Texas 2014 Primary - Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Pauken Talks Education, Workforce Sustainability and Payroll Fraud | Texas GOP Vote

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Texas 2014 Primary - Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Pauken Talks Education, Workforce Sustainability and Payroll Fraud

Tom Pauken talks to Katy Tea PartyAs former chairman of the Texas Workforce Commissioner, Tom Pauken is no stranger to the pages of TexasGOPVote. Pauken has been a news contributor for this website nearly from its inception in 2009. Now Pauken has taken on a new role, that of candidate for the office of Governor of the great state of Texas!

I caught up with Commissioner Pauken during one of his many stops at grassroots organizations across Texas. This occasion was the monthly meeting of the Katy Tea Party. Katy Tea was one of the Tea Party groups targeted by and nearly driven into extinction by Obama's "Phony" IRS Scandal. A complete transcript of this interview follows this article.

Pauken began our conversation talking about education and how we have gone too far down the path of pushing nearly all high school students towards a four-year university education. "I have to say I was a bit shocked," Pauken said.  "... We had an educational system almost run by elitists with the idea that everyone should go to a four-year university; meanwhile, we were neglecting vocational and technical education that once had been a mainstay of our high school education."

"I began to work with business leaders and educators," he continued. "We finally got passed, this last Legislative Session, an approach that makes more common sense with multiple pathways to a high school degree, more opportunities for a vocational education, and a beginning of the return to control, local control, of education."


It is funny how many people scoff at the idea that we have a shortage of skilled labor in this country and particularly in Texas. Pauken explained this saying, "With such a shortage of skilled workers in the state, the average age of a plumber is 56, of a welder: 55, of a stone-masonry, craftsman: 69. With a graying workforce, a shortage of skilled workers, we've choked off the pipeline of skilled workers and neglected vocational education."

Because of this labor shortage, many companies have gone to hiring illegal workers and misclassifying people who should be employees as independent contractors. During Pauken's tenure as Chairman of the TWC, we worked closely with him on this issue and attempting to get meaningful legislation passed to deal with the issue.

"That's what we call misclassification" Pauken explained. "So I work with my fellow commissioners to do something about it, and we got some legislation passed this session. There was some resistance from some of the home builders, but we got started at least. We made a lot of progress. That needs to be continued, and as governor, I will work to make sure that the people who play by the rules don't get penalized or lose jobs, where in true competitive bidding, they'd be winning those jobs."

I asked Pauken to explain further about how misclassification impacts worker's compensation and wage theft or payroll fraud cases. Pauken explained how when companies misclassify workers and one gets injured on the job, the unethical companies trying to cheat the system will simply dump the injured workers on our county hospitals leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.  He also explained how "employees" are protected from wage theft and payroll fraud by the Texas Payday Law which enables the TWC to help collect stolen wages. Misclassified workers do not receive such protection.

I asked Pauken about one area where he believes his campaign is taking a completely different approach than his challenger, Attorney General Greg Abbott's, campaign. That area is how our public schools are funded generally and about the Robin Hood school funding system in particular.

How would a Governor Pauken address school funding?  Pauken jumped right into this issue stating, "Number one: property taxes are too high, and number two: it is unfair, and I believe, unconstitutional, to take local property taxes that should go to your local schools and have them redistributed to other schools elsewhere in the state."

"It's called the Robin Hood tax scheme," he continued. 'It's not the true Robin Hood, but it is taking from some and giving to others. But the problem with this is it amounts to $1.1 billion, and people who live in a number of school districts are getting double taxed, they have higher property taxes, and that money is being transferred to 374 districts."

Tom Pauken for Governor"My approach is very simple," he continued. "But it can get done if you have the leadership to do it. Get rid of the $1.1 billion, you can either take it out of the Rainy Day Fund, on a one time basis, or you could increase sales tax by a quarter of a cent, and that gets you the $1.1 billion. Give that money to the property poor districts and let the other districts keep their local property taxes local. So I think you can put a coalition to get that done. As I've said to some people, there were some of those former property poor districts that are now in the oil field areas down in the Eagle Ford Shale district in south Texas, they're suddenly property rich, and their attitude toward Robin Hood is a little different today than it was back then."

