full report can be found at http://www.cbpp.org/4-9-08sfp.htm.)

College Savings Accounts 101 (04/9/2008)

An educated and skilled workforce is critical to Texas’ economic vitality and competitiveness. 529 College Savings Plans offer important tools for increasing educational levels by improving K-12 student achievement, minimizing dropouts, supporting our lagging financial aid system, and reducing dependence on expensive student loans. Increasing participation in these college savings plans should be a vital component of statewide efforts to increase college enrollment and completion. This policy page introduces college savings plans, how they operate, and why a matched savings policy can move Texas forward.

Payday Lending--Hurting Texas Families (02/22/2008)

It’s the American Dream that if you work hard you get ahead. But with the high cost of living these days, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes families run short of cash and turn to payday loans"short-term loans that give Texans a cash advance on their paychecks, Social Security payments, or veteran’s benefits. Millions of families use these loans when they are short of cash, but the high cost outweighs the convenience. Interest rates start at 400 percent APR and can surpass 1,000 percent, and it is typical for a worker to pay $180 in interest on a 10-day, $700 loan. More often than not, the individual is unable to repay the full amount within the short repayment period, and the debt balloons. In fact, most payday lending volume comes from individuals forced by the cost of the original loan to take out another and another. We’ve seen the devastating impact of subprime lending on the economy. But what do payday loans cost families and communities in Texas?

Come and Claim It: Texas Economy & Families to Benefit From $5 Billion EITC Stimulus (01/31/2008)

Today, Governor Rick Perry issued a proclamation designating January 31st as Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day in Texas. To read the proclamation, see http://www.uwtexas.org/data/docs/EITC_Procalamation.pdf. The EITC is a refundable federal tax credit for eligible households with earned income no more than $39,783. For the 2008 filing season, the maximum refund is $4,716. As the nation’s most successful anti-poverty program, the EITC enables working families to address basic needs while also providing a platform for financial stability and success. Families can apply online for the EITC at http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=118986,00.html or by visiting a local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site. To find a VITA location nearest you, see http://www.uwtexas.org/data/docs/Texas_Tax_Preparation_Sites.pdf.

Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Centers Get a Federal Boost; CPPP Develops Local Materials (01/11/2008)

The recently enacted 2008 federal budget bill includes a boost for community tax centers that help working families file tax returns for little to no cost. The bill authorizes an $8 million matching grant demonstration program for Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs through the end of Federal Fiscal Year 2009 (September 30, 2009). Community VITA programs play a critical role in Texas and across the nation by helping lower-income individuals claim valuable tax credits and refunds, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit. CPPP has prepared a short and user-friendly presentation to educate volunteer tax preparers about the impact of savings on public benefits eligibility, as well as new flyers (in English and Spanish) that volunteer tax preparers can give to their low-income clients when helping prepare their taxes.

What We Know About Property Tax Lending So Far (10/18/2007)

Property tax lending is the practice of soliciting property owners who are delinquent in their property tax payments to take out a loan to cover the tax payments. In return, the lender takes over the tax lien on the property, allowing the lender to foreclose on the property if payments are missed. Local county tax assessors/collectors offer a wide range of options to delinquent property owners that would allow them to avoid taking out a property tax loan. Despite these options, property tax lending is a rapidly growing industry in Texas, targeted especially at residential homeowners, who account for roughly four out of every five tax loan borrowers. The Texas Finance Commission is now reviewing regulations governing this type of lending.

Our Grade Is In: Texas Receives "F" in Financial Stability (09/12/2007)

When it comes to our ability to achieve financial success, Texas residents are falling behind the rest of the country, according to a report released today by the national Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). According to the 2007-2008 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, Texas was just one of five states that earned an “F” based on poor performance in the following areas: Financial Security, Business Development, Homeownership, Health Care, and Education.

The State of Working Texas 2007 (09/2/2007)

The State of Working Texas 2007 is CPPP’s annual Labor Day report on the status of the Texas economy and workforce drawing from various federal and state data sources, with assistance from the Economic Policy Institute. This report analyzes trends in unemployment, wages, and demographics, along with other issues that affect working Texans. On a positive note, unemployment has declined considerably, the gender wage gap has narrowed, and a smaller share of workers is earning poverty wages. On the negative side, Texas continues to lag far behind the nation and even the region on several key indicators, including educational attainment, health insurance, and wage growth.

The Federal Minimum Wage Increase and Texas (07/24/2007)

Today the minimum wage in Texas increased from $5.15 to $5.85 as part of the first federal minimum wage increase in ten years. The minimum wage will increase again to $6.55 in July 2008, with a final increase to $7.25 in July 2009. Texas is currently the only state of the eleven most populous states whose state minimum wage is not higher than the federal standard, and therefore stands to gain the most from the federal increase.

National Study: Pre-K Investment in Texas Could Save Billions (07/11/2007)

According to new state data released by the national Economic Policy Institute, Texas could save billions of public dollars over the upcoming decades by immediately investing in pre-kindergarten programs. In Texas, high-quality pre-K programs would begin paying for themselves within eight years, according to a state-level analysis of the Enriching Children, Enriching the Nation study.

Testimony on Texas College Savings Programs (06/28/2007)

Don Baylor presented testimony before the House Select Committee on Public and Higher Education Finance on policy options surrounding Texas’ college savings programs, including the Texas Tomorrow Fund, Texas Tomorrow Fund II, and the 529 college savings plan, to be managed by OFI Private Investments. This testimony emphasizes the importance of matching provisions for these programs in order to boost plan enrollment and incentivize college savings for working families.

