January 14, 2009
Don't forget Frew

While we all continue to ponder what the state's budget situation will mean, we must remember that certain allocations are mandatory. One example of such is Medicaid funding, for which the state of Texas settled a lawsuit in 2007 that had accused the state of not providing federally-mandated preventative care by not providing sufficient funding for physicians' visits. See here and here for some background. That issue may get brought up again, because the attorney for the plaintiffs says that the state has not met its obligations under the court's order.

State officials said they're complying with the order in the case of Frew v. Hawkins, which, among other things, requires Texas to spend $150 million in state funds "toward strategic initiatives to improve ... access to services."

Susan Zinn, who represents Texas children on Medicaid, said the court requires that the money be spent in the 2008 and 2009 budget years, but the state plans to spend less than a third of that during that period.

"They're obliged under the court's order to spend all of that this biennium, and they seem to be violating that order," Zinn said. "That money is not just money -- it's supposed to result in improved access to health care."

About a third of Texas children are on Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program.

Zinn said she hasn't decided whether to take further legal action.


Goodman said that proposals recommended by an advisory council are forwarded to the Legislative Budget Board and Gov. Rick Perry for approval.

"This means it takes some time to get proposals up and running," she said.

"We want to make sure the funding for strategic initiatives is spent wisely," she said.

Yes we do, though we also want to make sure that the meaning of the ruling isn't rendered moot by bureaucratic delays. This may or may not turn into anything big, but it is a reminder that whatever the level of revenue the Lege has, there will be many competing interests for it. We may not have as much money as we thought we did, but we do have $9 billion in rainy day funds, plus another $3 billion that was earmarked last session for property tax cuts. We can find the money for things like this if we really want to.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 14, 2009 to Budget ballyhoo
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