The Proposed Texas Budget: Jan. 20, 2011

I imagine that I will be writing about this proposed budget more and more over the next months so I will simply label my entries about it by the title above and the current date of the post.

If you hear about any planned protests or organized campaigns to fight for the vulnerable of Texas INSTEAD of conservative ideas about finances (because that is the battle now – actual living children/disabled/poor people or a theory about fiscal responsibility), please contact me and let me know.  If you know of ANYTHING other than writing our reps that we can do, please let me know.

And at the top of every post about this, I will remind you of how to contact your state representatives. Do it today.  Even if you think they won’t care about your opinion.  It’s our most basic and easiest way (besides voting) to participate in this democracy.  You have a voice.  Exercise it.

Here’s the website that helps you find all the people who represent you on the both the federal and state levels. It gives you their names, websites, mailing addresses, and phone numbers.

There is plenty after the jump, including a MUST READ by Paul Krugman.

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This from my friend who works for the state of TX and with community mental health programs: “I know…it’s heartbreaking. And part of what I had to do at work today is figure out how the cuts will impact children who need mental health services…and what it’s going to cost taxpayers if we DON’T fund treatment. What a crazy exercise.”

Amen.

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A MUST READ from Paul Krugman, the nobel-prize winning economist of the New York Times: The Texas Omen:

Wasn’t Texas supposed to be thriving even as the rest of America suffered? Didn’t its governor declare, during his re-election campaign, that “we have billions in surplus”? Yes, it was, and yes, he did. But reality has now intruded, in the form of a deficit expected to run as high as $25 billion over the next two years. […]

Data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggest that the Texas budget gap is worse than New York’s, about as bad as California’s, but not quite up to New Jersey levels.

The point, however, is that just the other day Texas was being touted as a role model (and still is by commentators who haven’t been keeping up with the news). It was the state the recession supposedly passed by, thanks to its low taxes and business-friendly policies. Its governor boasted that its budget was in good shape thanks to his “tough conservative decisions.” […]

What about the budget? The truth is that the Texas state government has relied for years on smoke and mirrors to create the illusion of sound finances in the face of a serious “structural” budget deficit — that is, a deficit that persists even when the economy is doing well. When the recession struck, hitting revenue in Texas just as it did everywhere else, that illusion was bound to collapse.

The only thing that let Gov. Rick Perry get away, temporarily, with claims of a surplus was the fact that Texas enacts budgets only once every two years, and the last budget was put in place before the depth of the economic downturn was clear. Now the next budget must be passed — and Texas may have a $25 billion hole to fill. Now what?

Given the complete dominance of conservative ideology in Texas politics, tax increases are out of the question. So it has to be spending cuts. […]

Yet Mr. Perry wasn’t lying about those “tough conservative decisions”: Texas has indeed taken a hard, you might say brutal, line toward its most vulnerable citizens. Among the states, Texas ranks near the bottom in education spending per pupil, while leading the nation in the percentage of residents without health insurance. It’s hard to imagine what will happen if the state tries to eliminate its huge deficit purely through further cuts.

I don’t know how the mess in Texas will end up being resolved. But the signs don’t look good, either for the state or for the nation.

Right now, triumphant conservatives in Washington are declaring that they can cut taxes and still balance the budget by slashing spending. Yet they haven’t been able to do that even in Texas, which is willing both to impose great pain (by its stinginess on health care) and to shortchange the future (by neglecting education).

This is really, really scary.  I can’t actually think of another adjective that better encapsulates how I feel right now.  I want to start pinching every penny so we can save up for private grade school for our child.  And we at least have that option.  We can stretch what we have and make that happen.  But so many people in this state can’t.  Where are we headed?  I am scared.

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Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic linked to this post at Federalist Paupers called “What Starts in Texas”:

The Texas budget is going to be important for conservatives nationally. This state is very much the standard-bearer for the national Republican party, and for conservative Republicans in particular. We’ve got more than a 2/3 Republican majority in the state House, and almost as big of a majority in the Senate. We’ve got a Republican elected to every statewide office. Our governor has been a prominent national booster of the Tea Party, and our lieutenant governor is enough of a political chameleon that he’s currently going along with Tea Party sentiment. Most importantly, we’ve got an electorate that believes this state should be setting an example for other states, and for the federal government as well. For now, at least, Texans seem to be in a mood to see these budget cuts through, even if it hurts.

In short, if the conservative approach of balancing budgets through cutting spending without raising taxes can work anywhere, it has to work here, and it has to work now.

What I have to say about that: I DON’T WANT THE CHILDREN OF TEXAS, THE DISABLED OF TEXAS, THE MENTALLY ILL OF TEXAS, THE SINGLE MOTHERS OF TEXAS, THE POOR OF TEXAS TO BE PAWNS IN THIS REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT OF “CONSERVATIVE APPROACH OF BALANCING BUDGETS”.  While I understand that cuts need to be made (I can say that until I am blue in the face), why do they HAVE to start with health care and education?

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‘Apocalyptic’ Budget Plan Sends Waves of Fear Across Texas Higher Education (by Katherine Mangan at The Chronicle for Higher Education):

The state’s student-aid programs would take some of the biggest hits.

No new applicants would be accepted for the state’s largest financial-aid program for low-income students, the Texas Grant program. It served 87,000 students this year with grants of up to $6,780 per year, but it would serve only 27,000 students in 2013 under the House plan.

Joseph P. Pettibon, associate vice president for academic services at Texas A&M, said he worried that low-income students either would not be able to attend four-year colleges or would take on too much debt if lawmakers approved the proposed cuts.

Financial-aid offers are usually made in mid- to late March, but the state budget process probably won’t be completed until the summer, when the governor signs the legislation. “What do we tell students in the meantime?” Mr. Pettibon asked.

The proposed budget would also eliminate several other programs, including adult basic education and college-readiness efforts, that the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board has been using to try to increase the number of Hispanic students attending and graduating from Texas colleges.

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Texans Start to Cope with Cuts (from Austin-American Statesman‘s Jason Embry).  Here are some numbers about the fallout of the proposed budget:

School finance expert Lynn Moak says the budget could cost 100,000 school employees their jobs. The proposed budget does not cover $9.8 billion owed to the school districts under the current school finance formulas.

Overall appropriations for higher education would drop 13 percent.

From the Dallas Morning News: “Local hospitals facing a possible 10 percent cut in Medicaid fees plan to pressure commercial health insurers for better rates, which could drive up costs for everyone. Texas House Republicans unveiled a budget this week that takes aim at Medicaid, the state’s second-largest program, behind public education.”

From the Houston Chronicle: “Houston-area school leaders warned of layoffs and larger class sizes Wednesday after the Texas House proposed much deeper budget cuts than they had expected. The Houston Independent School District, the state’s largest system, might have to slash between $203 million and $348 million — up to a fifth of its budget, according to estimates from a leading school-finance firm. Cuts of this magnitude would cause ‘serious harm to classrooms,’ Superintendent Terry Grier said in a memo to employees.

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And just to repeat this bit about the fact that NO MONEY WILL BE CUT FROM BORDER SECURITY from what I wrote about this yesterday:

It’s so dangerous down there on the border so I totally get not cutting that.  What’s that?  It’s NOT that dangerousThe data doesn’t support Governor Perry‘s desire to line the border with armed men standing shoulder to shoulder? (I’m not sure that’s his exact plan but it’s something like that)  The fact that crime has gone down on the border actually has nothing to do with Rick Perry investing state funds in border security?

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