Texas On The Brink Report Has Great Value, But Lacks Steps We Can All Take For A Better Texas—TPA Round-Up
At the end of this post is the weekly posting of the Texas Progressive Alliance Round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.
With the round-up this week is a link to the fifth edition of the Texas On The Brink report.
Texas on the Brink details the social, economic, physical, and educational health of Texas. It is produced by the Legislative Study Group. The LSG is a caucus formed by Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives. Houston State Rep. Garnet Coleman is the Chair of the LSG. Mr. Coleman has been a leading voice in our legislature for a Texas that offers opportunity to all.
From the 2011 Texas on the Brink report—“Since 1836, Texas has stood as an icon of the American dream. Blessed with land, rivers, oil, and other abundant natural resources, early Texas welcomed everyone from cattle ranchers to braceros, from cotton farmers to Chinese railroad workers. These pioneers built a great state, and together we fulfilled a destiny. From humble beginnings, we built a state with the firm belief that every Texan might rise as high and as far as their spirit, hard work, and talent might carry them. With education and determination every Texan might achieve great success – home ownership, reliable healthcare, safe neighborhoods, and financial prosperity.
In Texas today, the American dream is distant. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation. Texas is dead last in the percentage of residents with their high school diploma and near last in SAT scores. Texas has America’s dirtiest air. If we do not change course, for the first time in our history, the Texas generation of tomorrow will be less prosperous than the generation of today.”
The report details many things we know about Texas. We know Texas can be a rough place to live. We know some people don’t do well in Texas not because they don’t work hard, but because they are born into circumstances that can be tough to overcome. None of this is to suggest the report lacks value. We need to know specifics so that we can put the right policies in place for the future. The information in Texas on the Brink is essential for this purpose.
The only thing this important report lacks are suggestions for what average Texans can do to fight back and to make progress. As our legislature moves forth with planned brutal cuts in health and education, people need to know how they can effectively advocate for a better future for Texas. There is very little progressive infrastructure in our state. Many people are not accustomed to politics and protest.
We keep hearing the bad news in Texas. After a time that just wears folks down. What we also need to hear about is who to call, who to e-mail, when to show up and speak out, and when to protest.
Even in hard times, progress is always possible. It just that sometimes folks need some help and insight about how to make that progress.
Here is the TPA round-up—
This week on Left of College Station Congressman Bill Flores gives talking point answers to softball questions. Also, a look at the Republican attack on birthright citizenship both nationally and in Texas, and how Republicans are undermining Texas’ economic future by cutting education funding today. LoCS also covers the week in headlines.
Texas is 48th overall in the overall condition of the health of children.
From Texas State Representative Garnet Coleman—
“The Commonwealth Fund today released the State Scorecard on Child Health System Performance, 2011 which ranks states and the District of Columbia’s performance on children’s health care. Overall, Texas ranks 48th. The report examines access and affordability, prevention and treatment, potential to lead healthy lives, and equity of the child health care system. Broken down, Texas ranks 50th in access and affordability, 48th in prevention and treatment, 29th in the potential to lead healthy lives, and 50th in equity. Additionally, 18 percent of Texas children are uninsured compared to 10 percent nationally.”
Is the poor health of many children in Texas one of the number of “emergency” legislative issues as declared by Governor Rick Perry?
Governor Perry and the Republican majorities in the Texas State Legislature lack the simple decency to place the welfare of children at the top of the legislative agenda.
And where are rank-and-file Republicans in Texas on these questions?
Read here to see what Governor Perry and the Republican majorities in the legislature see as emergency issues. Not one thing on the table in this respect is a true emergency.
Our State of Texas is run by people who are morally sick. They will let young people be sick and die and never say a word even though they could help address what is taking place.
Texas is 48th in the overall health of children.
Don’t worry though–I’m certain our Governor and our legislature can work as a team to get us to the bottom of this list by the end of the current legislative session.
Due in large part to Republican mismanagement of state finances, and due to the failure of many ordinary Texans to meet the everyday obligations of citizenship, the State of Texas faces a massive budget deficit.
