The Best And Worst States To Make A Living In 2015

June 25, 2015

For states looking to land on the positive end of this annual ranking, the lessons are simple: Offer healthy wages, manageable taxes, a low cost of living, and safe working environments. No extra points will be awarded for scenic beauty.

“The big picture is good–the job market is getting better these days, we’ve even seen wage growth start to tick up. But it kind of breaks down a little when you start to look state by state,” said Richard Barrington, senior financial analyst for MoneyRates.com and author of the study.

“We tend to talk about the U.S. economy and the job market as if they’re all one thing, but it’s too big for that. There are sharp differences from one state to another.”

To determine the best and worst states to make a living this year, personal finance site MoneyRates.com considered average wages, taxes, cost of living, unemployment rate, and incidents of workplace safety incidents (including illness, injuries, and deaths) for each state. The study drew on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), and D.C. think tank the Tax Foundation.

Washington state cedes its lead this year to Texas which moves out of second place to claim the title of the best state to make a living this year. Texans benefited from a lower than average cost of living that helped them maximize average wages only slightly above average. Very low numbers of workplace safety incidents coupled with no income tax puts the Lone Star State on top, while Washington moves to second place.

Read More: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryndill/2015/06/24/the-best-and-worst-states-to-make-a-living-in-2015/

Statement From Lt. Governor Patrick on Signing of 2016-17 Budget

June 21, 2015

AUSTIN – Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick released the following statement following Governor Greg Abbott signing the 2016-17 budget into law:

“I am proud of the budget that Governor Abbott signed today. It not only addresses the priorities of Texans but maintains our conservative principles.

“This budget includes $3.8 billion in tax relief for property owners and businesses, $1.3 billion in funding for transportation infrastructure, and $800 million for enhanced border security, a dramatic increase that will make our state and nation safer.

“At the same time, this budget is well under estimates of population growth and inflation, billions under the state spending limit, and does not include any spending from the Rainy Day Fund.

“A budget of this nature is a result of fiscal discipline and a commitment to fund the state’s needs while refraining from spending all available revenue. When the legislature reconvenes, it should be well positioned to provide additional tax relief while continuing to hold the line on spending.

“I also commend Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson for her outstanding leadership and effectiveness in guiding this budget to final passage.”

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Abilene Reporter-News: Legislative accomplishments dovetail with Patrick’s agenda

June 12, 2015

ABILENE, Texas – Dan Patrick went first to border security.

On Wednesday, the state’s new lieutenant governor basked in the glow of an “A-minus” 84th session for the state Senate. Patrick is on a fly-in tour to talk about the accomplishments of legislators, whom he does not expect to be called back for a special session.

“Terrific job,” he said of the work of the senators over whom he presides. Patrick was elected in November to succeed David Dewhurst, whom he had soundly defeated in the Republican primary. Texans, he said, were eager to see what would come of the session under new leadership, with Gov. Greg Abbott also new to the job. House Speaker Joe Straus, however, was back in his role.

“We made a lot of promises,” Patrick said. The voters, he said, expected follow-through.

After listing the topics he wanted to highlight — including public education, property and business tax relief, and transportation, Patrick first addressed border security. A Senate plan to spend $800 million was set forth, close to triple what was available under former Gov. Rick Perry.

“This is so important to our national security,” Patrick said, citing drug cartels, criminals, sex traffickers and terrorists as potentially crossing the border into the United States if not thwarted.

The result of tightening the border, he said, is this: Although 7,000 to 8,000 people each week were trying to cross last summer, the number has dwindled to 2,500.

How will the money be spent? Paying Texas Department of Public Safety officers for 10-hour days, or the equivalent of having 600 officers on duty, and hiring more officers. There also will be money spent on technology and money set aside if the governor needs to call the National Guard to the border, as Perry did.

It was interesting that Patrick talked first about border security. Tax relief — and potential taxation — likely has a more direct impact on more Texans.

He said voters in November will have a say in putting into the state constitution a prohibition of sales tax on home and business property sales. Thirty-eight states now allow that, he said, but it’s not good for Texas.

Patrick, who formerly headed the Senate’s education committee, championed parents’ right to choose a school for their child, briefly noting that the House did not follow through on school choice. He called the new A-F grading system for schools a means of “transparency” for parents. If a school their child would attend is average or failing, parents have the right, he believes, to shop elsewhere.

In Abilene, the new Texas Leadership Charter Academy, ironically to be housed at a former Abilene ISD elementary campus (College Heights), is accepting applications. The city has been served for nine years by Premier High School.

