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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 27, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas Page 6A — HERALD-ZEITUNG — Friday, June 27, 2003Forum Contact Managing Editor Gary E. Maitland, 625-9144 ext. 220 Nhw Braunfels Herald-Zeitung New Braunfels Zeitung was founded 1852; New Braunfels Herald was founded 1890. The two papers merged in 1957 and printed in both German and English until 1958. Doug Toney, Editor and Publisher Gary E. Maitland, Managing Editor (830) 625-9144 Other views Bryan-College Station Eagle on budget wrangling: Tbxas legislators have only one job to do when they meet in regular session every two years: pass a balanced budget. Everything else is optional. This year, they couldn’t even get their budget duty right. Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhom June 19 refused to certify the budget lawmakers approved late last month, noting it was $185.9 million short on income to cover the projected spending. Under Texas law, the comptroller must certify state budgets to make sure they balance. Strayhom became the first comptroller to refuse to approve the budget. Lawmakers pooh-poohed Strayhom’s decision. The $185.9 million shortfall was merely a “technical error.” Some error. They said they really meant to delay until 2006 the transfer of some $236 million from the state’s general fund to a special account designed to modernize the state’s transportation system. Lawmakers just forget to mention that in the budget. Oops. Guess they were too busy worrying about redistricting and other unnecessary things.... Gov. Rick Perry put pressure, apparently a lot of pressure, on Strayhom. She allowed the governor to veto portions of two spending bills to cut $212 million from Strayhom’s comptrollers office budget, thus bringing the state budget into balance, with a few stray millions left over. Of course, Texans have to ask if the comptrollers office can lose $212 million without affecting operations ... could similar amounts be found in other state office budgets? Perhaps enough to restore the funding cuts that will be so devastating to so many Texans? Oh well, the budget has been approved. Now lawmakers can get to the serious business of meeting U.S. Rep. Tom DeLaVs demands for more Republicans in Congress. Let the fun begin.Today In History By The Associated Press Today is Friday, June 27, the 178th day of 2003. There are 187 days left in the year. Today’s history highlight: On June 27, 1950, President Truman ordered the Air Force and Navy into the Korean conflict following a call from the U.N. Security Council for member nations to help South Korea repel an invasion from the North. On this date: In 1844, Mormon leader Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were killed by a mob in Carthage, 111. ‘teaieourttepaiTiharaat&'aFier we gsraflseerihian sraie.wewfUKfo* dU-3BW&J’ we don't vBntiDTipar hardl"Policy The Herald-Zeitung encourages the submission of letters. Letters must be 250 wordr or fewer, and the Herald-Zeitung reserves the right to edit all submissions. Guest columns should be less than 500 words. An address and telephone number, which are not for publication, must be included so authorship can be confirmed. No letter will be published until it has been verified. Mail letters to: Letters to the Editor c/othe Herald-Zeitung P.O. Drawer 311328 New Braunfels, TX 78131-1328 Fax: (830) 606-3413 e-mail: [email protected] Get school funding off homeowners’ backs In 1893, the New York stock market crashed. In 1942, the FBI announced the capture of eight Nazi saboteurs who had been put ashore from a submarine on New York’s Long Island. In 1957, more than 500 people were killed when Hurricane “Audrey” slammed through coastal Louisiana and Texas. In 1969, patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, clashed with police in what is considered the birth of the gay rights movement. It’s time to replace the current public school financing system. Legislators need to eliminate homeowners from paying all or most school property taxes. Several options could be used as sources of financing: ■ Eliminate the loopholes in the business franchise tax; make businesses pay their fair share toward educating Texas children. ■ Use the state lottery. It was supposed to be used entirely to finance public education. Either take the current net for public .schools as originally intended, or raise the price of every ticket sold to $2 or $3 and take a larger percentage for public school funding. Also, reduce the odds of winning the lottery. ■ Initiate a small state sales and use tax solely to support school financing —Write ’Em — President George W. Bush 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington, D.C. 20500 U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Dallas Room 284 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-5922 Fax: (202) 224-0776 8023 Vantage Dr., Suite 460 San Antonio 78230 (210) 340-2885 Fax: (210) 349-6753 John Cofnyn Senate Russell Courtyard 5 Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-2934 Fax: (202) 228-2856 SternGuest Column one cent or two cents. ■ Eliminate consideration of a school voucher system. When homeowners no longer pay skyrocketing school property taxes and schools are financed properly, there won't be a need for a costly voucher system with high maintenance. ■ Set up a separate public educat ion fund via sales and service taxes — again a one- or two-cent charge to go toward school financing. ■ Apply a small school finance charge to every business operating in Texas, no exceptions. ■ Take more of the current tax, or increase the tax on the purchase of liquor and tobacco. (All e-mails are sent through the Web site) Austin office Jennifer Lustina, state director Beth Cubriel, field director 221 West Sixth St., Suite 1530 Austin 78701 (512) 469-6034 Fax: (512) 469-6020 San Antonio office Daniel Mezza, regional director 600 Navarro, Suite 210 San Antonio 78205 (210) 224-7485 Fax: (210) 224-8569 U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio Room 2231 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 (202) 225-4236 ■ Take some of the current tax or raise a few cents the tax on gasoline. ■ Take a small percentage of monthly charges by rental properties and apartment complexes to go directly to public school financing. ■ Establish a traveler education fund whereby all hotels and rental car companies charge a service fee that goes to finance education. ■ Establish an airport education fund whereby the cost of flight tickets includes a fee that goes to finance education. ■ Add a $2 fee for driver license’s renewal and for vehicle registration to go to finance public education. ■ Add a $1 fee on monthly utilities (telephones, electricity and gas) to go to finance public education. ■ Add a $1 fee to all entertainment tickets to go to finance public education (theater, movies, sports games, concerts, etc.). Using all or several of these alternative methods will replace Texas homeowners from being overburdened as the sole source of school financing, and the quality of our children’s education will continue to improve. (Dr. Peter Stern, a retired and disabled veteran, lives in Driftwood with his wife, two daughters and a son. He holds postgraduate degrees from New York University, Nassau College and Queens College and has IO years in public education as a teacher, principal and director of programs in New York City and New Mexico. In addition, for IO years he was director of Information Systems for state government in Austin.) 1100 NE Loop 410, Suite 640 e-mail address: San Antonio 78209 carter.casteel @ house.state.tx. us (210) 821-5024 Texas State Senator Governor Jeff Wentworth, Rick Perry R-San Antonio State Capitol, Room 2S.1 1250 NE Loop 410, Suite 720 P.O. Box 12428 San Antonio 78209 Austin 78711 (210) 826-7800 (800) 843-5789 Fax: (210) 826-0571 Fax: (512) 463-1849 How to contact in Austin Texas State Representative (512) 463-0125 Carter Casteel, Fax: (512) 463-7794 R-New Braunfels E-mail address: District office Jeff .Wentworth @ 254 E. Mill St. Judith Zaffirini New Braunfels 78130 D-Laredo (830) 627-8820 P.O. Box 627 Fax: (830) 627-8895 Laredo 78042-0627 How to contact in Austin (956) 722-2293 P.O. Box 2910 12702 Toepperwein Rd #214 Austin 78768-2190 San Antonio 78233 (512) 463-0325 (210) 657-0095 Fax: (512) 473-9920 Fax: (210) 657-0262 House’s prescription drug bill no help at all AUSTIN — Food fight! Here’s a beauty: to vote or not to vote, to favor or not to favor the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill? Theoretically, everybody’s in favor of a plan to help senior citizens with prescription drug costs, which are truly appalling. Many seniors literally have to choose between their meds or food. Everyone agrees it’s awful — the question is whether the bills currently in the House and Senate are actually an improvement. Those of you who make up your minds based on the if-he’s-for-it, Fm-agamst-it method (quite a few people seem to be doing that these days) are rn deep doo-doo on this one. True, Ted Kennedy is for it, and Tile Wall Street Journal is against it. On the other hand, the White House is for it, and pretty much everyone on the left except Kennedy is against it. The press is helpfully wringing its hands and announcing, “This is soooo complicated.” So let’s try the unusual maneuver of actually looking at the mer-Molly Ivins its of the thing. If you put, as Consumer Reports has helpfully done, the hybrid House Republican/Bush bill up against the Democrats’ version by the respected Medicare expert John Dingell, it’s no contest. The Democratic bill is better in every respect — except, of course, it costs more. It has the additional flaw of being unlikely to pass in the Republican House. In fact, the Republicans are not entirely sure they can get their own awful version passed. For starters, the Republican version covers, at best, 22 percent of projected prescription drug expenditures. It includes a $250 deductible, 20 percent coinsurance up to $1,000 and 50 percent coinsurance on $1,001 to $2,000, and costs an extra $35 a month. Theres an even weirder hitch called “the doughnut,” a hole in the middle, that leaves seniors spending between $4,500 and $5,800 uncovered. Don’t even ask how that got in there — you don’t want to know about that bit of sausage-making. According to CR’s calculations, the average Medicare beneficiary now spending $2,318 for meds would find the out-of-pocket cost under the Republican version higher in 2007, a total of $2,954 in constant dollars. Under the Senate bill, CHE estimates the same $2,318 would come to $2,524 in 2007, including premium, deductible, co-payments and the “doughnut.” “If the growth of prescription drug expenditures moderates below historical levels to 12 percent a year (and tins is unlikely because1 neither bill includes sufficient safeguards to hold down drug prices), the average Medicare beneficiary would still face, under the House bill, out-of-pocket costs in 2007 that are approximately the same as they are now. Under the Senate bill, out-of-pocket costs would be only marginally lower than those of 2003,” concludes CR. So here’s the politics on the deal. Kennedy is supporting the Senate version because (A) its marginally better than what we have now, and (B) in one of the worst cliches of political debate, this gets the head of the camel into the tent. In other words, it’s a start, and a better program can be built later — in fact, it pretty much will have to be. The White House’s logic is (A) Republicans promised a prescription drug benefit, and (B) they can pass this in time for the 2004 election and take credit for it, but it doesn’t go into effect until 2006 (a clever ploy), so no one will have time to figure out it’s a fraud. Of course, the Republicans originally wanted to use this as a tool to break down Medicare completely, insisting on more “private sector” involvement. Bush initially planned to use the bill to herd seniors into HMOs. Since private insurance companies refuse to serve seniors in rural areas and , have already dropped 2.4 million seniors in “unprofitable” areas, and since seniors in private plans are getting hit with soaring premiums and shrinking benefits, that’s a nonstarter. The biggest missed opportunity in both House and Senate versions was not using any tool to rein in drug company profits. (Please note generous contributions by drug companies to politicians of both parties.) The loopholes that delay the introduction of generic drugs should be plugged up, and the government should use its purchasing power to negotiate lower prices. Bottom line, Kennedy’s right: The Senate version is incrementally better, and in politics, you should always take half a loaf, or even 22 percent of a loaf, if you can get it. But if the Senate version is even slightly weakened by the repulsive House version, fuh-geddaboutit. (Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist.) ;