State Senate district 4

Gordy Bunch, President and CEO, The Woodlands Financial Group



What are some of the top transportation projects in the district, and what is the best way to get the funding for them at the state level?



Right now we have diversions in our budget where our fuel tax, 25 percent of that is being redirected to our general funds. We need to get those funds dedicated. In Montgomery County we have a joint South Montgomery County mobility plan that is being developed with the cities of Shenandoah, Conroe, The Woodlands Township and others coordinating our long-term transit plans. So first thing is to end diversions, make sure TxDOT has its funding, make sure the county has its prioritization for its own funding and its own projects, and then work together with all the local communities to make sure the plans are cohesive and integrated.



How can the state fund the school system and keep that funding level high enough to educate children?



In 2011 there was $5.4 billion taken out of education. In last year's session they added back $3.4 billion. We are spending $2 billion less than we were two years ago with more people enrolled in our schools. Funding for education comes from the state, the federal government, grants and the permanent school fund. The permanent school fund has $29 billion in it. If we reprioritize our budget, and we use the funds that are available, we can get our schools back in the position they need to be. We need to prioritize our education, and if we are going to do the vocational things, then our students need to graduate with certificates, licenses and the ability to be employed the day they get out of high school.



Texas ranks near the bottom in graduation rates. What would you do to reverse that trend?



With the new way that we are allowing our kids to choose a track— whether it's college-bound or vocationally bound—there are things we can do to make those more attractive to make the students want to graduate. If you tell a high school student they are on a vocational track, you are going to graduate with a license or certificate and a job, they are more likely to complete their curriculum and be engaged in the process. Working with industries to make sure that we design these trade skills to line up with what the students' interests are is another way to keep them engaged.



Brandon Creighton, Vice President, Signorelli Company



What are some of the top transportation projects in the district, and what is the best way to get the funding for them at the state level?



There are about 15 high-growth, fast-track, compounded growth counties in Texas like Montgomery, Williamson, Fort Bend, Collin, Denton and many others that are suffocating because mobility is behind and stays behind. I lead an effort on the house floor to reduce the overall budget by 2 percent just so that money out of general revenue could go to infrastructure to solve the problems like Montgomery County is facing. Someone that goes to the mic and goes to the budget debate, that puts the fight up before the other representatives. That really means business to get us back on track and prioritizing infrastructure out of the budget rather than relying on the rainy day fund. Ultimately I missed it by 15 votes—we took it out of the rainy day fund with Prop 6, and I voted against the budget for that reason.



How can the state fund the school system and keep that funding level high enough to educate children?



Public education continues to be one of the most expensive things that we cover in state government. State funding is generated by the sales tax and property taxes and local property taxpayers like Montgomery County. Assistance is suffocated because of the appraisal process. We funded public education after cutting public ed to balance the budget during the great recession, and we restored most of that funding. We made significant strides in reducing the reliance on the test, making sure that vocation in technology and career training is focused upon. We are making huge strides there.



Texas ranks near the bottom in graduation rates. What would you do to reverse that trend?



One of the biggest problems we have in public education with dropouts is relevance. We made some big strides this session again with career and technology training being a focus, and reducing reliance on the standardized test, and making sure that we have rigor. But at the same time we are promoting relevance to our students to make sure that they understand a clear path to victory. Most students that don't understand where they are headed are less inclined to understand the relevance of staying in place. Developing a workforce at every level that is ready and prepared for the jobs that Texas leads the nation in creating is something that we really focused on in the last session.



Michael Galloway, Owner, Galloway Energy



What are some of the top transportation projects in the district, and what is the best way to get the funding for them at the state level?



The bottom line is being a good steward of taxpayer dollars. I think there has been a real failure in Austin to do that. If you look back at 2003, the Legislature patted themselves on the back that they cut the budget by $10 billion. When the truth is that they didn't. They were $10 billion short, and they were required by the constitution to balance the budget. The same thing happened in 2011 when they were $16 billion short. So there are places to cut within the state budget. I am going to give just a simple example. When I was in the senate, I was the lowest spender in the Texas senate administratively. I had one of the medium sized districts, and I spent half of what the average senator spent.



How can the state fund the school system and keep that funding level high enough to educate children?



Four years we have been in lawsuits dealing with school funding in the state of Texas. The constitution requires that the state of Texas provide an efficient means of educating the children of the state. We obviously have not been doing that. I am absolutely opposed to property tax as a form of funding public education. In fact, in '97 I worked on a plan that would eliminate property taxes as a means for school funding, and where it funded everything directly from the state. It goes back to what I said earlier—it's about being a good steward of the taxpayer dollar.



Texas ranks near the bottom in graduation rates. What would you do to reverse that trend?



The biggest issue on dropouts really is parental involvement, more than anything else. I agree with Brandon and Gordy about the industrial trades and things that give certificates. That's all well and good. But we have to encourage parents to be involved in their children's education. I really think I would like to actually look at the issue of vouchers and putting that power into the hands of parents to get them involved in their students' education. I think we need to do away with the testing program that we have. The teachers end up teaching to the test, rather than actually teaching to educate on the subject.



Steve Toth, Owner, Acclaim Pools and My Pool Xperts





What are some of the top transportation projects in the district, and what is the best way to get the funding for them at the state level?



We started this session in January 2013 with an $8.8 billion surplus. Two key issues that we have to solve this problem, and even with the increase of the budget by another 15 percent, this legislature never touched mobility and water. It's criminal. This is about priorities. This is about putting the needs of the people of Texas first, in telling the hogs from the special interest groups they are going to have to take a step back in the trough. We have got to get mobility and water paid for and taken care of. We have got the money to do it without raising taxes.



How can the state fund the school system and keep that funding level high enough to educate children?



Twenty years ago, one generation ago, for every five teachers there was only one non-teaching position in the state of Texas in our public schools. Today it's a 1-to-1 ratio. There is $5 billion—it's in the cost of education index, this is Robin Hood—$5 billion that the state of Texas slates every year for the classroom, is going towards Jumbotrons; it's going towards anything and everything but the classroom. This is an issue of the state of Texas holding local ISDs accountable for making sure that the cost of education index money goes into the classroom and is spent on your children, and not spent on other things.



Texas ranks near the bottom in graduation rates. What would you do to reverse that trend?



I serve on two committees for the state of Texas Criminal Jurisprudence and Corrections, and part of the responsibility for corrections is we are supposed to stop at different corrections institutes. And as you go 290 out to Austin, in Giddings there is the Giddings Institute for Youth. One of the saddest things is the realization that when these kids drop out, many of them enter a life of crime. At the Giddings institute they are taught how to frame houses, they are taught how to do arc welding, Acetylene torch welding. They are taught how to do body work on a car. They are taught how to fix cars; they are taught how to do finishing carpentry. The question is, why is it we are not doing this in the schools anymore? We don't allow that anymore because unfounded mandates from the state of Texas have crowded that out, and I am going to do anything I can to stop that.



MOST RECENT

The budget amendment came after an hour-long debate over how far the district could dip into its reserve funding to cover the raise. (Community Impact staff)
HISD approves $2,500 pay raise for teachers with another bump possibly coming in August

The budget amendment came after an hour-long debate over how far the district could dip into its reserve funding to cover the raise.

Klein fire truck
Upcoming emergency dispatch center in Spring will serve north Harris County

A new emergency dispatch center that will serve nearly half a million people in North Harris County is set to be housed in the Emergency Services District No. 16/Klein Fire Department facility at 16810 Squyres Road, Spring.

Bailey Rae, performing at Dosey Doe Big Barn on June 19, was nominated for several awards in 2020. (Courtesy Bailey Rae)
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Rock the Row: Where to see live music in The Woodlands area this June and July

Here are some recent concert announcements for venues around The Woodlands area, including the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

The Atrium Center will be able to be reserved for meetings, conferences, weddings, anniversary celebrations, birthday parties and community events. (Courtesy Rockin’ AD Photography)
East Montgomery County Improvement District offices to be repurposed into event venue The Atrium Center

The venue will be able to be reserved for meetings, conferences, weddings, anniversary celebrations, birthday parties and community events.

The Firework Extravaganza will begin at 9:30 p.m. July 4 (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)
Celebrate dad, see Fourth of July fireworks: 12 things to do in The Woodlands area this June and July

Events in The Woodlands area in June and July include celebrations for Father's Day and the Fourth of July.

The Woodlands Township board of directors will meet June 17. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Woodlands to resume incorporation planning sessions June 17

After a break of more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Woodlands Township will resume its incorporation planning meetings June 17.

ShareTea opened in Metropark Square in early June. (Courtesy ShareTea)
ShareTea now open in Metropark Square

ShareTea opened June 7 at the Metropark Square in The Woodlands.

The Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce hosted the State of the State luncheon June 10. (Kim Giannetti/Community Impact Newspaper)
State Reps. Harless, Swanson reflect on 87th legislative session bills, events from pandemic to Winter Storm Uri

State Reps. Sam Harless and Valoree Swanson talked ERCOT and criminal justice reform, gun safety, senior living and redistricting at the June 10 Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce's State of the State luncheon.

Avanti Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar opened a second location. (Courtesy Avanti Italian Kitchen)
Avanti Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar opens second location in The Woodlands

The new location comes after the original location receive positive reception from the Creekside community.

Java Owl reopened Monday morning, May 17. (Courtesy of Java Owl Coffee House)
IMPACTS ROUNDUP: Java Owl reopens on E. NASA Parkway and more

Here is a roundup of recent business news in the Bay Area.

The Shenandoah City Council approved a resolution regarding an updated thoroughfare plan June 9. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
Shenandoah City Council weighs in on Montgomery County's 2021 thoroughfare plan

Among the projects opposed by the council is an I-45 overpass from Vision Park Drive.