“Apply Six-Sigma to Government” says Texas State Rep Raul Torres

An interesting interview with Texas State Rep Raul Torres appeared over at Texas GOP Vote.
By Adryana Boyne
The following interview with Texas State Representative Raul Torres is one of a series of interviews conducted by VOCES Action and TexasGOPVote with members of the Hispanic Republican Conference in the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature. Rep. Torres represents District 33 which encompasses the heart of Corpus Christi and Nueces County, from Greenwood Drive to the west to Laguna Shores Drive to the east. The topics we discussed included Hispanics and Republicans, the district he represents, the Appropriations Committee of the Texas House, his ideas with regard to efficiency and the application of the six-sigma principles to improve efficiency in government, HB3149, and being a bilingual Hispanic. I greatly enjoyed learning about the six sigma and how HB3149 identifies the issue or works toward addressing and fixing the issue of wasteful government. I also enjoyed learning about how Mr. Torres “re-learned” Spanish by reading his Bible in Spanish.
The membership of the Hispanic Republican Conference has been growing. Originally it was formed by the House’s five Hispanic Republicans but has since been joined by other State Representatives whose districts have at least 30% Hispanic constituents. The Hispanic Republican Conference will be addressing some issues that have been controversial in parts of the state with large Hispanic populations.
Hispanics make up 36% of the Texas population and this percentage is growing. Hispanics share Republican conservative values of fiscal responsibility, faith, hard work, family values, and are pro-life. VOCES Action has been educating and empowering Americans with Hispanic backgrounds, and who hold conservative values, to make more responsible and informed voting decisions.
Adryana Boyne: As a Hispanic and through my work with VOCES Action and meeting with thousands of Hispanics, I know that Hispanics have conservative values, and I know that you identify also with that, and I would like to know if you can share the ways that you have observed this among Americans of Hispanic background?
Raul Torres: Well let’s just go over a couple, two or three of them, that I’ve seen that I think we can all agree are conservative values. One would be family, pro-family. These values are embedded in the Hispanic culture. One of things I remember as a young man growing up with my mother, single parent, was that she always that family was very important, and I see that in our community. Whether they are financially well off or economically challenged, we find families coming together because that’s the unit that keeps them feeling good about themselves. In schools, we see families working together in the work places. I know, I myself, have a policy, family comes first, regardless of anything else because if the family is not right, the employee will not do well at work. If the family is not right, the children will not do well in school. So it does affect our culture. Back to the family would be the pro-life issue. Whether you believe or accept the fact that abortion is legal, it is legal, but Hispanics tend to believe that family is very important, and for many of them, abortion is a very challenging issue for them, and so many of them believe that the sanctity of life is of key importance, and so they believe in that, and they go to church and they pray and the bind together with other people of like kind. So we have the family values, which are embedded in our culture everyday, life and work, and also the pro-life value. Another type of conservative values that we find in Hispanics is that they believe in the work ethic. That means they’re not afraid to go to work, they’re not afraid to put in a long day’s worth of work. My mom had three jobs at one time. I didn’t understand when I was a little boy, but I understand it since I’ve grown up. The importance for her to provide for her family, and that culture does that, and I still did so well, and people that come across as immigrants, across from whatever country they’re from, whether it be Pakistan, India, Central America, or from Mexico or Canada, they work very hard to do well when they’re here. So they have that work ethic that I think is very strong in especially Hispanic values. So those two items are good examples of what I see everyday in the community where I live.
Adryana Boyne: Corpus Christi and Nueces County are turning Republican, as we have seen in the last election, tell us more about that trend, and what you are seeing in your district.
Raul Torres: Well the reason I believe that trend is happening is because people are becoming number one, more educated, and because of that, the old approach, the palenque, no longer applies to a lot of people, they’re independent thinkers, they’re either independent voters, or they’re changing their value processing and how they look at life. They’re beginning to see that they don’t need to depend on government for a lot of their own decision making, or someone to tell them how to do things. They’re going to college, they’re raising a family, and they believe in the power of their own personal abilities to make things happen in their communities. So I think that’s what has transformed Nueces County. That plus people like myself who have gone into the community and have said you don’t have to let someone else do your thinking, you can think for yourself, and all we ask is for you to think for yourself. Look at what we’re saying, and then you decide what’s best for you and your family, and people are responding to that, and we’re seeing that trend in Nueces County.
Adryana Boyne: As a freshman Representative on the Appropriations Committee and looking at the Appropriations Process, do you think the leadership is serious about government reform and efficiency?
