April 11, 2003
Texas v. The Disabled

About 30 members of American Disabled For Attendant Programs Today protested in front of Governor Perry's office yesterday, with six of them being arrested for criminal trespass after Perry refused to meet with them.

The group [...] had sought assurances from Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick that services for disabled Texans would not be cut in the upcoming budget.

"They refused to meet with us today. They refused to give us a commitment and so we refused to leave," said Jennifer McPhail, 31, as she was being led to a bus by Department of Public Safety officers assigned to the Capitol.

Fellow members of ADAPT, meanwhile, kept their vigil outside the governor's office, saying they also were willing to be arrested if they could not speak to the governor.

Nineteen of those protesters who chose to stay in the building were issued summonses for criminal trespass on the spot and allowed to leave the Capitol. They were given dates to appear in court over the next two months, according to the Associated Press.

Jose Lara of El Paso, is a quadriplegic who has movement only in his right arm, from the elbow to the fingers. He lives with his 87-year-old mother, who cares for him because he is unable to care for himself.

Lara is among 60,000 disabled Texans who will have to fend for themselves if they lose their Texas Department of Human Services and prescription medication benefits under proposed budget cuts.

"If they cut this program I won't be able to make it," he said. "I won't be able to get up."

Perry had apparently offered to meet with them next week, an offer they rejected because they fear that next week will be too far in the budget process. (Remember, the House has already approved a budget, though it still has to go through the Senate and be certified by Comtroller Strayhorn.)

Dewhurst said he has met with many groups of disabled people this session.

"I think the Senate's record over this session has been a continued commitment to doing what's right, to providing the essential services for the people of Texas without raising taxes on the hardworking people of Texas," said Dewhurst.

Craddick was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, vice-chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the committee's top priority is finding more money to serve people with disabilities.

She said people with the most critical needs, such as those who are bedridden, will be served. She added that the committee is looking for money to be able to serve those who are less severely disabled, such as those who need help getting in and out of bed or their wheelchairs.

I've already praised David Dewhurst for the good work he's done so far, but he and Senator Zaffirini, among many others, aren't seeing the whole picture here. The price of not looking for new revenue sources is screwing people who need help, whether it's these folks or mentally handicapped folks or uninsured children or the elderly. You can't fit over $60 billion worth of need into a $58 billion or less budget. Something has to give, and the way things are headed, it'll have to give again in 2005.

If there really were a priority placed on funding the needs of people who desperately depend on government support, we'd be doing more than just cutting nearly non-existent fat from the budget and closing the occasional tax loophole. We'd be committed to making the tax system fair, representative, and sufficiently broad based so as not to overburden any particular group. We might consider extending the franchise tax to include limited liability partnerships, which would thus cover law firms, for example.

State leadership has made a choice about who will feel the brunt of our budget woes. I will keep on saying that it's a bad choice until it sinks in.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 11, 2003 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

Things are bad all over. New York State is facing an $11 billion deficit, the budget is late for the 19th year in a row, and the Albany three-card monte game of Gov. Pataki, Joe Bruno, and Sheldon Silver is still meeting behind closed doors to resolve this issue each year. Meanwhile, education suffers, the citizens are among the highest taxed in the nation and the unemployment rate is about 6% outside of NYC (8.8% and climbing) and Buffalo (6.8 - 7%).

To make matters worse, New York City is facing a $5 billion deficit of its' own, despite an 18% property tax hike on homeowners citywide this year alone. The unions aren't budging on a requested $600 million in savings, so there are going to be layoffs that haven't been seen since the mid 1970s. The cutbacks on social services will be devastating to say the least. The public transportation system continues to add more and more riders daily, yet the fare will be $2 next month. The problems are the same in Houston and in New York: Companies get rich, people get poor.

Posted by: William Hughes on April 11, 2003 7:00 PM