Becky Moeller

Candidate for Texas governor Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, speaks at a discussion with The Texan Tribune at the State Theater Co. on Thursday morning.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Democratic gubernatorial nominee and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Forth Worth, said she wouldn’t raise taxes to fund programs such as education in a discussion hosted by the Texas Tribune on Thursday.

Davis said she is not worried about facing a Republican super majority if she is elected governor and she said she believes under her leadership, the legislature will become more nonpartisan.

“‘D’ is not a liability,” Davis said. “There are honorable people on both sides of the aisle who really do want to be part of constructive, solution-oriented, future-oriented thinking.”

According to Davis, Texas should make education its single most important priority. Davis said she wants to focus on public preschool education and said she proposes a sliding scale to determine how much parents should pay.

“There will be a tremendous cost to the state of doing nothing,” Davis said. “I don’t think I have all the answers, but I think I have some good ideas.”

Davis said the state already has adequate revenue to fund the programs she proposes. According to Davis, at the next legislative session, the state may have as much as a $5 billion surplus.

“A 21st century education — that needs to be priority number one [with the surplus],” Davis said.

Texas has the largest population of adults without a high school diploma, and by 2040, that percentage is expected to rise to 30 percent. Davis said a less educated population decreases spending power.

Becky Moeller, president of the Texas AFL-CIO union, said Davis’ voting record has demonstrated that she prioritizes education, health care and increasing minimum wage and job opportunities, especially for low-income residents.

“When you tout your state as a low-wage state, you don’t get good jobs in the state,” Moeller said. “When you are excited about minimum wage jobs, and Gov. Rick Perry was, there’s something wrong with that. We need jobs that pay a living wage in this state.”

Moeller said she supports the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid.

“I think that it’s very clear that [Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg] Abbott … does not care about health care for all Texans,” Moeller said.

According to Moeller, an educated population is essential to a strong economy.

“We do need to have an educated workforce, [so] you need to have access to higher education,” Moeller said. “Tuition costs have gone through the roof … we need to make education affordable again.”

Rachel Gandy, public affairs and social work graduate student, asked Davis if she plans to invest in educational programs that would function as effective and cost-efficient alternatives to incarceration.

“I’m a huge supporter of Wendy Davis and especially her education plan,” Gandy said. “She spoke so eloquently about breaking from the status quo, and I wanted to see if that only applied to particular issues or to criminal justice as well.”

Gandy said the only thing she didn’t agree with was Davis’ response to a question about whether she had experienced sexism in Texas. Davis said she had not.

“I was irked … she responded very quickly [that she hadn’t],” Gandy said. “We don’t treat everyone equally in that way, so that was the only moment that I could really disagree with her — that we really haven’t found equality in that way.”

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More than 100 union and community supporters marched to the Capitol from the Texas chapter of the AFL-CIO headquarters on Lavaca and 11th streets to send a message of solidarity to public employees in Wisconsin.

They held flashlights and posters while chanting in support of Wisconsin public workers. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed public employees pay more for benefits to balance the state’s $137 million shortfall. The bill would also eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers.

An attack on one union person is an attack on all union people, said Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller.
“We’re concerned with what is happening in Wisconsin,” Moeller said. “What they’re trying to do is attack labor unions across the country.”

Public employees in Texas do not have the right to collective bargaining, the right to negotiate salaries and working conditions. But if they can do it in one state they could do it in other states, Moeller said.

“Labor unions have helped build a middle class in this country,” she said. “For Gov. Walker to just decide to attack labor unions in Wisconsin, we think it’s the tip of the iceberg.”

Tara Cohen, a Madison native, said the proposed union cuts hit home. Her friends and family who are teachers and hospital workers would be affected. She said their whole lives can potentially change.

“It will give power to people from Austin and people from Madison are paying attention to what’s going on elsewhere with our support or not,” Cohen said.

Polls show 65 percent of people, excluding government officials and their families, think the governor has gone too far, law professor Julius Getman said. It is a combination labor union and community issue, he said.

“I think the governor of Wisconsin has awakened the sleeping giant and it’s going to be interesting how it plays out because the labor movement has been much too dormant in recent years,” he said.

He said this will be a turning point for labor unions. If the workers lose they would have gained something, and if they win it will be a tremendous victory not only for Wisconsin but for unions all over the country.

“Similar legislation was pending in other places and if they’re not going to get it in Wisconsin they’re going to back off,” Getman said.

Getman said that everyone is surprised by the concern and magnitude of the protests around the nation.
“By being militant, the Democrats and the union people have shown there is still power in union,” he said.