Texas Liberal

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Texas Budget Deficit Crisis Reflects Republican Mismanagement And Poor Citizenship—We Can Do Better

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.

(Above—Not long after the Arizona shooting rampage, the Austin State Hospital, which offers mental health assistance, faces drastic Texas state budget cuts. Photo by Larry D. Moore.)

State Comptroller Susan Combs says the deficit could possible be as high as $27 billion for the 2012-2013 biennium.

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.

Texas is 43rd of the 50 states in overall tax burden.

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.

As reported by the Texas Tribune, here is how the Chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, Jim Pitts, sees the upcoming state budget—

“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.”

The Austin American-Statesman recently reported on the extent of the likely cuts for education in Texas–

“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.)

Ector County voted more than 3 to 1 for Rick Perry in 2010.

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.

The Texas-based Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) has produced a document that provides Texans the facts on how to be involved in the budget process.

The CPPP is a good resource for Texans who believe our state is about more than just looking out for those who are already doing well.

Texas political blogs such as Capitol Annex, The Daily HurricaneBrains 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. )

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Key Texas Republican Admits Medicaid Pullout Will Leave People Homeless—What We Can Do To Fight This

Texas is facing a budget deficit of at least $ 18 billion.

Texas Republicans say pulling the state out of Medicaid is an option for the 2011 legislative session to address this deficit.

While some Republicans maintain the fiction this can be done without making people homeless, the chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, Jim Pitts, at least tells the truth.

From the Houston Chronicle

“Some Republicans who talk about Texas potentially opting out of Medicaid are quick to say the changes wouldn’t throw people out on the street — but not House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts. Pitts didn’t advocate the change in health care for the poor at a meeting of the Ellis County Tea Party, just noted that it will be discussed by lawmakers. But unlike others who have painted a rosy picture of a potential health-care restructuring without filling in the details, Pitts gave a stark answer when an audience member asked about an ill friend who is on Medicaid. The questioner reacted with concern when Pitts said the state is looking at getting out of the program. What will my friend do then? Will you throw him out in the street? “If we did exactly what we’re doing today, we wouldn’t be throwing him out in the street. But if we have any savings in getting out of Medicaid, we will have to throw some people out in the street,” said Pitts, R-Waxahachie. He noted, “I’m not telling you that your friend would be.”

If pulling out of Medicaid takes place and when, as a consequence, people are out on the streets, who do you think will pay for that? The medical costs and likely police costs of such persons will be paid for by cities and counties.

As you see from the newspaper article above, even Tea Party followers are concerned that they and the people they know in life will be impacted by these cuts. (Though what did they ever expect?)

Texas has a so-called Rainy Day Fund that could help address this budget crisis. There is over $8 billion in this fund right now.

And let’s be clear, the reason this big deficit did not occur in the last legislative session in 2009 was because of federal stimulus money and money from other federal funds.

What can be done to prevent these types of deficits and these proposed radical solutions from taking place in the future?

Here are some ideas—

* We could have a tax structure that meets the needs of the second largest state in our federal union. An income tax would make a lot of sense.

* Texas Republicans holding public office  could truthful about the fact that we take plenty of federal money all the time, and Texas could work in partnership with the federal government instead refighting the Civil War.

* Rank and file Texas Republicans could acknowledge to themselves that they use public services all the time in daily life and that many Republicans in Texas use Medicaid program.

* Hispanics in Texas taken as whole could start to meet the personal responsibility of voting and of taking full part in the politics and the public policy debates of our state.

* Progressives in Texas could begin to really fight instead of being resigned to Republican rule. We are not meeting our obligations to Texas and to the nation.  Where is the organizing and the energy from our side that we saw from the Tea Party people in this last election?

* We could all understand that taxes are a necessity in life and that we have obligations to others in this world. Realizing these things in no way conflicts with the need to have a job and to meet your obligations to yourself and to your family.

* All Texans could decide that we want to live in a decent state where we do not toss people out on the street because they get sick.

(Fellow Houston & Texas blogger Charles Kuffner also addresses these issues. Also, Tea Party blogger David Jennings sees no value in Texas leaving Medicaid.)

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment