Ben Philpott

Senior Reporter, State Politics and Policy

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT. 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 has been named Radio Journalist of the Year by the Houston Press club three times.

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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Austin
4:20 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

Austin Gas Prices Near Record High

High gas prices could come down a bit in the coming days.
Photo Courtesy flickr.com/photos/klubvibez

AAA Texas says a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Austin is at $3.88 this week. That's 5-cents more than last week and just 10-cents away from an all time high in Austin.

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Arts and Culture
1:29 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

IMAX Adding Additional Screen in Austin

A second IMAX screen is coming to Austin
Graphic courtesy IMAX

Austin will soon have a second IMAX movie screen. The AMC Barton Creek Square 14 theater will add one of the ultra-large screens later this year. The change comes about a year after IMAX and AMC announced a new partnership to add between 15 and 25 new IMAX style screens around the country.

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Politics
12:23 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

House Deadline Kills Thousands Of Bills

Voting continues in the House, so does the slow debate on some bills.
Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune

Just in case you didn't know, last night was the final night for the Texas House to pass House bills on second reading. That killed (mostly) any bills that didn't get up by then. And there were thousands of bills killed when the clock struck midnight.

Now the House is on to debating House bills on third reading. Passing there sends a bill on to the Senate. The House also a few days left to consider Senate bills. There are upcoming deadlines on those bills too but watching the debate today, you'd never know anyone was in a rush.

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Austin
11:57 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Texas Monthly Moves Again

It's the magazine's 2nd move in less than 2 years.
Photo by KUT News

Texas Monthly is moving back downtown. The national magazine of Texas will take up more than 21,000 square feet at 816 Congress, just a couple blocks south of the Texas Capitol. The move ends the magazine's time in the University Park office tower.

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Austin
10:46 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Austin's Reaction Online To Storm Drenching

Thunder rumbled and heavy rains fell in Austin today.
Photo by Mose Buchele for KUT News
Politics
1:28 pm
Fri May 6, 2011

Texas House Names Budget Conferees

The Texas House selected budget conferees and gave instructions for the coming debate with the Senate.
Photo Courtesy The Texas Tribune

The Senate's version of the state budget made it to the House floor today - and was kicked to a House/Senate conference committee. The Senate spends about $12 billion more than the House - with much of the difference focused on Health and Human Services and public education.

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Politics
4:18 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Digging Through Comptroller Data Exposure Documents

Lots of info from the Comptroller's office, but nothing on the day the breach was discovered.
Picture courtesy The Texas Tribune

KUT got its batch of emails and other documents relating to last month's announcement that more than 3.5 million Texans had their personal data, including Social Security Number and birth date, exposed by the Comptroller's office.

So far the information is divided into two major categories:

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Politics
1:31 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

New Letter to Texas Senators: No Really, Hands Off Rainy Day Fund

Senate Budget Writer Steve Ogden is still trying to get the votes he needs to bring the budget up in the Senate
Picture courtesy The Texas Tribune

Conservative groups that aren't happy with the Senate's budget proposal delivered letters today reminding lawmakers that they don't want ANY of the Rainy Day fund used.

The letter from Texans for a Conservative Budget is actually a reminder of a 2009 letter that told lawmakers to not use any of the Rainy Day fund - unless: "the alternative is higher taxes or essential-program cuts."

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Politics
4:11 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Texas Comptroller Combs: "I Am Responsible" For Security Breach

Comptroller Susan Combs giving the biennial revenue estimate in Austin January 10, 2011.
Photo by Bob Daemmrich

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has announced another move to help the 3.5 million Texans who had their personal data exposed by her state office. Earlier initiatives to help Texans in the Teacher's Retirement System, Employees Retirement System and Texas Workforce Commission provided discounted subscriptions to credit monitoring services.

Now, Combs says she'll use campaign funds to pay for one year of credit monitoring and Internet surveillance - along with identity restoration services. Combs talked with Ben Philpott, who covers state politics and policy for KUT and the Texas Tribune, about the data breach. You can hear the full interview below.

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News Brief
9:12 am
Thu April 28, 2011

Top Morning Stories April 28, 2011

The Texas House approved a redistricting map early Thursday morning.
Photo by KUT News

Texas Budget Having Trouble in the Senate

Senate budget writer Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) hasn't been able to round up the votes he needs to get the Senate's version of the state budget to the floor for debate. Remember the Senate has what's called the two-thirds rule, which means each bill must get the support of two thirds of the chamber before lawmakers even get a chance to try to pass it.