The Federal Minimum Wage and Texas (05/25/2007)

Yesterday Congress passed the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. Under the bill, which is expected to be signed by the President any day, the minimum wage would climb from $5.15 to $7.25/hour over the next 26 months. The first increase would occur 60 days after the bill is signed and would raise the minimum wage to $5.85/hour. It would then increase to $6.55/hour in 2008 and $7.25/hour in 2009. Since Texas' minimum wage is linked to the federal standard, 863,000 low-wage Texas workers earning less than $7/hour (8.5% of the statewide workforce) will see their wages increase.

Testimony on HB 48 (05/16/2007)

Don Baylor provided testimony on HB 48 before the Senate Committee on Finance. HB 48 relates to distributions from the employment and training investment holding fund.

Testimony on HB 3900 (05/7/2007)

Don Baylor provided testimony on HB 3900 before the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education. HB 3900 relates to the Texas Tomorrow Fund II prepaid tuition unit undergraduate education program.

Testimony on Tax Filing Assistance for EITC and Low-Income Filers (04/18/2007)

Don Baylor testified before the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means committees on behalf of a proposal that would assist free tax preparation for EITC and other low-income filers.

Less Than Three Weeks Remain to Claim EITC (04/2/2007)

Most folks realize that less than three weeks remain to file federal income taxes. But did you know that if you earned up to $38,348 in 2006 you may be eligible for a large refund? The refund comes by way of the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC.

EITC 101 (03/26/2007)

First enacted in 1975 under President Ford, the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, is a federal tax credit designed to "make work pay" by providing low- and moderate-income working families with a credit on their earned income. President Reagan called the EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.” Every year, the EITC lifts over 450,000 Texans"including 250,000 children"out of poverty while pumping billions of dollars into the economy. In Texas, the average EITC refund is $2,050. Find out if you or someone you know qualifies. Also access EITC data by House and Senate districts.

Rapacious Loan Sharks Stalk Low, Middle-Income Texans: Amarillo Globe-News (03/15/2007)

Loan sharks are preying on families across the nation, especially in Texas. At the federal level, Congress is helping to protect military families. But millions of working families remain vulnerable. Amarillo families"who earn 15% less than the average Texas family"are particularly at risk.

Loopholes Allow Loan Sharks to Prey on Hardworking Texans: San Antonio Express-News (02/16/2007)

Loan sharks are preying on families across the nation, especially in Texas. At the federal level, Congress is helping to protect military families. But millions of other families remain vulnerable. Families in San Antonio are among the hardest hit.

As Payday Lending Spreads Across Texas, Can It be Reformed or Regulated? (12/7/2006)

Payday lending, sometimes known as a cash advance, is a small, short-term, high interest loan that is intended to bridge the borrower's cash flow gap between pay periods. High-cost payday loans are considered among the most destructive financial products in the marketplace. With increasingly high lending volume in Texas"well over 2 million loans per year" and exorbitant interest rates (often higher than 500% APR), payday lending products drain over $280 million in earnings from Texas workers each year and pitch many borrowers into an endless cycle of debt. Across the country, consumer advocates have partnered with religious groups, military organizations, and mainstream financial institutions in an effort to push state regulators and lawmakers to curb payday lending abuses. Can Texas regulate the industry in a way that protects borrowers from the dangers of payday loans?

Why a Minimum Wage Increase Would be Good for Texas (10/11/2006)

Hundreds of thousands of Texas workers earn the minimum wage ($5.15 an hour) or just slightly above. The minimum wage is a poverty wage. Someone working full time on the minimum wage and supporting just himself would only earn a pre-tax income of $10,712 a year. A minimum-wage worker trying to support his family would need to work multiple jobs and rely on significant public assistance, and even then probably wouldn’t make ends meet.

The State of Working Texas 2006 (09/6/2006)

Every year around Labor Day, CPPP issues a report on the status of the Texas economy in conjunction with the national Economic Policy Institute. This report finds that nearly five years since the 2001-02 recession, the economy has yet to rebound with advances in household income or real wages. In fact, Texas has shown a 6.2% decline in real median household income since 2002. Virtually all demographic groups have experienced this trend, with younger workers and African-Americans especially hard hit. On a positive note, although still above the national average, Texas' unemployment rate continues to decline and Texas is adding jobs at a faster rate than the U.S. as a whole.

Moving Forward: Common Sense Policies to Promote Prosperity for Working Texans (08/30/2006)

Just in time for Labor Day, CPPP is proud to release Moving Forward: Common Sense Policies to Promote Prosperity for Working Texans. The report analyzes the barriers facing low-income Texans and provides nine recommendations to promote prosperity and move the economy forward.

Comments on the TANF Interim Final Regulations (08/28/2006)

Earlier this year Congress reauthorized the TANF block grant and in June the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released interim rules for the program. CPPP issued Texas-specific comments to improve the new regulations.

Call to Action: Don't Let Hurricane Evacuees Lose Unemployment Insurance (05/24/2006)

Unless Congress acts this week, about 80,000 Katrina and Rita evacuees will lose their unemployment benefits in June. Of these, more than 26,000 are currently living in Texas. We urge you to contact your Senator and Congressional Representative to pass H.R. 5392, a measure to extend Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) for an additional 13 weeks.