Patrick reaffirmed his stances in favor of education choice, against abortion and for protection he said is afforded by the Second Amendment, including the carrying of a firearm on  college campuses by those qualified to do so. That shows that five months into his new job, he is not backing down from the beliefs that brought him to the public spotlight and ultimately won him election. Still, he has critics.

Though Patrick’s views are based on personal conviction, he deftly justified his  positions with fact. For example, abortion clinics must provided the same care as an ambulatory surgical center, a law that an appeals court upheld Tuesday with one exception. Not all clinics could, meaning that many shut down and only seven are open today. Thus, getting an abortion in Texas is harder.

Patrick helped write the sonogram bill passed in 2011 and later upheld in courts. This legislation “will continue to keep Texas as the leader in the nation in protecting life.”

Abbott separately cheered Tuesday’s ruling, which set up a predicted showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court.

To this point, Patrick has been strategic in his new job, thus attaining a measure of job security.

Tyler Morning-Telegraph: Lt. Gov. Patrick sings praises of legislative session

June 11, 2015

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made a touch-and-go stop in Tyler to tout the successes of a freshly ended Legislative Session and talk about the tasks that lay ahead.

Patrick is a little more than a week removed from his freshman session as lieutenant governor and seemingly walked on air into the Jet Center at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport on Wednesday during a three-stop, day-trip media tour of Abilene, Wichita Falls and Tyler.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, joined Patrick, and both spoke glowingly about the Senate’s work to move prioritized items during what Patrick described as a very successful and conservative 140 legislative days.

“Every senator worked hard and accomplished a lot and saved taxpayer dollars by getting it done on time and with no special session,” he said.

Patrick said legislators in both chambers were able to approve big items, such as additional resources for border security and expanded Second Amendment rights with campus and open carry bills. Another success, he said, was the new, long-term transportation revenue stream that would reduce diversions in the hands of November voters and provided property and business tax relief.

Legislators more than doubled border security funding to $800 million, which will pay for more Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and surveillance equipment along the TexasMexico border. Patrick said the resources would go a long way to addressing illegal crossings, which he said are trending down according to law enforcement detainment numbers.

“There’s still more we can do,” he said. “We were one vote short on sanctuary cities and didn’t address in-state tuition (for illegal immigrants), but we’ll keep trying.”

Patrick said it would take patience and persistence to address many issues the state faces but that he believed the Senate and House addressed a miraculous number of priorities.

Eltife returned the adulation. There were many questions among political analysts going into the session about how Patrick, a staunch, sometimes confrontational, conservative, might handle the most powerful position in the state.

“He did an outstanding job,” Eltife said of Patrick. “The Senate ran smoothly and efficiently. We passed a good budget and for once we had a lieutenant governor and governor admit the problems of the state and showed a willingness to fix them.”

Eltife said Patrick showed political courage to prioritize items that had been neglected for years, including state facilities, and seek solutions for problems such as the state’s $46 billion debt.

Patrick said Eltife led a bold legislative agenda in the Senate and showed it by moving a medical cannabis bill that could have been derailed easily within a cautious House and Senate.

“I told him ‘run with it,’” Patrick said. “He did. He got an overwhelming majority of Senators on board and helped build its case in the House. It was a bold thing to do.”

Patrick said the cannabis oil bill would not usher in expanded legalization of cannabis.

Patrick said the positives, including addressing fracking bans by cities such as Denton and the new public education accountability system that provides A to F ratings for schools, far outweighed missed opportunities such as addressing school choice, the burden of indigent health care on counties or additional work on long-term water supplies, which he called the “toughest issue we face as a state,” because of the interplay between urban and rural interests, including demands on water districts and the rights of rural landowners.

“We got a lot done this session,” he said. “Some things take time. It can take years and sessions to get things done, but we have to stay patient, persistent and stay the course.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Mostly, Patrick says his Texas Senate got the job done

June 10, 2015

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is thrilled with this Texas Legislature, and he doesn’t understand if you’re not.

He came by WFAA/Channel 8 this week to say so, speaking to Texans both to his left and to his even-further-right.

By delivering an average $125 property tax cut, more state troopers along the border and new A-F grades for public schools, “the Senate led,” the Houston radio executive said after taping an Inside Texas Politics interview to air at 9 a.m. Sunday.

After his first session presiding in the Senate, Patrick bragged about, mostly, the Senate.

“The budget follows the Senate bill on all the key issues,” he said, lavishing praise on local state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chairwoman of the Finance Committee.

(Instead of a property tax cut, the House wanted a broader sales tax cut for everybody. But, hey, Patrick was on a roll.)

