By Andy East
Last weekend, the third annual Texas Tribune Festival brought more than 150 speakers of all political persuasions to the University of Texas at Austin campus to discuss and engage the public on issues ranging from health care and energy to public education, immigration and other key issues that may shape the Lone Star State for years to come. ATX Man was on the scene to bring you the highlights of the weekend featuring keynote speakers U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Senator Wendy Davis.
Fresh off a 21-hour diatribe against the Affordable Care Act (christened Obamacare), U.S. Senator Ted Cruz kicked off the 2013 installment of the Texas Tribune Festival via video conference from Washington, D.C., unable to appear in person due to the ongoing kerfuffle on Capitol Hill that later resulted in a government shutdown.
Cruz touched on several issues, including U.S. relations with Iran, immigration and political theater within the Republican party, but the focus of his conversation with Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-In-Chief Evan Smith was health care.
“After Obamacare is repealed, I think we need to do serious reforms to improve health care,” Cruz said. “I think those reforms should expand competition. It should empower individuals and patients.”
Among Cruz’s points were allowing “people to purchase health insurance across state lines” and expanding health savings accounts so that “people can save in a tax-advantaged way to meet routine, preventive care and things short of catastrophic illness or injury.”
No stranger to long oratories herself, Texas Senator Wendy Davis brought the Tribune Festival to a rousing close, focusing on public education in Texas.
In 2012, nearly $5.4 billion was cut from public schools in Texas, and although a significant portion of that money was later restored, Davis voiced her dissatisfaction with public-school funding, citing U.S. District Judge John Dietz’s ruling in a lawsuit against the Texas Legislature by 600 school districts regarding the cuts.
“What [Judge Dietz] said in his original opinion, finding in favor of the plaintiffs on all counts that they asked him to consider, was that the underfunding of public schools in Texas was a $10 to $11 billion number [annually],” Davis said. “We got back $3.4 billion over the biennium in this last legislative session.”
Although mum on whether she would enter the Texas gubernatorial race, Davis later announced on Thursday that she would be running for Texas governor in 2014.