Special Session Tax and School-Finance Package Creates $10.5 Billion Deficit (05/15/2006)

The fiscal notes for the tax and school-finance bills passed during the special session reveal a gap of $10.5 billion between the expected costs of HB 1 and anticipated revenues from HB 3, 4, and 5 in 2008-09. This deficit will place tremendous pressure on the next state budget, which could cause severe budget cutbacks, an increase in the state sales tax or other state taxes, an expansion of gambling as a source of revenue, or all of the above.

TANF Reauthorization--Texas' Choice: The High Road or the Low Road? (04/18/2006)

As part of budget reconciliation, Congress recently reauthorized Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) after numerous short-term extensions. The reauthorization makes several programmatic changes while providing a minimal increase in child care funding. TANF reauthorization provides an opportunity for states to upgrade their TANF work-based programs to deliver better workforce services, engage more recipients in education and training, and improve outcomes. The question is what Texas can do to help families acquire skills and attain self-sufficiency.

Unemployment Benefits Extended for Those Left Jobless by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (03/9/2006)

On Monday, the President signed legislation extending disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) at least 13 weeks for workers who lost their jobs as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For those left jobless as a result of Hurricane Katrina, their benefits expired on Saturday, March 4. Most Rita-related unemployment benefits are set to expire on March 25. Thousands of Texans could qualify for these extended benefits.

The Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit (03/3/2006)

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), and the Child and Dependent Care Credit are federally funded anti-poverty initiatives that help low-income individuals and families meet their basic needs. Households in poverty and those surviving on meager budgets can significantly benefit from these opportunities to increase their net income.

The Earned Income Tax Credit Provides Billions to Texans, Yet $1.2 Billion Went Unclaimed Last Year (02/27/2006)

More than two million Texas workers claimed over $4 billion in federal dollars for tax year 2003 through the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), ranking ahead of the more populous California. The EITC not only boosts the earnings of low-wage workers and stimulates the Texas economy; it also provides an excellent opportunity for working families to save for the future. Although outreach and free income tax assistance have improved awareness of the program, the Texas economy and working families lost out on nearly $1.2 billion in unclaimed EITC payments last year.

Texas Left Nearly $1.2 Billion in Tax Credits on the Table Last Year: Now’s the Time for Low-Income Families to Claim EITC (02/7/2006)

In Texas, approximately $1.2 billon dollars of tax credits went unclaimed last year in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). EITC is one of the nation’s most successful anti-poverty programs, helping low-income workers and families earning up to $38,000 receive a rebate of federal income taxes. In 2003, EITC lifted 440,000 Texans, including 240,000 children, out of poverty while pumping billions of dollars into the economy.

Study: Texas Leads U.S. in Income Inequality Between Wealthiest and Middle-Income Families (01/26/2006)

For years, there have been reports about the widening gaps between the rich and the poor, but few include a detailed look at income inequality trends in Texas. The study, Pulling Apart, put out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute, finds that Texas leads the nation in the income inequality between its richest and middle-income families, and has the second widest gap between its wealthiest and poorest.

Update on Unemployment Assistance for Hurricane Evacuees (12/1/2005)

More than 300,000 displaced Louisiana workers (62,000 of whom are living in Texas) have been collecting jobless benefits as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but as of November 27, the rules have changed. Now, many displaced workers living in Texas may qualify for additional assistance, including up to two extra weeks of benefits. But in order to continue collecting assistance, these workers must report their job search efforts to the Louisiana Department of Labor on a weekly basis, ending the emergency exemption previously authorized by Governor Kathleen Blanco.

Statement by F. Scott McCown on the Texas Supreme Court’s School Finance Ruling (11/22/2005)

Today, the Texas Supreme Court ruled (7 to 1) in the school finance case, holding that local school district property taxes capped at $1.50 per $100 valuation constitute a state property tax prohibited by the constitution but that public school financing does not yet violate the “general diffusion of knowledge” mandate of adequacy, efficiency, or suitability. The Court did not rule that “Robin Hood” or “recapture” is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court extended the trial court’s October 1 deadline for a legislative solution to June 1. Read the statement of retired state district judge Scott McCown, who presided over all of Texas' public school finance cases from 1990-2002.

President Suspends Wage Laws for Gulf Coast Workers (10/7/2005)

Last month, the President suspended the Davis-Bacon Act for federally contracted cleanup and reconstruction projects in counties and parishes directly affected by Hurricane Katrina. The Davis-Bacon Act"a federal law since 1931"requires federal construction contractors to pay the prevailing hourly wage for each occupation in a geographic area. The prevailing hourly wage for construction occupations averages $9.50 per hour in the affected areas of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. However, the President’s repeal of Davis-Bacon enables federal contractors to hire minimum-wage workers to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Analysis of Sixty-Five Percent Rule in School Spending (09/27/2005)

In August, the Governor issued an executive order requiring that “65 percent of school district funds be expended for instructional purposes as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics." Requiring school districts to spend at least 65% of their operating budget on “instruction” as defined by the federal government would not enhance student achievement, would have unintended negative consequences, and would move Texas back to measuring process rather than performance.

Policy Alert: Take Action Against Payday Lenders (09/15/2005)

On August 17, the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the Gone To Texas Coalition (including TexPIRG, Texas Impact, and Texas ACORN) called on Texas’ Consumer Credit Commissioner Leslie Pettijohn to request Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to take enforcement action against companies that violate the state’s usury laws. You can help by contacting Commissioner Pettijohn and General Abbott and urging them to take all necessary steps to prevent payday lenders from operating outside of the law.

