Meet Tom Pauken, Candidate For The Office Of Governor Of Texas - Part II
by Sonja Harris on April 10, 2013 at 2:24 PM
This is Part II of my personal interview with Tom Pauken who is seeking the position for Governor of Texas. We must not be blind to the achievements and failures of our Texas leadership at such a critical time as now. With Battleground Texas on our heels, we must elect a governor who will Keep Texas Red.
In Part II, Tom Pauken discusses the importance of vocational education for students who may not want to attend college but would rather learn a skill for a Blue Collar job. We are in dire need of Blue Collar jobs and skilled workers to fill jobs in Texas and across America. Pauken has worked hard in trying to remedy this situation.
Pauken addresses our crisis in water and immigration situations. He also speaks out against the Public Venture Capital Fund saying that Texas should NOT be part of this business.
Please take the time to read Part I and Part II of Pauken’s interview. I’ll bet you learn something. I will be interviewing Attorney General Greg Abbott when and IF he decides to run for governor and the same with our Governor Rick Perry if he decides to run for reelection. STAY TUNED….
RED SONJA 2013©
PRAY, FIGHT, NEVER GIVE UP!
AS TEXAS WORKFORCE COMMISSIONER, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS YOUR BEST EFFORT?
The two initiatives that I am proudest of as chairman of the Texas workforce commission is my emphasis on returning to recognizing the value of vocational education. When I came in 2008 there was this emphasis of everybody going to a university and neglect of vocational education, almost a denigration of it. That the skilled trades were somehow second class jobs that we don’t need that anymore. I have been arguing for four years that we need to recognize and appreciate the value of what we historically call the blue collar jobs. There are jobs in many areas that don’t necessarily require college degrees. I called for more emphasis on vocational education at the high school level and also at the post secondary level at our community colleges and our Texas state technical colleges’ institutions which are in different parts of the state. I am glad to see that finally that view is beginning to prevail. I worked on that for four years and we have a terrific coalition that has come together. State representative Jimmie Aycock is leading an effort with HB5; House Bill 5 reforms education in getting away from this one size fits all approach. I see the ability to put together a coalition very similar to what we did in the Reagan Administration to do some good things and again common sense solutions to problems we had based on our conservative principles.
The second issue that I am very proud of is that I am a Vietnam veteran myself and I remember coming home from Vietnam and landing in Oakland and going to the San Francisco airport to return to Texas. We were not exactly greeted warmly at San Francisco at the end of 1969 when I came home. When I was in the Reagan Administration, we set up a program entirely by Vietnam veterans to help our returning veterans. It was called the Vietnam Veteran Leadership Program. We sunseted that program after four years, but we did a tremendous amount with the support of president Reagan to recognize the value of the service of our veterans and to help some of our returning Vietnam veterans who had lingering problems in terms of unemployment, underemployment or other issues associated with their experience with Vietnam. When I came in as Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, the first thing I did was put together a new program called the Texas Veteran Leadership Program run entirely by those young men and women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan that answered our country’s call at a very difficult time. So to help them make a successful transition back to civilian life in Texas. My point was just like Texas is the number one place in America to do business it should be the number one place in America in terms of thanking our veterans and thanking them the right way by helping them get back to work. With over 10,000 returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and again it’s a program peer to peer run by those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to help those who also have served and are coming back to Texas.
DO YOU THINK EDUCATION IS THE TOP PRIORITY RIGHT NOW FOR TEXAS?
I think there are two aspects of that in terms of education. There are a number of issues involved which we have to address. Transportation and Water are major issues. But let’s talk about education first. There are two parts of that, one is in my estimation we have
1) A multiple pathway approach to a high school degree. Let’s recognize some young people are oriented towards going to college and may have an emphasis on math and science, or some might be more interested in the humanities and fine arts. We can have those pathways for students interested in math and a pathway for young people who want to go into career in technical education to also get a high school diploma with a coherent sequence of vocational courses. Everybody gets the basic foundation, but we recognize that kids have different talents and different interests. So that is one area that I have worked long and hard on and we are finally making progress in the legislature but without the support, unfortunately, of the governor. Having said that, we also need to address:
2) Our school finance problem. I led the fight against the Robin Hood school finance team back in 1993 when Ann Richards sought to oppose it with a constitutional amendment which would take property taxes from some districts and redistribute it with the state as the redistribution agent to other districts. We defeated that proposed constitutional amendment by a margin of two to one and yet she went ahead and passed it legislatively. It should be declared an unconstitutional violation of our prohibition in the Texas Constitution against the state wide property tax. But unfortunately the Supreme Court has failed to do that. I want to get rid of Robin Hood. Right now there are 374 districts in the state of Texas who are punitively taxed. We have a lot of people who are living in their homes and property taxes are way too high. $1.1M that is transferred from 374 districts to the so called property-poor districts. That is the wrong way to fund public education and we need to eliminate the Robin Hood portion of school finance and replace it with a revenue or alternative tax to an extended sales tax or a slightly higher sales tax. We have got to lower our property taxes. We have people for all practical purposes who have paid off their mortgages but have a perpetual lien on their own property. This is wrong! I think it needs to be changed and If I am elected governor we will get rid of Robin Hood and in due respect to Rick Perry and Greg Abbott both have defended the existing system. It is not working and the school finances are so complicated that it is time to come up with a common sense alternative that is fairer and more equitable and a system which we can support.
Why do we wait until the courts act? Why don’t we be pro active and come up with a common sense alternative on this unfair Robin Hood taxing scheme.