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Politics
9:35 am
Mon April 25, 2011

Lobbying for the Texas Budget

The Texas Public Policy Foundation has thrown its support behind the House budget
Graphic courtesy the Texas Public Policy Foundation

The Texas Senate is expected to vote on its version of the state budget this week. Their plan spends about $12 billion more than the House, including increased spending in education and healthcare. A raucous House/Senate conference committee is expected, as the two sides try to work out the differences.

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Austin
10:06 am
Sun April 24, 2011

Sunday Morning Round-Up: April 24, 2011

Did the "Bug Bunny" visit your house?
Photo by KUT News

Good morning Austin! We here at the KUT Sunday Morning Round-Up hope you have a nice day planed. Just make sure you don't do any charcoal grilling (propane is o.k.) and don't "smoke-em-if-you-got-em" if you're in a park today. The city's burn ban will remain in place until conditions change.

That means rain and less wind basically. We may get that rain component tomorrow. The forecast is calling for a 50% chance of rain Monday.

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Politics
5:17 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Comptroller Offeres Additional Credit Protection

Comptroller Combs offeres 2nd credit monitoring discount.
Photo Courtesy the Texas Tribune for KUT News

Comptroller Susan Combs is continuing to clean up the privacy mess her office made when it exposed the Social Security numbers and birth dates of about 3.5 million Texans. In a press release, Combs said her office had negotiated a 2nd discounted credit monitoring subscription for those affected by the security breach.

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Politics
12:18 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

State Employees Warned of Phone Scam Linked to Data Snafu

Attorney General Greg Abbott announces an organized scam against people whose information was released online.
Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune for KUT News

Texans affected by an internet security breach by the Comptroller's office are now being targeted by a new telephone scam. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released a statement today saying a state employee reported to the AG that they received a phone call from someone claiming to be with the Employees Retirement System of Texas.

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Politics
2:04 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Dueling Sides of the Texas Budget Debate Make Noise at the Capitol

American's for Prosperity-Texas leader Peggy Venable warns lawmakers to cut state spending.
Photo by KUT News

Political battles are often fought on the right or left of a topic.  But today ideology was divided by the North and South sides of the Capitol.  

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Politics
3:28 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

School Finance Pops Up in House Committee

Lawmakers will have to change the school funding system to mach the billions cut in public ed.
Photo by KUT News

So what does cutting the state's public education budget by about $7.8 billion dollars look like?

Based on a bill by Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), it looks pretty ugly. But he says with the amount of money lawmakers in the House just voted to give to schools during the state budget debate, there's not a pretty way to get money to schools.

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Politics
12:35 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Football Helmet Bill Working Its Way Through the Texas House

The helmet bill hopes to keep unsafe equipment off the field.
Photo by KUT News

A bill in the Texas House that hopes to reduce head injuries in middle and high school athletics received initial approval today. The bill by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-San Benito) would prohibit the use of all football helmets in use 16 years.  It would also require any 10-year-old helmets to be reconditioned at least once every 10 years.

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Politics
1:41 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Texas Lawmaker Tackle Feral Hog Legislation

A bill up in the House could allow Texans to hunt feral hogs from helecopters.
Photo by flickr.com/pierceplace532/

O.K...Maybe "tackle" was NOT the right word to use on this bill, because the bill passed without ANY debate. Rep. Sid Miller's bill passed 137 - 9.

The proposal wasn't exactly a new idea. The bill passed the House in 2009, but never got a hearing in the Senate, according to Rep. Miller (R-Stephenville).

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Politics
5:31 pm
Sun April 3, 2011

Texas House Budget Debate - Part II

Debate today is going much faster than Friday/Saturday.
Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News

If you're watching the Texas House budget debate today - don't blink.  

While it took about 16 hours to get through the first three articles of the budget Friday, lawmakers are zooming through their debate on the remaining parts of the budget.  

Many amendments are simply being withdrawn - or moved to Article XI in the budget.  That's the place were projects without funding go to hang out just in case money can be found to fund them.  

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Politics
12:39 am
Sat April 2, 2011

Texas House Closes Budget Debate for the Night

Lawmakers will break until Sunday.
Photo by KUT News

The Texas House has ended debate for the night on the state budget.  Lawmakers were able to get through the first 3 articles of the $164 billion bill - that includes general government (I), health and human services (II) and education (III).

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