March 16, 2007
CHIPs and scraps

This doesn't surprise anyone, right?

House budget writers, in order to find nearly $78 million more in state funds for the proposed CHIP expansion, whittled proposed increases in other social services, including mental-health care and breast and cervical cancer screening.

Their recommendations wouldn't mean a cut in current spending but would scale back their expansion bad enough to those who say the state already falls short of helping its needy citizens.

"You don't take from one vulnerable population in order to meet the needs of another vulnerable population," said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, who is pushing the CHIP expansion but this week voted against taking the money from other social services to pay for it.


Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, the Appropriations Committee member seeking to balance competing needs in the social services budget, said the decisions are difficult. The committee can allocate about $1 billion in new state money for such programs, Gattis said, on top of the $1.7 billion proposed state increase for health and human services already in the starting-point base budget.

Despite billions in new revenue, much is spoken for to pay for items including a cut in local school property tax rates.

"We're going to treat this just like a family ... budget. You have a finite number of dollars. If you fund one thing, that means you don't fund something else," Gattis said. "We're not just going to go out and say, 'We need more money' and grab more money from the taxpayers of Texas."

Just to reiterate, what Gattis is saying is that there's nothing in the budget that's more important than the money to fund the property tax cuts. They will spare no expense to ensure those cuts are fully implemented. Everything else is secondary, and will have to fight among themselves for whatever is left over. If this really were a family budget, this discussion would be about how to allocate insufficient funds for food, clothing, utilities, and rent after we've set aside money for that tricked-out Hummer we're going to buy.

And on that note, here's Rep. Garnet Coleman explaining how the money is being spent.

One more thing:

Turner said, "I have been around here long enough to know we will fund what we want. What we view as a priority, we will fund. ... When taking care of our children becomes a priority, we will fund that as well."

Oh, if only there were some way to influence Speaker Craddick about this. If only, if only.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 16, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo