Today the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) announced that 17,078 fewer children will be covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in May than in April. This is the second largest number of children ever to be disenrolled in one month, second only to immediately after state budget cuts in 2003.
What's Governor Perry's response? He doesn't care.
Gov. Rick Perry urged lawmakers to cut school property tax rates by an additional $2.5 billion Wednesday, and House Speaker Tom Craddick said his chamber is already on track to consider the idea.
But Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said the state can't afford it unless revenues dramatically increase, not if lawmakers want to balance the budget and meet their commitment in future years to subsidize already-promised tax relief.
"It would be imprudent to send money back now, knowing that we very likely might not be able to balance our budget and provide the local school property tax reductions that we all want to do," said Dewhurst, parting from the two other top GOP leaders but on track with the House and Senate budget-writing committees.
Perry took a hard line in his latest push, which comes less than a month before the Legislature must adjourn.
"If the session were to be over with today, we could point to precious few accomplishments on behalf of the taxpayers, outside of continuing the property tax cuts of the last session and passage of budgets in the two chambers," he said. "Taxpayers have pretty much been shut out to date."
Dewhurst said, "I can't believe that he said that, because he knows as well as all of us that we worked real hard this year to set aside the money to provide the (cut in) local school property taxes not just in this next biennium ... but the next biennium of 2010-2011."