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Fat cat welfare Austin The annual disclosure of U.S. Department of Agriculture crop-subsidy payments has once more revealed that you don’t have to be poor to get welfare. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the San Antonio Express-News both carried stories on the subsidies. The Express-News ran the story on the front page of its Sunday edition September 1, under the headline “Texas `Fat Cats’ Named In Huge Crop Handout.” “At a time the U.S. has faced severe food and grain shortages,” wrote Jim Wood and Jerry Deal, “more than 2,000 South and Central Texas agricultural landowners received a whopping $30.05 million, mostly for not growing crops.” In addition to listing the largest individual recipients and the total amounts received per county in South and Central Texas, the Express-News reporters pointed out that a past and present governor were beneficiaries of the subsidies. “The USDA figures also show former Gov. Allan Shivers and his wife, MariAlice, received $32,972 for land owned in Hidalgo County near Mission. “Also, Indian Creek Ranch near Uvalde, owned by Gov. Dolph Briscoe and his family, received $8,485 in crop subsidies in 1973.” The reporters, however, missed a subsidy paid to a corporation owned by the Shivers family, Shary Farms, Inc., of Mission, in the amount $21,462. They also missed payments to another politically powerful South Texas family, the Bentsens. Bentsen family corporations receiving subsidies were the L.M.B. Corp., Mission, $34,332; Progressive Groves, Inc., Mission, $8,283; and Southern Properties, Inc., Edinburg, $6,173. According to the Bentsens, “The Best Investment on Earth is the Earth Itself.” \(see Obs., The story in the Caller-Times listed all recipients of $5,000 or more in a 20-county area of South Texas, devoting an entire page of small print to the comprehensive listing. Reporter Jim Wood pointed out in an accompanying article that “One of the nation’s largest aluminum producers, Reynolds Metals Co., received $34,951 in subsidies for farm land buffering the Reynolds plant in Portland in San Patricio County.” A comparison between this form of welfare for the rich and welfare for the poor is instructive, to say the least. In Hidalgo County, where the Bentsen and Shivers families land is located, 385 landowners pulled down $6,896,222 from the federal government for not growing certain crops. That’s just the landowners who received $5,000 or more in payments. The total welfare budget in Hidalgo County for the same period amounted to only $11,742,579, which was distributed to 11,378 recipients a figure which does not include the 13,407 children whose food and shelter depended to a large extent on parents’ welfare checks. JOHN MUIR inquiry will not be convened until after the grand jury has completed its work. In the meantime, the repercussions are still being felt. The Joint Committee on Prison Reform took it on the chin from both the House and the Senate after its staff got involved in public questions over how Carrasco, Rudolfo Dominguez and two hostages died. The Senate Administration Committee cut the joint committee’s budget in half. The House Administration Committee not only turned off half the funding; it ordered the joint committee staff to stay out of the Carrasco investigation and pointedly instructed its vice-chairman, Rep. Mickey Leland of Houston, to appear before the committee and justify his recent public statements on prison reform and Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby. Leland had called Hobby “irresponsible” for his role in “delaying, harassing and interfering with” the joint committee after the Senate Administration Committee’s action. As if there weren’t enough raised tempers and hard feelings, one of the surviving hostages threw a few roundhouse punches at the ACLU, the TCLU and the joint committee. In a letter to the three organizations \(cc to Aline House asked, “Where were all of you between July 24 and Aug.3? . . . I did not see, read or even hear that any of you, individually or collectively, made an offer to come in as a substitute, nor that you made any effort to see that 11 citizens have their civil, legal or personal rights respected or protected . . . It seems to me that Carrasco, Dominguez and Cuevas were the ones who forfeited all rights when they embarked on their reign of terror on July 24.” Balboa tragedy Remember Balboa Acres from the Observer’s recent South Texas issue? It’s one of the colonias that lacks potable drinking water. A few weeks ago a Balboa family was getting ready to unload three 55-gallon drums of drinking water brought by trailer from nearby McAllen. Jamie, aged one and a half, was fooling around near the truck and managed to pull a wooden block out from under one of the barrels. It fell on him and doctors think he may be permanently paralyzed. The City of McAllen, which surrounds Balboi, has yet to decide whether it will supply the subdivision with water. Octavio Saenz, mayor of the city of Benavides in Duval County and a supporter of the Parr machine, has been sentenced to serve five years in Leavenworth and fined $10,000. Saenz was convicted of lying to a federal grand jury that was investigating the financial affairs of George Parr, who has since been convicted of income tax evasion. Saenz’ perjured testimony concerned a $5,000 payment to him from city funds a payment the grand jury suspected rewarded Saenz for authorizing a $33,000 check drawn by George Parr. Saenz swore the money was due him as compensation for his mayoral duties. Saenz’ conviction, like George Parr’s tax rap and Archer Parr’s perjury conviction, will be appealed. The 64th Legislature should have itself a real donnybrook of an appropriations process. The word is already out from the Legislative Budget Board, the fiscal arm of the Lege, that the state can continue present levels of program spending, increase state employees’ pay by almost a quarter, cover the possible loss of revenue sharing funds and finance expected emergency expenditures and still wind up with a two-year surplus of $1.5 billion. That should be enough to give Gov. Dolph Briscoe another of his prized “no new taxes” sessions. The surplus will result from what the LBB called “abnormally high” revenues from existing taxes. There have been, and probably will be throughout next session, two reactions. Legislators and other citizens who have attacked the poor quality of Texas’ social services, only to be told that the fault lies in the shortage of money, will want to spend the extra revenue. Others will want to cut taxes to prevent the accumulation of the surplus. Sen. Tom Creighton of Mineral Wells has already announced his intention to push for a reduction of the sales tax rate. Gov . Dolph Briscoe has said he will recommend elimination of the sales tax on utility bills. It was no accident that Briscoe made that promise at the opening of his Dallas County campaign headquarters. Briscoe’s proposed tax cut would reduce state revenue by some $80 million. He used the occasion for endorsing at least some spending, as well most September 20, 1974 9