Raul Torres: In one respect, yes. They’ve talked about all the things they’ve done in the past 15-20 years, for example, the Sunset Bill, which every biennium the government looks at certain agencies, and they do an examination of them and decide whether or not that agency should continue to exist in our government. I think that’s a great way to begin that process. It has been working very well for us, but the other way doesn’t go far enough. I believe there is still much more work to be done, and I personally believe government is too big, which means it’s top heavy, and I believe we can streamline it, we can make it more efficient, and make it work better for the people of Texas. So, I want to say yes, they do work very hard at it from the Appropriations side, but on the other side no, because I think there is still more room to be able to work with that.
Adryana Boyne: What are your ideas with regard to efficiency and the application of the six-sigma principles to improve efficiency in government? Tell us about HB3149.
Raul Torres: HB3149 is pretty much the pinnacle of our legislative agenda. The voters send us here to Austin for three things, they asked us to do three things, and we won on this platform. They asked us to not raise taxes and balance the budget, they asked us to eliminate wasteful spending in government, rethink how government works, and they asked us to do what we can to create jobs in Texas. That was the mandate. We have been able to identify legislation that will address those three issues. HB3149 identifies the issue or works toward the issue of wasteful government spending. Every organization has waste, and I define waste as being a cost in the process of delivering that service or product that does not need to be there. So, HB3149, when I learned about that methodology, I was very excited, and as me and my legislative staff looked into it, we got really excited and thought maybe this was the answer that government needed to address. So we did more examination. We talked to the originator, or the founder of the Lean Six-Sigma, who put it all together, and so as we talked to him, we talked to the city manager from Irving, Tommy Gonzales, we had the pleasure to meet with the workforce commissioner of the state of Utah who came down as well to speak on the behalf of that type of legislation. In every case, federal, state, and local government, in every case, each one of them, has found significant savings to their programs. I’ll give you a very small example from the city manager of Irving. He spent $100,000 in implementing the process, but they have now saved in two years , I believe, $20 million dollars in expenditures. So their budget dropped from $188 million in a city budget down to a $168 million dollars in the budget with less staff and the services it provides had more efficient and much more acceptable to the citizens of Irving, according to the testimony we heard. That is phenomenal. The Department in Defense is saving tens of billions of dollars because Secretary Gates has said that the process is what drives those savings. We don’t see it in the budget because he turns around and spends that money on additional equipment and needs for the military, which is good because we don’t have to continue to raise taxes. Then of course, the commissioner from the state of Utah talked about the savings that they are experiencing in Utah as she expands the program throughout a range of departments. So without question, the evidence is there, this isn’t theory, this is proven science in the workplace, in government. If you want to look further into the corporate world, we find companies like Apple Computers, we find Xerox, Caterpillar, Ford Motor Company, Motorola, major industries have used and implemented this methodology into workplace practices, and they’re creating better products at a lower cost, which saves the consumer money at the end of the day. That’s why I believe government should seriously think about looking into this, and that’s why we did HB3149.
Adryana Boyne: You and I have spoken before. I believe as an immigrant myself that everyone should speak English. One of the reasons I got excited when you were elected was the fact that you are one of few Republicans that is able to speak in Spanish. You are aware that in Texas, there is a large amount of people who speak Spanish. I know that you have been able to use Spanish. Do you think Spanish is a good tool here in Texas for outreach and to educate some of the Texans who still speak Spanish and feel that they can be informed better in that language?
Raul Torres: Yes, I think it’s a big benefit. Anytime, you’re multi-language capable, you add an extra dimension that most people don’t have. When I was a little boy, through third grade, I didn’t speak English, but then when I moved across the boundaries and went to a new elementary school, they didn’t speak Spanish there like they did in the prior one. So I had to immerse myself in English very quickly and learn the language. Then I lost the Spanish. Then when I was around 25, I decided to worship with a Spanish-speaking Congregation, even though I didn’t understand, and once I became a Christian, my brother said we could really use your help. I said I don’t speak Spanish, well he said you need to learn it. So what I did was taught it to myself. I learned Spanish with the Bible like Abraham Lincoln, but in my case, the Bible was in Spanish, and I taught myself how to read it, how to write it, and how to speak it. I’m not proficient according to some other people’s standards, but I get by, and I get my message across. I think that skill has helped me in my professional career, it has helped me in my public career, and it’s helped me be able to better understand not only how I think and why I think the way I think, but better understand why other people think. It does come with the culture, different things come with the language, so it’s helped me a lot, and I would encourage everybody, if you have some time you can set aside, learn the language, it can only help you. It can never hurt you.