Letter to the Consumer Credit Commissioner (09/15/2005)

Read the letter that the Center for Public Policy Priorities and other local organizations sent to the Consumer Credit Commissioner, requesting that the Attorney General take enforcement action against payday lenders for violation of the state's usury laws.

What's the Latest on the Texas Economy? (09/2/2005)

This report tells a mixed story. Over the past several months, the Texas unemployment rate has improved considerably " in July matching the national average of 5.0%. However, rising long-term unemployment and the declining labor force participation rate indicate underlying problems with the Texas labor market. More importantly, Texas workers have been experiencing wage and income stagnation over the past two decades, limiting the pace of economic growth and the ability of those individuals at or near the poverty level to work their way out of poverty. In addition, educational attainment continues to be a major factor in determining income. Texas’ high share of workers with less than a college education keeps overall wages lower than the national average.

Payday Update: Unregistered and Unregulated, Payday Lenders Put Consumers at Risk and Flout Texas Usury Laws (08/15/2005)

Since Texas lawmakers defeated HB 846"an industry-backed bill that would have tripled the interest rates on short-term “payday” loans"the Texas payday lending industry has adopted another business model to evade state and federal regulation. In July, Texas-based payday lenders regrouped as businesses operating under Texas’ Credit Service Organization Act. As a Credit Service Organization (CSO), a payday lending company dodges both federal guidelines restricting payday loans and the interest rate limits established by the Texas Finance Commission (TFC). Meanwhile, a recent TFC study demonstrates how Texas consumers are being gouged by these high-cost, short-term loans.

The Performance of Public Education in Texas (07/30/2005)

A presentation Scott McCown delivered about the performance of public education in Texas.

Call to Action on School Finance (07/20/2005)

F. Scott McCown's Open Letter to the 79th Legislature urges members to vote "NO" on HB 2, the pending school finance legislation. Make your voice heard. Urge your representative and senator to vote NO.

Learning to Share; Justices Could Ensure Texas Children Get More Than Crumbs: Austin American-Statesman (07/7/2005)

If you have two boys, one big and one small, and you give the big boy a cookie and ask him to share, the little boy will get crumbs. And as long as the big boys are allowed to "share" this way, they won't throw in their nickels to buy a big enough cookie for all of the kids. When it comes to school finance, Texas needs a really big cookie.

Who Needs a Raise More: Tom DeLay or a Bus Boy?: Austin American-Statesman (07/6/2005)

Last week, the U.S. House gave itself a pay raise for the seventh time in as many years. But the House leadership refused to acknowledge that $3,100 more a year can be called a pay raise"they called it “an adjustment” in earnings. Since 1998, the House has raised its annual member salary by $31,600"a 23.7 percent cumulative increase to $165,200 per year. During these same years, the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 an hour"the second longest period of stagnation since its inception in 1938.

Foggy Business Climate Studies (06/30/2005)

Texas ranks relatively high on several “business climate” indices that compare state policies and outcomes related to economic growth and vitality. Texas’ low business taxes are often claimed to be a magnet for relocating businesses and a catalyst for interstate competitiveness and survival of existing firms. But in a new book, Grading Places: What do the Business Climate Rankings Really Tell Us? (http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/books_grading_places), author Peter Fisher finds that these indices are neither useful for companies in selecting sites nor for state policymakers in gauging economic competitiveness.

Study: Major Business Rankings Not Accurate Measure of TX's Business Climate (06/29/2005)

Texas prides itself on being a good for business state, but what’s its business climate really like?

How to Judge What's Proposed in the Special Session (06/23/2005)

In the current special session the Legislature could make significant changes to the state’s revenue system, as well as to the school-finance system. The tax system established in a special session could determine the size of state budgets for the next ten years or more. Both tax and school finance proposals can be judged by the same criteria " equity, adequacy, and sustainability. This Policy Page will compare HB 3, the tax bill filed in the House for the special session, the version of the tax bill that the Senate passed during the regular session, the proposal by Governor Perry, and HB 15, an alternative school finance bill filed by Rep. Hochberg for the special session.

Houston KIDS COUNT Conference on Children Powerpoint Presentations (06/15/2005)

The following presentations were given at the Houston KIDS COUNT Conference on Children, a half-day conference on children's issues in the wake of the 79th Legislative Session.

HB 2421: Job Creation and Closing the Skills Gap (05/27/2005)

HB 2421 represents one of the most significant pieces of legislation concerning economic development considered by the 79th Legislature. We urge the conferees to generate enough job training dollars to move the Texas economy forward and improve the state’s business climate. A highly skilled workforce drives a company’s relocation or expansion more than a one-time cash grant.

Adequate Funding for Workforce Development on the Line (05/27/2005)

The Senate floor amendment to HB 2421 has flipped the tables, giving the lion’s share of a proposed employer investment assessment tax to the Enterprise Fund. Whereas the engrossed version of HB 2421 would quadruple training opportunities for Texas workers, the Senate amendment would slash Skills Development Fund allocations by 70%, and shortchange the needs of employers and workers trying to compete in the global marketplace.

House Skills Development Bill Quadruples Training Opportunities for Texas Workers (05/16/2005)

HB 2421 (Chavez) would create a larger and more stable source of funding for the Skills Development Fund (SDF)"Texas’ primary state-funded workforce development program. For the past several years, the Skills Development Fund, administered by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), has been hampered by relatively flat General Revenue funding at approximately $25 million per biennium. By dedicating a portion of unemployment insurance tax paid by employers, HB 2421 would generate $49.3 million for the Skills Development Fund for Fiscal Year 2007 grants. In contrast, SB 1096 would dedicate the vast majority of these unemployment insurance revenues to the Enterprise Fund"a program that promotes job creation at 10 times the cost of the Skills Development Fund and mostly subsidizes projects in metropolitan areas.