He thanked Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, for tough work on the bill allowing licensed Texans over 21 to carry a concealed handgun at college, and on a failed attempt to reel in college benefits for veterans’ dependents.

Rookie Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, passed only one bill into law, but “it takes a while to learn the process,” Patrick said. (His first year, he passed three.)

Mostly, Patrick wanted to brag about the Senate passing 20 of his 22 priority bills, but not to talk about failed bills supported by Tea Party groups but opposed by the Texas Association of Business.

For example, business conservatives successfully fought back a bill ending in-state tuition for teens educated here but brought to the U.S. illegally.

“It was three or four votes short,” he said. “Look, let’s focus on the 20 of 22 things that happened.”

That included the tax cut, which requires voter approval in November, and the A-F school ratings (but not $100 million in private school vouchers).

Some feared the Senate would resist the d-word — debt — but Patrick said he was OK with $3.1 billion in bonds for Texas universities, $200 million of it for local schools.

Patrick said most of the money is for medical and engineering schools: “I didn’t want money to go to build a new Taj Mahal we don’t need.”

Oh, and he wants it reported that he does not “intend to run” against Gov. Greg Abbott in 2018.

“Lieutenant governor is where the action is,” Patrick said. “I love it. It’s fun.”

He seems convinced.

Nichols Says 84th Legislation Session a Success

June 8, 2015

Austin — On Monday, the 84th Legislative Session came to a close, marking another successful session for the people of Texas.

“Serving the people of Senate District 3 has been one of the greatest honors of my life,” said Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville). “Working with my colleagues in the Legislature, I believe we passed legislation this session which will be beneficial to East Texas and the State of Texas.”

As a first time member of the Senate Finance Committee, Nichols played an integral role in determining the state’s budget for the next biennium. The Legislature finalized and approved a $209.4 billion budget which will boost funding for border security, public schools and roads in the state. They also approved $3.8 billion in business and property tax relief for the people of Texas.

“I want to thank Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for his strong leadership and for entrusting me with the Chairmanship of the Senate Transportation Committee,” said Nichols. “While it is impossible to address every issue in a single session, he pursued an agenda to help meet the needs of all Texans.”

Read More: http://www.thevindicator.com/opinion/article_14dfb35e-0a54-11e5-9db4-eb46ca2a0258.html

Austin Statesman: Abbott, Patrick are session’s big winners

June 8, 2015

On one level, any legislative session that does not require an immediate special session must be considered a success.

More broadly this was a consequential legislative session, with several of the state’s major issues addressed.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick each ran for office with very specific goals.

Of the five “emergency items” that Gov. Abbott identified during his February State of the State address, four of them passed, leaving only ethics reform (partially) undone.

Patrick specifically campaigned on increasing border security and cutting property taxes, and he got both of those. Border security funding is doubling, and Texas property owners will have a $10,000 increase in their homestead exemption.

Gov. Abbott got his high-priority items through, which is an indication that he was working much more aggressively behind the scenes than some said. He was actively meeting with legislators and kept the House and Senate leadership together when they had very different legislative visions. Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, deserves credit for ushering through Abbott’s top items.

Prognostications that Lt. Gov. Patrick would be a disaster, running the Senate like a tyrant, were absurd and unproven. The Senate ran smoothly, even though it had the largest freshman class in recent memory. Lt. Gov. Patrick’s early promise to not seek the limelight or take credit was kept. Removing the two-thirds rule enabled the Senate to pass more legislation earlier than ever before, and it significantly reduced the need for a dreaded special session.

Read More: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/opinion/matt-mackowiak-abbott-patrick-are-sessions-big-win/nmWT7/

Austin American Statesman: Abbott, Patrick are session’s big winners

June 8, 2015

On one level, any legislative session that does not require an immediate special session must be considered a success.

More broadly this was a consequential legislative session, with several of the state’s major issues addressed.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick each ran for office with very specific goals.

Of the five “emergency items” that Gov. Abbott identified during his February State of the State address, four of them passed, leaving only ethics reform (partially) undone.

Patrick specifically campaigned on increasing border security and cutting property taxes, and he got both of those. Border security funding is doubling, and Texas property owners will have a $10,000 increase in their homestead exemption.

Gov. Abbott got his high-priority items through, which is an indication that he was working much more aggressively behind the scenes than some said. He was actively meeting with legislators and kept the House and Senate leadership together when they had very different legislative visions. Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, deserves credit for ushering through Abbott’s top items.

