Tom Green County Democratic Party Chair Outlines His Progressive Agenda He is Pushing on Rural TexansOpinion
OPINION – When San Angelo Live LIVE! ran the press release about my being elected the chair of the Non-Urban, Rural Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party, the headline said that I have been selected to push the “’progressive agenda of the Democratic Party on rural Texans.” OK, I’ll take that headline, but let me define our “progressive agenda.”
First, I am comfortable with the word “progressive.” Democrats are why we have Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, most agricultural farm programs, most civil rights and voting rights legislation (with help from Republicans back in the 1960s, but the GOP no longer cares about these issues), and most of the other positive things government does in modern society. Thank God for forward-thinking progressives.
But what do I want rural Texans, who voted for Ted Cruz roughly 75 to 25 percent over Beto O’Rourke, to know about the Texas Democratic Party? What is my agenda in this new leadership role? Of course, I can only speak for myself but I feel the state party shares these convictions.
Let me list my priorities.
- Protect the First Amendment and religious liberty for all Texans and Americans in the true spirit of our Founding Fathers. The genius of America is Religious Freedom for everyone, believers and non-believers; it is our most distinguishing value. Might just mention Freedom of the Press is in the First Amendment as well and it is certainly under attack.
- Increase state support for our public schools to cover 50 percent of the cost of a student to attend a Texas public school. State funding covered 68 percent of the cost in the 1960s, today it provides only 36 percent. Rural Communities revolve around their local public schools. The public school is the most important institution in the community.
- Stop the state from transferring money from public schools to support private religious schools, which violates the First Amendment and hobbles public education. Vouchers NEVER work.
- Lower our property taxes, which can only happen if the state increases its funding for public education. Plenty of studies prove that our property taxes keep going up as the state pays less and less of the cost of student to attend public school.
- Protect private property rights. I am a rancher. My great-grandfather came to Concho County in 1879. I don’t mind putting a wall along the border where it will be effective, if it is actually effective, but I don’t support taking farmers’ and ranchers’ land to keep a silly campaign promise. Try to take my land and I’ll remind you I also strongly support the Second Amendment.
- Return to respecting local control and decision-making. County commissioners in Nacogdoches recently passed a resolution demanding the state stop passing unfunded mandates which now eat up half the county’s budget. Another reason for our high property taxes.
- Expand health care for all Texans by expanding Medicaid, which is paid by the federal government for the most part. Those are our tax dollars we send to Washington that Governor Greg Abbott won’t allow to come back to Texas, hurting and often shuttering our rural hospitals. We all know if you are sick and turn up at the emergency room, you will be treated. BUT we, the community, pays for it in local taxes. This amounts to being taxed twice!
Now, if you want to call that agenda “progressive,” so be it. I think it’s just common sense. I also think at least 80 percent of you agree with every word I just wrote.
But, here’s the punch line. The Texas Republican Party, the one that many of you just voted to keep in leadership of Texas by a margin of 70 to 30 percent in Tom Green County, doesn’t agree with one single thing I write here.
The Republican Party believes in religious freedom for Christians only, is destroying our public schools and wants to give your tax dollars to private schools (Cruz spoke in favor of this last week in Austin). Republicans will continue raising your property taxes rather than taxing big business (trying again this year to do away with the franchise tax that will take $9 billion out of our state budget). Republicans are happy to take property away from farmers and ranchers on the border and to keep making local property owners pay for county mandates so rich people in Houston and Dallas don’t have to help. And healthcare? They couldn’t care less about health care for working poor, or care only so much as it doesn’t raise rich people’s taxes.
So, if what I wrote makes sense to you, please look more closely at Texas Democrats and consider voting differently in 2020. If not, God loves you anyway, and so do I.