Pauken concluded this interview discussing veterans issues and what he would propose as governor. He talked about a program he set up as Workforce Commission Chairman called the "Texas Veteran Leadership Program" which is run by vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. This program has helped over 11,000 returning veterans. "I'm a Vietnam veteran myself," Pauken proclaimed. "I believe that not only should Texas be the number one place to do business, it needs to be the number one state in America for our veterans." As a veteran myself, I would have a hard time arguing with him on that.

TexasGOPVote will continue to bring you interviews with the top candidates for office in our statewide and many district and local races throughout the 2014 Republican Primary Election season. Please stay tuned for updates and more in-depth interviews.

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW.

Bob Price: Welcome to TexasGOPVote. We've been covering the governor's race for the great state of Texas, and today we're talking to Tom Pauken, the first announced candidate in the race for governor. You're no stranger to TexasGOPVote, having been writing for us almost since the inception of the organization. I want to welcome you back to TexasGOPVote, and let's talk about some issues that are very important to us. Education is a critical issue in the state of Texas. Tell us about how that impacts the workforce in the state of Texas and what you've been doing beyond that as well. 

Tom Pauken: Bob, I'd been in the private sector and out of government since the Reagan Administration when the Governor asked me to come back in and chair the Texas Workforce Commission. I got to Austin in 2008, and I have to say I was a bit shocked we had an educational system almost run by elitists with the idea that everyone should go to a four-year university; meanwhile, we were neglecting vocational and technical education that once had been a mainstay of our high school education. You've got to give young people a choice, and we weren't giving them a choice. We were pushing everyone to go to a four-year university and had kids dropping out of school, almost being throwaways, because they weren't given an opportunity of vocational training, which would allow them to get a higher paying job. So I began to work with business leaders and educators, and we finally got passed, this last Legislative Session, an approach that makes more common sense with more multiple pathways to a high school degree, more opportunities for a vocational education, and a beginning of the return to control, local control, of education. We as conservatives are supposed to believe in local control and yet, we've gone the opposite direction, even in the Republican Party with No Child Left Behind, the Bush-Kennedy bill, which centralized power over education nationally, and even in Texas with this crazy teaching to the test and pushing everybody to go to a university, and it wasn't working, so we begin to change it. As Governor, I will push more for enhanced opportunity for vocational education. With such a shortage of skilled workers in the state, the average age of a plumber: 56, of a welder: 55, of a stone-masonry craftsman: 69. With a graying workforce, a shortage of skilled workers, we've choked off the pipeline of skilled workers and neglect vocational education. That needs to change, and we have the beginnings of doing that, but we need to continue.  

Bob Price: One of the problems that has been created by this shortage, a lot of people don't think we have a labor shortage in Texas or even in this country, but we really do, and one of the problems that has been created by that is misclassification of employees, wage theft, payroll fraud, and things like that that happen rampantly because the lack of competitive workforce and also a lot of illegal immigration that gets hired into the labor process. Tell us a little bit about misclassification and payroll fraud.

Tom Pauken: Well this is a real problem. I saw that as Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission. Employers coming to me who were playing by the rules, and they're getting penalized because they're losing out on competitive bids with companies using subcontractors, people who may not be here legally. Secondly, they're classified as contract labor when reality is they're employees. That's what we call misclassification. So I work with my fellow commissioners to do something about it, and we got some legislation passed this session. There was some resistance from some of the home-builders, but we got started at least. We made a lot of progress. That needs to be continued, and as governor, I will work to make sure that the people who play by the rules don't get penalized or lose jobs where in true competitive bidding, they'd be winning those jobs.  

Bob Price: And we've seen that a lot. There was that big case up in the Dallas Fort-Worth area, Mansfield ISD, where a contractor was completely underbid by somebody who was cheating the system, and a lot of people don't understand the implications of what happens when an employer cheats a contractor versus when they try to not pay an employee.  

Tom Pauken: Well, I'll give you another example of that. If you call someone an independent contractor, somebody's injured on the job, they're not a citizen, there isn't worker's compensation, or there isn't insurance, well they dump them on the system. They're not taking care of their own workers. So, it's not right, and it needs to be changed.  

Bob Price: If I'm an employee for a company, and they don't pay me, I can go to the Texas Workforce Commission under the Texas Payday Law and get relief from that. But if I'm an "independent contractor," I don't have that luxury because it's considered an accounts receivable. 

Tom Pauken: Yeah, it's a problem, and it has to be dealt with, and I saw some unfortunate examples of that, and we need to clean that system up.  

Bob Price: Now back to education for a minute if we can. Tell me what your thoughts are, clearly we have a problem with our property tax system and the way that impacts the schools with the Robin Hood plan and having to go to court all the time. How would Governor Pauken address that issue?  

Tom Pauken: Well I've been heavily engaged in that issue. Number one: property taxes are too high, and number two: it is unfair, and I believe, unconstitutional, to take local property taxes that should go to your local schools and have them redistributed to other schools elsewhere in the state. There's no accountability for those local property taxes. It's called the Robin Hood tax scheme. It's not the true Robin Hood, but it is taking from some and giving to others. But the problem with this is it amounts to $1.1 billion, and people who live in a number of school districts are getting double taxed, they have higher property taxes, and that money is being transferred to 374 districts. What I would do as governor, and I'm very knowledgable about this issue and Im very involved in this issue because I led the fight against it when Ann Richards tried to put it in as a Constitutional amendment. We defeated it by two to one. She put it in legislatively, and two governors later, it's still there. Greg Abbott, my opponent in this race, supports that, has defended it. It's Constitutional and legal, and I totally disagree with him on that. My approach is very simple, but it can get down if you have the leadership to do it. Get rid of the $1.1 billion, you can either take it out of the Rainy Day Fund, on a one time basis, or you could increase sales tax by a quarter of a cent, and that gets you the $1.1 billion. Give that money to the property poor districts and let the other districts keep their local property taxes local. So I think you can put a coalition to get that done. As I've said to some people, there were some of those former property poor districts that are now in the oil field areas down in the Eagle Ford Shale district in south Texas, they're suddenly property rich, and their attitude toward Robin Hood is a little different today than it was back then. 

Bob Price: The shoe's on the other foot. 

Tom Pauken: The shoe's on the other foot. Whose ox is being gored. But the point is, this is an opportunity with real leadership to get something done. Greg Abbott and I have a 180 degree difference on this. Although he's moving my direction on some other things, I'll be surprised to see him move on this issue.  

Bob Price: Well I don't want to hold you. I know you've got a meeting to get to here real quickly. I'd like to take the opportunity later on when you're back and maybe drill down into some more specific issues with you and see how the campaign goes over the course of the next 6-8 months as we're rolling along. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the readers of TexasGOPVote at this time?

Tom Pauken: Well one of the things, Bob, I would like to say, that is very important to me and would continue if elected governor. I'm a Vietnam veteran myself and believe that not only should Texas be the number one place to do business, it needs to be the number one state in America for our veterans, and as part of my job as Texas Workforce Commission Chairman, I set up a program called the Texas Veteran Leadership Program, run entirely by those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan to help their fellow veterans make a successful transition to civilian life. We've helped over 11,000 returning veterans. It's a wonderful program, and we're going to sunset that program, but the reality is, there's a lot that needs to be done for our veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice and that would be a major commitment on my part as governor of Texas. 

Bob Price: Well Commissioner, thank you for your time. I know you have a hectic schedule, you've got meetings all day long today and one more here tonight, so I look forward to talking to you again in the future. 

at Aug 8, 2013 8:11 AM