Monday, November 24th, 2014

Truth-O-Meter takes on DWI costs, budget warnings

This ad presents a fictional story to make a point about DWI's possible costs.

Two "what-if" statements, including one posted on billboards, and a compensation snapshot for some of the state’s thousand-plus school district superintendents fluttered the PolitiFact Texas Truth-O-Meter last week.

In an article touched off by the version of the 2012-13 state budget approved by the Republican-dominant Texas House, we took up a Democratic legislator’s warning about the budget’s possible impact on nursing-home residents.

Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio told colleagues: "43,000 people are going to be kicked out of nursing homes or denied nursing home entrance."

The House-passed budget, yet to be answered by the Senate, would reduce reimbursement rates paid to nursing homes for residents covered by Medicaid, the state- and federally-funded health program for the poor and disabled.

During our review, Castro’s proclaimed ripple effect wasn’t backed up by the group his office cited as his source, but another group shared its calculations based on its assumption that homes where 65 percent of residents depend on Medicaid coverage would close. Still, a group leader told us, the indicated closings are a kind of educated guess.

Good point, demonstrating to us that at this time, all such predictions are speculative. We rated Castro’s statement Barely True.

A Texas Department of Transportation advertisement, spotted on an Austin billboard, stirred our curiosity.

Message: "A DWI costs $17,000."

Not so fast. The 2006 study offered as back-up doesn’t pinpoint that figure, which would take in legal costs, fees, tow-truck charges and more. A University of Texas statistician told us the sample size was too small for anyone to declare statewide cost figures.

We parked our rating at Barely True, given that it’s still possible that a DWI could cost a driver $17,000.

Finally, state Rep. Stefani Carter’s claim in an interview that the Beaumont school district superintendent is the state’s highest-paid local schools chief led us to scrutinize a sampling of supe contracts.

Upshot: Our research found that taking into account benefits, Superintendent Carrol Thomas’ deal — including his salary of about $348,000 — is outpaced by the compensation packages in place for superintendents in at least the Houston, Dallas and Fort Bend districts — making Carter’s statement Half True.