Prognostications that Lt. Gov. Patrick would be a disaster, running the Senate like a tyrant, were absurd and unproven. The Senate ran smoothly, even though it had the largest freshman class in recent memory. Lt. Gov. Patrick’s early promise to not seek the limelight or take credit was kept. Removing the two-thirds rule enabled the Senate to pass more legislation earlier than ever before, and it significantly reduced the need for a dreaded special session.

Conservatives have several important accomplishments from the session:

• The two-year budget was conservative, with state spending below the combined increase in population and inflation. There was no need to bust the spending cap or tap the $10 billion Rainy Day Fund.

•Open carry and campus carry passed, advancing Second Amendment rights.

•Oil and gas operations will remain governed by the state, not local municipalities, effectively nullifying anti-fracking ordinances.

•A Pastor Protection bill to ensure faith leaders do not have to perform gay weddings against their religious beliefs passed.

•Additional restrictions to state laws governing abortions without parental consent were passed.

•The prosecutorial authority for alleged misconduct by elected officials has been transferred to an elected official’s home county, removing it from Travis County.

The biggest fight was over taxes. In the end, the Senate’s homestead exemption increase won the day, with the House bowing to the political reality that millions of Texans are irate about outrageous property tax increases in urban and suburban areas. A better approach would have been to link homestead exemptions to increasing property appraisals, but that fell short in the Senate. Both sides agreed to a broad 25 percent cut to the state’s business tax, bringing the total tax cut to $3.8 billion.

Even with these successes, there were several important items that did not pass both houses, including school choice; strengthening the spending cap; free market legislation affecting Tesla, Walmart and Uber; ending in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and sanctuary cities; protection of state sovereignty over marriage; and legislation preventing abortion coverage through the federal exchange.

Conservative activists always want to win every fight, and these failures will be big issues in primaries for legislative seats next year. The Senate blames the House and the House blames the Senate on these bills. Each issue had its own political dynamic.

The House attempted to increase public education funding by $3 billion, but the Senate refused, instead wishing to wait for the state Supreme Court ruling later this year or early next year. There will likely be a special session next year (perhaps after the May primary runoffs) on school funding. Gov. Abbott could choose to add ethics to that special session call.

Longtime Texas conservative activist Peggy Venable of Americans for Prosperity recently called it a “good session for Texans and a good session for conservatives,” but cited school choice and property tax reforms as important work left undone.

Perhaps the most telling statement was made by former state representative and current Congressman Joaquin Castro, DTexas: “Today marks the end of perhaps the worst legislative session in history.”

Texas Republicans should take that as a compliment.

Mackowiak is syndicated columnist, an Austin-based Republican consultant and former Capitol Hill and Bush administration aide.

Houston Chronicle: Patrick wins high marks for Senate leadership

June 7, 2015

By Mike Ward | June 7, 2015

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AUSTIN – An hour after the last gavel had fallen in the Texas Legislature’s 84th session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sat in his office, eating a slice of lemon pie and drinking lemonade. It was a gift, he said, from a senator who thought the session would be tough, but ended up pleased with the outcome.

The tail of his blue dress shirt out over his navy slacks, and uncharacteristically without a necktie, Patrick, 65, was at ease.

He pointed to a black fedora hanging on a rack in the corner. The hat, a gift from his son and daughter when he came to the Senate in 2007, was a nod to the 1939 classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The movie is one of Patrick’s favorites, so much so that he had his entire staff watch it when he became a senator.

He envisions himself as a Jeff Smith, the title character played by Jimmy Stewart, the outsider who goes to Congress and changes the government.

Now in Texas’ No. 2 political post, and having just completed his first legislative session as a leader in the government he once criticized, Patrick insisted he has not changed. He still is the same person whom Texas Monthly magazine once forewarned about – “Here Comes Trouble” – when he first arrived in the Senate, a slam Patrick has worn as a badge of honor ever since.

“My principles are still the same, and my values are still the same,” he said, adding that the issues he campaigned on – providing property tax relief, repealing the two-thirds rule to keep a few senators from blocking debate on bills supported by the majority, opposing abortion rights and increasing border security – all were addressed during the just-completed session.

“I haven’t changed, but I’ve learned how to, hopefully, be more effective,” he said. “If you don’t learn every session … you’re not progressive.”

Smooth performance

Perhaps the most-watched and volatile player in the Legislature, Patrick got high marks for a smooth performance from senators, even Democrats who loathe much of the conservative legislation he pushed through. Despite a palpable tension between Patrick’s Senate and Speaker Joe Straus’ House, rooted in Patrick’s perceived antipathy toward the lower chamber as much as in actual philosophical differences on major issues, the session generally ended without the political explosions and rancor predicted at its start.