CSSB 1538: Senate Passes Bill To Help Low-Wage Workers Save for the Future, Bill Moves to House (05/11/2005)

On April 5 the Senate voted 30-1 to pass CSSB 1538 by Senator Barrientos. The House companion to this bill is HB 2450 by Representatives Naishtat, Luna, Guillen, and Jim Keffer. CSSB 1538 would establish a $1 million grants program at the Comptroller’s office to assist local communities in setting up Individual Development Accounts (IDA) for their low-income residents. The bill will be heard on Monday, May 16 at 2:00 p.m. or upon adjournment.

Oppose CSHB 846 (Flynn): Protect the Public from Predatory Payday Lenders (05/3/2005)

Texas has a longstanding tradition of fighting usury- in fact, specific interest rate caps were written into the original Texas Constitution. CSHB 846 substantially weakens these consumer protections and authorizes interest rates on loans as high as 780 percent!

Payday Lending Bill Offers No Protection to Cash-Strapped El Pasoans (04/28/2005)

The Texas House of Representatives is on the verge of rolling back consumer protection laws designed to prevent unscrupulous lenders from preying on cash-strapped Texans. Lawmakers are getting ready to vote on legislation by Representative Dan Flynn to legalize interest rates as high as 780 percent on so-called "payday" loans. Low-income El Pasoans rely on these high-interest loans when they have trouble paying their bills between paychecks.

Payday Loans Threaten Texans’ Financial Well Being (04/22/2005)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities today urged Chairwoman Beverly Woolley to oppose House Bill 846"a bill that would open up the practice of payday lending in Texas-in the name of promoting financial well being for all Texans. HB 846, by Rep. Dan Flynn, would make such loans more available, and more expensive, for desperate, cash-strapped Texans.

Individual Development Accounts Benefit Financial Institutions (04/8/2005)

An Individual Development Account (IDA) is an interest-bearing, tax-free savings account created to help low- and moderate-income families build assets and move into the middle class. Each dollar a participant saves in an IDA is matched by public or private sources (e.g., banks, foundations, etc.). IDA deposits are exclusively limited to earned income.

Who’s Funding Workforce Development? (04/6/2005)

Already overwhelmed by demand, the Skills Development Fund"Texas’ most successful state-funded workforce training program"is slated for massive cuts. The Senate is proposing to cut General Revenue appropriations for the Skills Development Fund by nearly 60%, or $14.5 million, compared to the current biennium. As a result, 9,000 fewer workers per year would receive customized job training. The Texas Enterprise Fund, a program designed to lure employers to Texas, compounds the funding crisis by using scarce Skills Development dollars as an incentive bonus for training costs that should be financed either by companies that are new to Texas or by the Enterprise Fund itself.

HB 846 is A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Legislation Claims to “Regulate” Payday Lenders, But Actually Raises Interest Rates and Fails to Close Critical Loophole (04/1/2005)

A payday loan is a short-term, high-interest loan that some low-income Texans rely on when they have trouble paying their bills between paychecks. These storefront lenders charge exorbitant interest rates"sometimes as high as 800 percent"in addition to high “rollover” fees that extend the loan when borrowers can’t repay it on time. Payday loans take advantage of low-income families desperate for fast cash and can trap borrowers in a spiral of debt.

HB 2450/SB 1538: Legislature to Consider Bills That Would Help Low-Wage Workers Save for the Future (03/30/2005)

Representative Naishtat (HB 2450) and Senator Barrientos (SB 1538) have introduced legislation that would establish a $1 million grants program at the Comptroller’s office to assist local communities in setting up Individual Development Accounts (IDA) for their low-income residents. An IDA is an interest-bearing, tax-free savings account created to help low- and moderate-income families build assets and move into the middle class.

HB 1938: Relating to the Award of a Grant and Reporting Requirements Under the Texas Enterprise Fund (03/22/2005)

Good afternoon, Chair Ritter and the Committee. My name is Don Baylor with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Texans place great value in openness and getting the "biggest bang for our buck." Our state's sunshine and sunset provisions demonstrate Texas' commitment to these principles. In this spirit, the public and the Legislature need better information to evaluate the Enterprise Fund's effectiveness in delivering upon its stated goal: enhancing the state's capacity to deliver high quality jobs to Texas.

Austin Effort to Improve Schools Disappoints Again: Houston Chronicle (03/20/2005)

The Texas House has finished its education and tax bills. Now the Senate goes to work. Let's compare what the House has adopted with where the Senate is starting.

HB 846: A Bill to Regulate Deferred Presentment Transactions (03/7/2005)

I am here today because of the devastating impact so-called “payday” loans can have on low-income Texans and their families. While we support the intent behind CSHB 846"to regulate payday lenders"we cannot support the bill as filed.

Statement Regarding the House Public Education Committee Plan (02/28/2005)

Before becoming director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, I was the state district court judge that heard the state's school finance cases from 1989 to 2002, including the Edgewood case and the initial phase of the West Orange Cove case, which is now pending before the Texas Supreme Court.

Getting the Facts Straight: Texas & the Minimum Wage (02/24/2005)

Until September 2001, the Texas minimum wage was $3.35 per hour. At that time, the 77th Legislature effectively raised the state minimum by eliminating a statutory dollar figure and adopting the federal minimum wage level ($5.15 per hour) by reference. The federal minimum wage is decided by Congress and the President and was last raised in 1997 to $5.15 per hour, its current level.

