TOP statement on House tax bill that guts healthcare for working families to give tax breaks to the wealthy

healthcare taxes

Today, the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means released its tax bill that will cut Medicaid and Medicare to pay for massive tax cuts for the very wealthy and big corporations. The following is a statement by Brianna Brown, deputy director of the Texas Organizing Project:

“Here we go again. Republicans are yet again trying to make the rich richer on the backs of our elderly, disabled and poor. It is morally and fiscally abhorrent.

“All year, we have joined other hardworking American families and fought Republican proposals that would gut our healthcare by repealing the Affordable Care Act and dismantling Medicaid while at the same time giving big tax breaks to the rich, insurers, and the prescription drug companies. So far, we have prevailed. But like so many horror movie villains, Republicans keep resuscitating this healthcare monster with the despicable goal to slash healthcare for working families, especially people of color, to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest in our country.

“This bill would give more than a $1 trillion in tax breaks to the rich and corporations while making life-saving healthcare services and medications unaffordable and unattainable for the rest of us. That’s why we’re calling on the Texas Congressional delegation to reject this twisted legislation. It’s far past time for them to listen to their constituents and focus on: reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), stabilizing healthcare markets, and working toward solutions to expand access to affordable healthcare, as TOP believes healthcare is a fundamental human right. ”

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Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Latino communities in Harris, Dallas and Bexar counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.

San Antonio protesters demand that Trump release his income tax returns

Trump chicken protest

More than 100 activists rallied outside of U.S. Congressman Will Hurd’s office on the North Side on Tuesday afternoon, protesting President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his income taxes returns.

With signs and posters held high, the crowd lined the curb outside of Hurd’s office building, cheering motorists who honked their car horns in solidarity with their cause. One or two drivers lowered their car windows and yelled out taunts opposing the march.

This past weekend, more than 150 marches took place across the nation as part of a wave of similar protests set up at taxmarch.org.

Hurd is not in San Antonio this week. Protesters said that the doors to the congressman’s office were locked, preventing march representatives from talking to an aide. Speakers Rosey Abuabara and Alejandro Guzman energized the crowd, voicing their displeasure that Hurd or a member of his staff was not present to hear their complaints.

“He doesn’t want to meet us,” Guzman yelled to the crowd through a megaphone. “He works for us! We deserve to be heard by our elected official!”
Hurd’s campaign manager, Justin Hollis suggested that the crowd’s claims might not be on target.

“If the DCCC and the Texas Democratic Party would have done their homework,’ Hollis wrote in an email, “they would know that Congressman Hurd called on President Trump to release his taxes back in January.”

The event was sponsored by several groups, including Mi Familia Vota, Planned Parenthood, Service Employees International Union and the Texas Organizing Project.
Janet Oglethorpe, with TX23 Indivisible, was among the contingent that included retirees, college students, Moms Demand Action members and several youngsters and toddlers. Oglethorpe said Hurd needs to stop voting with Trump and represent all members of his 23rd Congressional District.

“We need that transparency,” she said, “and I want him to pass that along to Donald Trump.”

Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl said his wife alerted him to the rally.

“I’m very concerned that our current president has not followed the practice of his predecessors and released his tax returns,” the rabbi said. “I’m concerned about what he’s hiding and why he’s been so resistant to following the wishes of the people.”

Stahl worries that people might tire of protests, but he is hopeful that hasn’t happened yet.

“We don’t want justice fatigue to set in,” he said, above shouts of “No more secrets, no more lies” from the crowd.

The chants and sign waving subsided briefly as organizers inflated a large mascot, Chicken Don, that’s been featured at rallies around the nation. The large, balloon caricature of Trump bobbed above protesters who posed for photos and let laughter replace their ire for a few moments.

Linda Lowman walked through the assembly bearing a triangle-shaped shadow box, with a folded American flag displayed beneath glass in memory of her father, World War II veteran Melville M. Hughes Jr. She said her father taught her that Americans can all do their part for their country by paying their taxes.

“Here’s Mr. Trump, who has been blessed with more money than most of the people in the United States make, and yet he’s looking for loopholes so he doesn’t have to pay,” she said. “If he was here now, my father would be appalled.”

This story originally appeared 4/18/2017 in the San Antonio Express-News.

Coalition Calls on Next Mayor to Raise Minimum Wage for Publicly Funded Projects

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Today, a coalition of community and labor organizations staged a tour of of sites that received tax dollars to tell the story of how the city subsidizes the creation of poverty jobs.

“Of the City of Houston’s 35 economic development tax-incentive deals with developers between 2004 – 2014, only 7 had any job promises,” said Feldon Bonner, a member of the Texas Organizing Project at the press conference that kicked off the tour. “None of the deals included language about the quality of the promised jobs, and only one has provided reports to the City on its job creation deliverables. This is unacceptable.”

The tour started at the Westin Downtown, formerly known as the Inn at the Ballpark, for which Landry’s received $2 million dollars in tax giveaways, and despite failing to provide the 125 jobs promised, the city council voted to allow Landry’s to keep the incentives.

“These tax deals are not going to mom and pop businesses. They are not going to small, women-owned, minority owned or disadvantaged businesses,” said Pastor David Madison, a TOP leader. “Tillman Fertitta, CEO, chairman and owner of Landry’s has a networth of $2.3 billion. Yet Landry’s is one of the region’s largest poverty job creators paying its more than 10,000 service and restaurant workers in the Houston area low wages.”

The next stop was at Ainbinder Heights, a development anchored by Walmart, and includes a McDonald’s and Taco Cabana. The city awarded Ainbinder $6 million in tax breaks for property improvements. The agreement between the city and Ainbinder spans 48 pages, yet the city failed to negotiate any specific commitments for the number and quality of jobs or any other meaningful community benefits.

“Let’s not forget that Walmart is the largest corporation in the world! And the Walton family is the richest family in America with a net worth of $149 billion dollars. Do you think they need our tax incentives?” Florence Coleman, a TOP leader, asked the community members present. “Do they deserve our tax incentives? The average Walmart associate makes just $8.81 per hour. Nationally, taxpayers are already footing a $6.2 billion bill in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing for Walmart employees who can’t provide for their families because of the low wages Walmart pays them.”

The final stop was at the Astrodome, a project that will probably receive tax dollars. County Judge Ed Emmett has traveled around the world to put together a plan for its reconstruction that includes water park, theater & trails. But there is no plan to assure that the jobs created by this project pay well and have benefits.

“The Astrodome was built by union workers back in the early 1960s, and we’re proud to have contributed to it,” said Paul Puente of the Building Trades Union. “And our elected officials have the obligation to leverage our public dollars effectively so projects like the Astrodome redevelopment provide good jobs that pay at least $15 dollars per hour or prevailing wage, whichever is higher. Jobs that provide training and benefits. And to make sure African American and Latino families in struggling neighborhoods have access to these jobs by including local hire requirements and second chance provisions.”

The coalition staged the tour today to so that Houston’s next mayor makes higher wages a priority.

“We are here today to make sure the mistakes of the past are not repeated with publicly funded development projects like the ones we visited earlier today,” Puente added. “Our local economy cannot afford one more poverty wage job. Our communities cannot accept one more poverty-wage job.”

The following organizations participated in today’s tour: Texas Organizing Project, SEIU Texas, AFL-CIO, Fe y Justicia Worker Center and Working America. Pictures can be downloaded from here.