Water is a huge issue and again there is a tendency to kick the can down the road. I am for the 2nd Amendment and I am against ObamaCare. During the Reagan Administration I led the fight against the Liberal elements which now dominate the national political scene. But we are in charge here in Texas and we keep putting off addressing these serious issues. There are major problems with drought. We have huge issues; I was just in West Texas recently and one of the cities out there may run out of water well within the year. It is time to come up with a long term solution to this situation. Representative Allan Ritter of Southeast Texas is trying to do something about it and Republican Bill Callegari who is a water engineer from Katy has some excellent ideas on addressing it. Jerry Patterson our land Commissioner has been talking about it, but there has been an absence of leadership from the top on this issue.
It is time to get people together and say, “How do we fix the problem.” Those are essential services, water and transportation of the state of Texas. Why aren’t we doing something about it… Why are we funding… why do we have this $3M in debt for this cancer problem. It is not an essential service to the state of Texas. Cancer is a terrible disease, but so is Alzheimer's, so are the problems in regard to heart disease. The state is in the business in providing slush funds. They hand out grants to all these areas. I support the effort of Senator Eltife to end that debt obligation. That could go away and focus more on addressing the essential needs of the state of Texas, particularly water and transportation as well.
I am not for amnesty and I am very concerned. Obviously it is a very complicated issue but I don’t believe the solution is amnesty. I am also very concerned that we have had serious efforts on the part of the drug cartels from Mexico to come into Texas to buy property. I don’t want to be a scare monger here, but I hear too many reports from credible sources that in South Texas in the evening on some roads, you just don’t drive on the back roads because there are some serious problems with regards to the movement of drugs in Texas and also the supporting of officials both appointed and elected officials in South Texas by the drug cartel leaders. So I really think we in all due respect to the Federal Government…we in Texas can’t count on Homeland security protecting us, we got to be as self sufficient as possible. If I am elected governor I will make sure that we have a person in charge of overall law enforcement at the state level with strong intelligence background what he or she needs to do in terms of providing the types of leadership to address the efforts of these drug cartels on our side of the border and how best to combat those.
I was in the intelligence business when I was in the military in Vietnam as an army intelligence officer. Obviously, it is the area that is fraught with concern in terms of how best to do it. But I think we can not count on Homeland Security providing the kind of security and intelligence that we need here in Texas to address this overflow from the huge problems of the drug cartel and it is in Texas and it might not be just be in South Texas. I also hear reports in the North Texas area that they have made inroads.
WHERE DO YOU SEE TEXAS IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS?
I think ….reality is that Texas has to continue to lead the nation as we currently do in terms of business with encouraging private sector job creation. We have been very fortunate with the energy bill we have to make sure that economic development continues to pay. I have worked hard on the Workforce Commission to support tax and regulatory policies that encourage economic growth and private sector job creation.
Having said that, what I worry about is what happens if nationally there is a economic calamity. Cyprus …We wake up one morning and you suddenly find that you have been prudent and you have your savings in a bank and they are talking about taxing it at 20%.
Now that is Cyprus. That is going on in Europe as we speak. I am very worried about affect policy engineered by Ben Bernanke encouraged by the Obama Administration which has kept interest rates artificially low where we buy our own paper. At some point the bubble is going to burst; there is too much government debt out there and what happens? How does Texas address this? How do we become more and more self sufficient to protect our people if there is a serious economic crisis?
We have got to stand up for Texas and its nice to howl at the Obama crowd. We have to be pro active and not always reactive. For example in 2005 we had a Republican president, we had a Republican control of the Senate and Republican control of the House. Where were our leaders, where was our Governor and Attorney General why didn’t they go to Washington and say we don’t want you to extend the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. It is unfair to Texas.
Why is Texas under the control of the Department of Justice? Where was our leadership in terms of being pro active at a time when we were in control of the federal government making sure that would not happen? We did nothing. The sad thing is now we send millions of dollars in fighting the unfair actions on the part of Eric Holder and the Department of Justice. But where was the preventive medicine so to speak? Why didn’t we block it or stop it back then?
I give also the example of Medicaid that I talk about in my book, On Bringing America Home, that we need to block grant Medicaid back to the state otherwise it is going to bankrupt everybody. But we had a Republican president GW Bush from Texas. Why didn’t our leadership go to Washington and get a waiver and practically allowing us to block grant it back to Texas? Rhode Island, a Democrat state headed by a Democrat governor, got a waiver. This is an absence of leadership. We are always reacting to things and it is great to be against something just like ObamaCare which I am against it. Where are our leaders?
What are you going to do differently that works better, costs less and is more driven by the consumers and not by the control of a centralized government that I think is missing.
The current politicians who pass themselves off as conservative don’t do that. In fact they duck the tough issues. They take the easy ones that all of us are for. This does not do anything to solve long term problems and I think decision making ought to be based on what is the good for our state and not who gives the most money or what prominent lobbyist has a lot of influence in Austin wants to get on behalf of the client. This is crony capitalism, we have said it about the Obama Administration and there is crony capitalism in Austin. We need to get rid of it.
Why is our state involved with the promoting of the Public Venture Capital Fund? It’s called the Emerging Technology Fund. I was in the venture capital business in the private sector and it is hard not to make money in the private sector. I worked for an absolutely brilliant business man but I don’t think that either the state government or the federal government ought to be in the public venture capital business. That Emerging Technology Fund has not been successful and has been drying on our state revenue base and it needs to go.
END OF INTERVIEW