Individual Development Accounts (02/22/2005)

An Individual Development Account (IDA) is an interest-bearing, tax-free savings account created to help low- and moderate-income families build assets and move into the middle class. Each dollar a participant saves in an IDA is matched by public or private sources (e.g., banks, foundations, etc.). IDA deposits are exclusively limited to earned income.

Texas Economy Got $4 Billion Boost from the Earned Income Tax Credit (02/21/2005)

Last year, more than two million Texas workers claimed over $4 billion in federal dollars for tax year 2003 through the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC not only boosts the earnings of low-wage workers and stimulates the Texas economy; it also provides an excellent opportunity for working families to save for the future. Although outreach and free income tax assistance have improved awareness of the program, the Texas economy and working families lost out on nearly $1.2 billion in unclaimed EITC payments last year.

Testimony on Regulating Refund Anticipation Loans (02/21/2005)

In support of HB 398: Relating to the regulation of tax refund anticipation loans.

Testimony on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) (02/14/2005)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities offers the following comments in support of HB 630.

Testimony on Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) (02/10/2005)

Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) enable low and moderate-income families to build assets. IDAs are interest-bearing, tax-free savings accounts that can be matched by qualifying public or private sources. All deposits into IDAs are limited to earned income. IDA matching ratios can vary"ranging from 1:1 to 7:1.

Enterprise Fund: "High Road or Low Road" (02/2/2005)

This policy page provides an analysis of the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), including its administrative processes and program results. This page also examines similar incentive programs and provides recommendations for an Enterprise Fund that promotes a "high-road" economic development program.

The Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit (01/26/2005)

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), and the Child and Dependent Care Credit are federally funded anti-poverty initiatives that help low-income individuals and families meet their basic needs. Households in poverty and those surviving on meager budgets can significantly benefit from these opportunities to increase their net income.

How Resources are Treated in Federal Public Benefit Programs in Texas (01/26/2005)

Cheat sheet on how resources are treated in federal public benefit programs in Texas.

How the EITC Refund Affects Eligibility for Public Benefits (01/20/2005)

Presentation at the City of Laredo "Maximizing Federal Benefits" seminar.

Texas Must Invest in Human Capital: Dallas Business Journal (12/27/2004)

Recently in an interview with the Dallas Business Journal, the Governor touted the superior business climate of our state. He cited our relatively low taxes, tort reform, and the Enterprise Fund as magnets for business.

Latest Data Show Texas Working Families Falling Further Behind Other Americans (09/5/2004)

A new analysis shows just how Texans and their families are doing in wages and employment compared to the average American working family. The news is not good; by many measures, Texas workers trail the national average and are falling further behind.

2004 State of Texas Children Website (06/13/2004)

Texas Fragile Families Final Evaluation Report: Executive Summary (05/1/2004)

After three years of documenting the progress of community organizations participating in the TFF demonstration, Texas' efforts have provided an in-depth look into one incarnation of the new American family. To read the full report, go to http://www.texasfragilefamilies.org/.

Testimony to Joint Select Committee on Governor's School Finance (04/19/2004)

I am Scott McCown,testifying on behalf of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. The center is interested in public school finance because education is the pathway to prosperity for low-income Texans. My personal expertise in school finance comes from having presided as a state district judge over our state's school finance cases from 1990-2002.

Governor's School Finance Proposal Uses Flawed Revenue Sources, Reduces Future Funding for State Services, Diminishes School Funding Equity (04/15/2004)

On April 8, as the final installment of his Educational Excellence and Equity Plan, the governor proposed to eliminate "Robin Hood" and dedicate a portion of any future budget surplus to property tax cuts, funded by slot machines, cigarette tax hikes, accounting changes, and fees on adult entertainment. Without the recapture provisions of the current school finance system, the gap between rich and poor schools would explode.

The Solution, if Robin Hood Was a TAKS Problem (04/3/2004)

The Houston Independent School District is misleading parents and taxpayers when it blames Robin Hood for the district's money woes. For example, a recent posting on HISD's Web site claims it is losing $28 million and 124 jobs because of Robin Hood.

Don't Shortchange Public Education (03/30/2004)

Our state is in the grip of a mental illness akin to anorexia nervosa, the relentless pursuit of thinness. Like an anorexic, who reasons that every calorie is a bad calorie, Texans reason that every tax dollar is a bad tax dollar. I invoke this metaphor not to belittle anorexia, which killed one of my cousins, but to warn that our relentless pursuit of low taxes is as sick and as dangerous.

How Much Does Texas Spend on Public Education? (03/1/2004)

The first question many people ask about public school finance seems like the simplest: how much does Texas spend to educate our 4.2 million school children? The answer is important in the current debate about how to raise and distribute money for public education. Before we can decide whether we need to spend more, we have to know how much we are spending now.

Fast Facts About Texas Public School Finance (01/15/2004)

A short reference on public school finance in Texas.

Where Do We Go From Here? Finding a School Finance Solution (01/1/2004)

Presentation before the Texas Association of School Administrators.

Texas: One and Indivisible (12/1/2003)

Testimony on school finance.

Why You Should Care Now About a Special Session on School Finance (09/18/2003)

Any meaningful school finance reform unavoidably involves tax reform. The tax system established in a special session could determine the size of state budgets for the next ten years or more.