The Texas Legislature, now in session, will have to approve a budget for 2012 and 2013.
There are many reasons for this budget shortfall. Some of them have nothing to do with anything in the control of Texas. The national recession has hit states hard across the nation.
However, property tax cuts we could not afford and a Republican ideology of small government and low taxes no matter what, has also put us in this tough spot.
Will states rights and reflexive bashing of Washington help your kid compete with kids from India and China? Will it help you when you are sick and need help? Will Governor Perry declaring divisive Voter ID bills for non-existent voter fraud and sanctuary city legislation an “emergency” help anybody?
People in our state need to make the call that they are going to demand a focus on things that matter, and that they will not allow themselves to be distracted by sideshows.
We need to be clear. Republicans have been in firm control of Texas for many years now. We have had a Republican Governor since 1995. Republicans have long been in control of both Houses of the Texas Legislature.
Republicans would have you believe that only states run by Democrats face these types of deficit problems.
However, because we are not powerless as free citizens, this problem is also on average Texans who have enjoyed low taxes even as our state has failed on so many measures of education and public health.
And, of course, we have millions of Texans who can’t even be bothered to vote in most elections.
This combination of a bad national economy, a destructive ideology, low taxes, and a short-sighted public has real consequences.
“Pitts didn’t sugarcoat the proposed cuts, which strike a potentially devastating blow to public education and health care, eliminate 9,000 state jobs and shutter two state institutions for people with disabilities, one prison unit and three Texas Youth Commission lock-ups.”
“As many as 100,000 school district jobs could be eliminated in the face of a significant reduction of state aid for public schools, said Lynn Moak, a school finance consultant…The proposed budget does not cover $9.8 billion owed to the school districts under the current school finance formulas. Legislation will be needed to reduce the state’s obligations by that amount, which includes money to pay for new students in public schools and replace the federal stimulus dollars that legislators used in 2009 for basic school funding. Democratic House members said the budget proposal pretends that the 170,000 new students expected in Texas classrooms just won’t materialize. Nor was money included to pay for new textbooks or supplemental science materials that are needed to prepare high schools for the upcoming end-of-course exams. Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, told the State Board of Education on Wednesday that she would fight for those classroom necessities. Shapiro has long led the Senate Education Committee.”
Even a Republican State Senator is upset.
What did she expect?
In Ector County, Odessa College, a community college, has been targeted for zero funding. This has angered people in this area.
(Below–Multi-purpose building at Odessa College. The people in the area of Odessa College last November voted in favor of drastic budget cuts to this institution. Photo by Billy Hathorn.)
What did people in Ector County think they were voting for last November? I thought personal responsibility for your actions is what Texas is all about. By that measure, cuts in services of all kinds in Ector County should rightly be deep and brutal.
People are, of course, free to sacrifice their futures and the futures of their children to lost cause of states rights. They are free to value low taxes over anything else.
However, there are people in Texas who take the position that the future has value.
The Legislative Study Group, a forward-thinking caucus of the Texas House chaired by Houston area State Rep. Garnet Coleman, has issued a document detailing what the budget proposed by the Texas House will mean for Texans.
Review this document and see the impact these cuts will have on all Texans.
Texas political blogs such as Capitol Annex, The Daily Hurricane, Brains And Eggs, Jobsanger, Letters From Texas, Bay Area Houston, and Off The Kuff are also reporting on the deficit and on hopeful alternatives for Texas. These citizen bloggers reflect the best aspirations of Texas.
It is up to each individual Texan to fight back. This is the ethos of Texas. We must take responsibility for our lives and for our state.
The extreme right-wing ideology of the Republican Party in Texas, which even goes so far as to talk about seccession from the union, does not provide any realistic vision of the part that Texas must play in the global economy.
No matter what we have been fed over the years in Texas, we don’t have to live selfish lives. We can care for the people around us and still be good Texans.
(Below–Likely state budget cuts in Texas will further worsen an environment so noxious that even Republican Oklahoma has complained to the EPA about bad air in Texas. The cash for clunkers program and air and water testing are among many environmental services likely to be drastically slashed. )