Is gambling really a good bet for Texas?

Texas State Representative Raul Torres penned this piece for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.  The original column can be found here.

State Rep. Raul Torres
Sunday, March 27, 2011

CORPUS CHRISTI — As Texas looks for solutions to this legislative session’s $27 billion shortfall, I am often told: “We need gambling in Texas.” Representing you means I must consider all reasonable means of revenue to pay for over $77 billion the state is projected to spend in the 2012-2013 budget.

I believe that any new revenue source we select must be part of a strong economic plan to ensure job and business growth, must be predictable and sustainable over the long term, and must not be a financial burden to taxpayers. With these guidelines in mind, I have completed a brief initial study to determine if gambling is a good bet for Texas.

Gambling’s benefits

In 1976 only a few states allowed gambling; today, 47 states and the District of Columbia permit some form of gambling. Gambling has become more than simply an entertainment past-time. It has emerged as an economic mainstay in many communities and plays an increasingly prominent role in state and local economies.

According to the American Gaming Association, legalized gambling has had certain positive economic effects in some of the communities in which it has been introduced. Among these are overall community improvements, an increase in the general betterment of life for the citizenry, growth in the hotel industry, more money for local government, reduced unemployment and increased construction. However, there is another side to this story.

Unfilled promise

In 1991, Texans were assured that the lottery would solve education funding problems. Yet, according to a report issued by the Texas Education Agency in 2006, revenue from the lottery paid for only 2.9 percent of the state’s share of education funding.

Likewise, pari-mutuel horse and dog racing were introduced with the same promise of unlimited jobs due to increased tourism and hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to the state. To date, live racing has produced zero dollars in state revenue because race tracks have never met the threshold to pay state taxes.

Texas’ results are consistent with other states where gambling in any form whether casino, lottery or racing, produced lower-than-expected revenue growth.


Supporters of gambling argue that Texas loses $1 billion to $2 billion annually because Texans go to other states to gamble. However, careful analysis of actual revenue derived from gambling shows us a different picture. According to the Christian Life Commission typically 93 percent of each dollar wagered in a machine is placed in the prize pool. That means only 7 percent, or 7 cents of every dollar, becomes “net terminal income” and is therefore eligible to be taxed. At a 28 percent tax rate, the state earns .0196 dollars for every dollar wagered. Therefore, approximately $52 billion must spent by Texans on slot machine play to meet gambling proponents’ projections. Friends, this is never going to happen!

Social costs

There are other issues that Texans should consider before rushing out to embrace any new form of gambling in Texas. According to a report issued by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, titled, “Small Odds of Texas Winning at VLT’s” (Video Lottery Terminals), states have found themselves faced with unexpected results when gambling was permitted in that state. Here are some examples:

* 24 out of 57 counties with gambling in the U.S. experienced job losses.

* 50 percent of Atlantic City retail businesses and restaurants closed within 10 years of allowing gambling.

* Additional costs incurred by communities include an increase in crime, bankruptcy, suicide, illness, unemployment and other state supported social service costs just to mention a few.


When confronted with a financial crisis or a major financial decision, experts tell us that a person should seek the advice of an independent financial adviser, wait for the crisis to subside, and should consider the facts of the issue more than the emotional strain of the event.

Unfortunately, this is often not the case. In today’s political environment of sound bytes and emphasis on “spin” rather than the facts, too many of these decisions are turned into favoring politics over good public policy.

Based on my review of the information researched, it seems to me that the expansion of gambling in Texas may not be the silver bullet that many think it is. The choice is now up to us to decide what is best for Texas so be sure your voice is heard. What do you say?

State Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, represents District 33