Ben Philpott

State Reporter

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
5:00 am
Thu February 7, 2013

Creating Marshals to Watch Over Schools

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Story as heard on KUT 90.5

Texas lawmakers have rallied around the idea of making elementary schools safer. There have been calls to allow anyone with a concealed handgun license to bring guns onto public school campuses. Or for teachers to get concealed carry licenses.

The latest idea comes from a bill filed by State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas). He wanted to know what schools and professional school security organizations wanted.

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UT Longhorn Football
5:00 am
Tue February 5, 2013

When Will UT Football Rally?

The Texas Longhorns moved up in the latest college football polls after a win against Texas Tech over the weekend.
KUT News

The University of Texas Football team had a string of bad news over the weekend. The big news was the revelation that offensive coordinator Major Applewhite had a sexual relationship with a student a few years back.

Then one of the team’s players was arrested for public intoxication. Minor in comparison: a high school football star Texas had been recruiting announced he would not be coming to the 40 acres. But these are just the latest disappointing moments for a proud program on hard times.

Even if you’re not a Longhorn fan, you’re bound to have heard of the team’s recent problems on and off the field. Because if you live in Austin, you’ve got at least one friend that cares passionately about the topic and hasn’t been shy about expressing their feelings on the subject.

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Politics
4:33 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

On the Air, Perry Looks to Lure California Businesses to Texas

Gov. Perry is calling for California businesses to take advantage of the low tax rates of Texas.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Governor Rick Perry has made a habit of saying businesses from other states would be better off in Texas. Now, he’s bringing that message to the airwaves in California.

Governor Perry is courting Golden State companies with a 30 second radio spot that will run for the next week on stations in 5 cities – including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. His message, as always, focuses on the low-tax, low-regulation climate in Texas.

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Politics
5:45 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Agenda Texas: Medicaid Expansion in Texas

Texas Lawmakers Have Ideas to Keep the Healthcare Law Out of Texas
Texas Tribune

Agenda Texas as heard on KUT 90.5

  To Take...or Not To Take

Will Texas expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act? That’s the $100 billion question at the Capitol this session. The state’s Republican leadership says "no". But supporters for the Affordable Care Act continue to gain ammunition. A recent report by former Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton indicated that if the state spent $15 billion on a Medicaid expansion over 10 years, it would get $100 billion back. And about 231,000 new jobs by 2016. 

“To look at something that helps to create jobs in Texas. That helps improve the health of Texans, their ability to work. And then to have a more dependable way to access healthcare, are all plusses in our minds on this," said Maureen Milligan, president and CEO of the Teaching Hospitals of Texas.

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Politics
5:37 am
Wed January 30, 2013

Perry Spends Billions in State of the State

Gov. Rick Perry
Ben Philpott, KUT News

Story as heard on KUT 90.5

Texas Governor Rick Perry delivered his seventh state of the state address to the Texas Legislature Tuesday.

Looking back at Governor Perry’s past speeches, the state of our state has varied from strong, to vibrant, to good, back to strong…and now, "...It is my pleasure to report that the state of our state is stronger than ever," Perry said.

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Politics
1:12 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Keeping a Long-Distance Eye on the Legislature

Lege watchers outside of Austin rely on technology to keep in the Capitol loop.
KUT News

Story as heard on KUT 90.5

With the Texas Legislature in session, thousands of people will visit the capitol to talk with lawmakers and their staffs about bills being debated. But Texas is a giant state, and many Texans can’t make the trip to Austin.

Francis Curry is a member of the United Methodist Women. It’s a group that advocates for several legislative topics, including issues of faith and caring for low-income Texans.

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Politics
3:15 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Lobbying Your Legislator? Here's How to Make Your Voice Heard

Are all voices equal under the dome? Citizen lobbyists may get further by personalizing their pitches.
KUT News

With the Texas Legislature back in Austin, lobbyists from across the state have descended to advocate for and against the thousands of bills that will be filed.

So what if you’re just a regular Texans with an opinion? Do lawmakers want to hear from you? Do they care what you think?

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Politics
1:25 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Agenda Texas: What Does 'Tax Relief' Mean?

Gov. Perry speaking to Texas House in January
Ben Philpott

Agenda Texas 01/25/13

Deciphering Tax Relief

Texas lawmakers are slowly cranking up the 83rd legislative session. A major focus so far has been how to spend billions of dollars in extra revenue. Gov. Rick Perry knows what should be done with that money.

“It’s time for us to take a hard look at providing tax relief,” he says.

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Politics
5:05 am
Thu January 24, 2013

Education Budget-Building Begins

Budget hearings continue today at the Capitol.
Lizzie Chen, KUT News

When the House and Senate filed base budgets last week, advocates for programs that were cut in 2011, including public education, were upset the budgets didn’t restore funding. Lawmakers countered that the budget was expected to grow.

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Politics
4:28 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

Luck of the Draw: Watson, Campbell Among Senators Required to Run Again in 2014

State Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) pulls a number that determines whether she serves a two or four-year term.
Ben Philpott, KUT News

Legislative redistricting meant all Texas senators had to run for office in 2012. But since the Senate has staggered four-year terms, it had to pick about half of its members to run again two years from now.

Five senators now represent some part of Travis and Williamson counties. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, each got four-year terms. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, got two-year terms.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

Agenda Texas: Water Tops Legislative Agendas

As Texas faces one of the driest years on record, a team of people with a stake in water from the Highland Lakes have agreed on a plan for Lower Colorado River Authority's water management over the next 10 years.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Wetting your Whistle

Texas lawmakers have begun their 83rd session with money to spend – and a LONG list of projects to fund.  One item keeps percolating to the top of the agenda as lawmakers are asked about funding priorities priorities.

Water.

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Politics
5:24 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Business Group Calls for Tax Cuts

The Legislature has $101 billion to work with this cycle.
Lizzie Chen for KUT News

When Texas lawmakers found out they’d have more than $101 billion to spend this legislative session, some immediately began calling for tax cuts. Now one prominent business lobbying group has laid out its idea for what those cuts could look like.

For Bill Hammond, it’s a simple formula: Keep taxes low and the Texas economic engine keeps on chugging. Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, says making permanent the business tax exemption for companies that bring in less than $1 million in gross receipts would really fuel the economy, as would allowing those making more than that to exempt their first $1 million.

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Politics
5:00 am
Wed January 16, 2013

Staying Healthy Under the Dome

Capitol Nurse Practitioner Tim Flynn. Pols and capitol staffers' health defenses can quickly become worn down over the course of a session.
Callie Richmond for KUT News

Story as aired on KUT 90.5 FM

Every other year, Texas lawmakers race to get the state's business done in just  140 days. Cramming all that wheeling and dealing into such a short amount of time can put them on the fast track to getting run down.

Working a legislative session, especially during the last couple of months, is a 7-day-a-week, 20-hour-a-day grind. The schedule really took a toll on Kara Johnson in the 2011 legislative session. Johnson is a lobbyist. But after a couple of months visiting lawmakers, writing proposals, following meetings and dozens of bills...the stress got to her.

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Politics
7:15 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

House 'Zeroes Out' Standardized Tests in Draft Budget

Items that are zeroed out sometimes get some or all funding back.
KUT News

When the Texas House filed its base budget Tuesday, plenty of attention was paid to how much money the bill spent on things like health care programs and public schools. But there where a handful of programs that - so far - are getting no money at all.

It’s called being zeroed out. The line item is still there in the budget, but just followed with zeros. It’s a political move. Items that are zeroed out typically get some or even all funding back. But only after changes have been made to how the program functions.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Agenda Texas: Funding Pre-School Education

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/

Agenda Texas: your inside guide on everything going on under the dome - and how it hits home.

The 83rd Texas State Legislature started with good news from the state Comptroller: Susan Combs told lawmakers they’d have more than $101 billion dollars to spend in the next session. Education advocates are already asking for more dough to head to Texas classrooms, even pre-schools.

Kara Johnson is with Texans Care for Children, a child advocacy group. She quotes a 2006 study from the Bush school at Texas A&M that shows it’s smart budgeting to support early childhood education.

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