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Proposes Rules to Terminate Medicaid in Situations Not Allowed by Federal Law (09/12/2003)

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is proposing a rule that would have the effect of denying Medicaid to extremely poor parents on cash assistance who fail to do things such as meet health check up schedules for their kids or keep their teenagers in school.

Texas at Work: Today and Tomorrow (09/1/2003)

This report examines the living conditions and public policies affecting hard working but low-income workers.

Judging Public School Finance Proposals (05/19/2003)

I am Scott McCown, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Thank you for inviting me to talk with you today about how we should fund our public schools.

The Texas Early Care and Education Crunch: Senate Bills 75 and 76 Help All Texans Access Child Care (05/13/2003)

Millions of Texas families have a hard time finding and paying for good child care. Two bills still pending before the Texas Legislature will help Texas parents go to work and help Texas children get ready for school. Senate Bill 75 will encourage the use of state and federal tax incentives for employers and workers. Senate Bill 76 will help Texas better coordinate its scarce early care and education resources and ensure that the state can provide more families with good early care and education.

Testimony on Dewhurst School Finance Plan: SB 2 (05/2/2003)

I am Scott McCown, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Thank you for inviting my testimony today. I applaud Lt. Governor Dewhurst, Senator Shapiro, and the Senate for proposing a specific school finance plan.

HB 804: The "Hard Work Equals Poverty" Bill (04/17/2003)

Texans deserve a decent paycheck for a hard day's work. HB 804 is bad for working families and bad for Texas.

Unemployment Insurance Legislation a Step in the Right Direction for Working Texans (02/24/2003)

Three bills under consideration by the 78th Texas Legislature seek to improve the Texas unemployment insurance (UI) system. They do so by ensuring equal access to unemployment insurance for victims of domestic violence and by modernizing how unemployment benefits are calculated to reflect workers' most recent employment history.

Workforce Development: The Key to Creating Opportunity and Building Prosperity in Texas (01/1/2003)

The Texas State Data Center forecasts that the future labor force of Texas will be less well educated, less skilled, earn lower salaries and wages, and thus be in greater need of labor force training.

Texas Lacks Foundation for Long-Term Economic Success (12/18/2002)

The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) has just released its annual Development Report Card for the States, which assesses state economic development capacity. Texas received poor marks in its economic performance and its capacity for future development. CFED warned against the temptation to cut programs as a quick fix for budget problems and recommended continued investment in the economic fundamentals needed for long-term gains.

Policy Page - Proposed Rule Changes Could Limit Child Care for Working Poor Families and the Parents of Disabled Children (12/2/2002)

Proposed amendments to the Texas Workforce Commission's (TWC) child care rules require that low-income parents and the parents of disabled children work at least 36 hours per week to be eligible for a child care subsidy. This major policy change does not reflect the realities facing many working poor Texans who are unable to find a full-time job in a period of economic downturn and places an undue burden on parents of disabled children.

Texas Communities Speak Out on Child Care (10/22/2002)

The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) of Texas recently distributed a community survey to child care advocates across Texas. CDF requested that the Center for Public Policy Priorities(CPPP) analyze the survey and present our conclusions at CDF's Child Care: Because We All Do conference on October 23, 2002 in San Antonio. CPPP's comments on the survey and its findings are included in this Policy Page.

CPPP Comments TWC Sunset (06/26/2002)

Now is the last chance to make your voice heard about Sunset's review of this important state agency.

TANF/Child Care Reauthorization Moves to U.S. Senate (06/20/2002)

Texas' Senators and Senate Finance Committee members need to hear from YOU about the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant and the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF).

The Texas Child Care Challenge Part III: Child Care Quality (05/23/2002)

This Policy Page is the third in a four-part series summarizing a new report, "The Texas Child Care Experience Since 1996: Implications for Federal and State Policy" that was released in March 2002 by the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the national Center on Law and Social Policy (www.clasp.org). This series and the larger report are part of CPPP's effort to add a Texas perspective to debates concerning Congressional reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) in 2002. This Policy Page will examine variations in child care policies across local workforce development boards. Previous Policy Pages examined funding and access and local control of child care in Texas. The last Policy Page in this series will provide insight into the role and impact of locally generated child care matching funds.

Funding Public Education: Alternative Revenue Sources (05/9/2002)

Testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance.

Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Comment Period Until June 30 (05/2/2002)

The United States Department of Labor is soliciting comments on implementation of the Workforce Investment Act. DOL is particularly interested in the effectiveness of One-Stop centers and the integration of WIA and TANF programs.

Comments Being Heard on TWC Sunset (03/4/2002)

The Texas Workforce Commission and local workforce development boards are under Sunset review. Now is the time to add your perspectives and ideas.

Making Work Pay: The Earned Income Credit (02/19/2002)

The Earned Income Credit (EIC) is a special tax benefit for working people who earn low or moderate incomes. The EIC reduces the tax burden on these workers, supplements their wages, and supports a transition from welfare to work. Workers who qualify for the EIC can get back some or all of the federal income tax taken out of their pay during the year and even get some additional cash. Workers whose earnings are too low to have paid taxes can still get the EIC. Annual benefits can be as large as $4,008, but only about 80 percent of those eligible actually claim the credit. The Child Tax Credit now works towards a similar end"reducing the tax burden of parents by up to $600 annually per qualifying child. Any remainder is then refundable to the parent.