If Patrick came to Austin as a Jeff Smith eight years ago, he saw himself in a different role this session.

“The president of the Senate … he’s sitting there with the gavel,” Patrick explains. “At one point, they try to stop Jeff Smith. And (the presiding officer) said, ‘Go on senator.’ … He’s sitting there admiring Mr. Smith, kind of like ‘I want to give this guy a shot.’

“There were many times this session when I sat up there exactly in that pose, listening intently to members debate the issues and I thought: How did I get from the guy in the hat in 2007 to the guy up here with the gavel?”

The answer, senators and political observers agree, is that the onetime Houston radio talk show host has moderated an in-your-face approach to get things done in Austin, a change he likens to Jimmy Stewart standing up against the Washington political establishment while remaining true to his principles.

Senators on both sides of the political aisle say Patrick has learned how to work within the system, even as his self-confident bravado still grates on some. Instead of organizing and managing ideological political coalitions from the outside, Patrick and other conservative Republicans this legislative session had to show they could govern, they say.

“He told us to think bold and we did,” said Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, a critic of some legislation that Patrick pushed, but who at the end of the session praised the lieutenant governor’s handling of the Senate’s process. “We all stood our ground on various issues, but he let us do our work. Lt. Gov. Patrick did a great job in presiding over the Senate.”

‘We got a lot done’

Other senators agreed.

“Like a lot of other people, I was anxious about the new leadership when the session started,” said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who has spent 32 years in the Senate. “I think he did the best job of anyone I’ve seen, even though I don’t agree with him on all the issues. I think we benefited from having a former senator in the chair.”

As one of only two Democrats to get coveted committee chairmanships under Patrick, Whitmire said he got significant criminal justice reforms enacted, including changes to the system of selecting grand jurors, an overhaul of the state’s troubled sex-offender agency, decriminalization of truancy and a greater focus on treatment of juvenile offenders in community programs – perhaps more so than he would have previously.

“We got a lot done this session, in a lot of areas,” Whitmire said. “I joke with him that if I’d have known he was going to be lieutenant governor, I’ve have treated him better in 2007.”

Without exception, senators say Patrick proved his mettle.

“Instead of being a rabble-rouser anymore, he can harness and direct those coalitions to accomplish things,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political science professor who has followed Patrick’s rise to power. “This looks a lot like the way Bill Hobby and Bob Bullock managed the Senate, managing the ideological coalitions on both sides. Bill Hobby used to say that if you had both sides mad at you at the end of a session, you’d had a good session.”

Tough letter grades

The only people not satisfied with Patrick’s work may be the tea party activists who worked to get him elected. In mid-May, members of Patrick’s own grass-roots task force blasted him, Gov. Greg Abbott and the House for not passing measures to outlaw sanctuary cities, strengthen the current ban on same-sex marriage and approve school choice, among other issues.

The discontent continued last week in letter grades: The Senate got a C, the House an F.

Patrick was unapologetic.

“If they look at the list of campaign promises, it would be tough to argue that we (the Senate) haven’t checked all the boxes,” he said. “Did we get 100 percent done? No. Did we get more than 90 percent done? … We got all the major items to the governor’s desk.”
Patrick, who pointedly told reporters last week that he never plans to run for governor, said he will begin focusing on issues for the next legislative session in two years.

“I’m not done with property tax relief,” he said.

Empower Texans: Dan Patrick Got It Done

June 6, 2015

On his first vote as a state senator, Dan Patrick voted alone. In the recently concluded legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the state senate substantively delivered on every measure he campaigned on last year.

A main stay of Patrick’s policy agenda, since he first ran for a Houston-area state senate seat a decade ago, was property tax reform. This session, he and his successor – freshman Sen. Paul Bettencourt – delivered through the senate a series of reforms.

Most notably, the Senate pushed for, and the House relented on and enacted, an increase in the homestead exemption for property owners.

The same can be said for tax cuts. The Texas House did nothing on tax cuts until after the Patrick-led Senate passed a $4.2 billion relief package.

Part of Patrick’s first (and successful) run for public office in 2006 was built on his opposition to the so-called business “margins” tax. This year, the tax was significantly reduced.

On issue after issue this legislative session, under Patrick’s leadership, the Senate led forward with substantive reforms. It was the Senate that passed a spending limit measure that kept with the wishes of 94 percent of GOP primary voters… which was then killed in the Texas House.

Read More: http://www.empowertexans.com/features/dan-patrick-got-it-done/