The Texas Child Care Challenge Part II (02/15/2002)

This Policy Page is the second in a four-part series summarizing a new report, "The Texas Child Care Experience Since 1996: Implications for Federal and State Policy" to be released in March 2002 by the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the national Center on Law and Social Policy (www.clasp.org). This series and the larger report are part of CPPP's effort to add a Texas perspective to debates concerning Congressional reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) in 2002. This Policy Page will examine variations in child care policies across local workforce development boards. A previous Policy Page examined child care funding and access in Texas. The two remaining Policy Pages in this series will provide insight into the importance of child care quality and the increasingly important role played by locally generated child care match.

The Texas Child Care Challenge -- Part I: Funding and Access (01/30/2002)

This Policy Page is the first in a four-part series summarizing a new report, "The Texas Child Care Experience Since 1996: Implications for Federal and State Policy" to be released in March 2002 by the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the national Center on Law and Social Policy (www.clasp.org). This series and the larger report are part of CPPP's effort to add a Texas perspective to debates concerning Congressional reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) in 2002. This Policy Page will examine child care funding and access in Texas. Subsequent Policy Pages in this series will discuss variations in child care policies across local workforce development areas, locally generated child care match, and the importance of child care quality.

Welfare, Workforce and the 77th Legislature (08/8/2001)

This Policy Page discusses the problem of inadequate funding for the Choices program and reports on the welfare and workforce bills enacted during the 77th Legislative Session.

Child Care and the 77th Legislature (06/29/2001)

The 77th Texas Legislature passed several child care bills this session. However, the big stories remain the continued underfunding of child care for working poor families within the state budget and looming growth in the state's waiting list of 41,000 children.

Child Care Funding Could Fall Short (05/11/2001)

With House-Senate state budget conferees about ready to wrap up work on Senate Bill 1, the Appropriations Act for 2002-03, final funding for child care will soon be known. This Policy Page explains why more state and federal funds for child care are needed to continue serving working poor families, and provides links to proposed legislation that would affect child care in Texas.

More Funding Proposed for Economic Development (04/4/2001)

This Policy Page describes how the House and Senate propose to increase economic development program spending in 2002 and 2003 and discusses legislation that would improve the state's funding of development programs by creating an integrated economic development budget.

Uneven Growth in the New Economy (03/28/2001)

While the 1990s brought a period of sustained growth for the Texas economy, not all Texans enjoyed equally in the benefits of this growth. Texas saw a growing gap in the incomes of its residents during the 1990s. Generally, while upper-middle and upper-income Texans experienced an increase in the real value of their incomes, middle and low-income Texans saw their real incomes stagnate.

Proposed Legislation Would Make Work Pay (03/26/2001)

Two popular myths endure about Texas' poor. One is that most poor people don't work and don't want to work. The second is that work will raise these families out of poverty. Research conducted by the Center for Public Policy Priorities shows that these myths do not correspond with reality. Of the 3 million poor Texans, about 2 million have at least one working adult in their household. Moreover, the problem of poverty despite work is greater in Texas than in most other states. Bills to raise the state minimum wage or to require government contractors to pay a living wage offer one set of solutions to this problem.

For the Common Good? Evaluating Economic Development Initiatives in Texas (03/1/2000)

Texas provides unique opportunities for examining the effects of economic development (ED) on communities, because it contains both great wealth and extreme poverty. Bolstered by high-technology sectors, business and financial services, and manufacturing"in addition to the still-important oil, gas, and petrochemical industries"Texas' economic growth as a whole is outpacing the nation's. Unfortunately, economic growth is not reaching all parts of the state equally, or improving all communities' economic and social well-being to the same extent.

Economic Development Initiatives (02/11/2000)

An upcoming CPPP report examines what state government has done to promote economic development through ED programs and business tax expenditures. Incentives created by the 76th Legislature are also analyzed. Finally, recommendations are included to correct the major shortcomings of the state's economic development programs and incentives.

Earned Income Credit (01/28/2000)

The Earned Income Credit (EIC) is a special tax benefit for working people who earn low or moderate incomes. The EIC reduces the tax burden on these workers, supplements their wages, and supports a transition from welfare to work. Workers who qualify for the EIC can get back some or all of the federal income tax taken out of their pay during the year and even get some additional cash. Workers whose earnings are too small to have paid taxes can still get the EIC. Benefits can be as large as $3,815, but only about 80 percent of those eligible actually claim the credit.

Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (09/17/1999)

WIA presents both challenges and opportunities to Texas' workforce development system. It is up to state and local planners to exploit the opportunities in the act to focus activities on services that will lead to long-term self-sufficiency rather than short-term placements.

Analysis of Senate Bill 4 (Education Bill) (07/16/1999)

SB 4, the school finance bill, directs nearly $4 billion in additional state funding to public education. The bill targets four areas of the public education system: teacher salaries, facilities financing, property tax rates, and social promotion/early childhood programs. This Policy Page touches only those developments in school finance. Others, contained in the general state budget (HB1) are not described here.

Legislators Consider Low-Wage Worker Bills (03/18/1999)

Unemployment insurance, minimum wage, and tax holiday proposals before House committees now.

The Minimum Wage Debate (04/24/1996)

A campaign to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time since 1989 has taken off in the past few weeks. President Clinton proposed to increase the minimum wage from the current $4.25 per hour to $5.15 per hour in two annual 45-cent increases now has the support of a majority of the U.S. Senate (including 8 Republicans) and a growing number of Representatives.

Food and Nutrition Programs and EITC (02/20/1996)

This edition will provide an update on current Congressional action and negotiations affecting food and nutrition programs and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

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