It’s easier than you think to behave responsibly

With all the clutching of pearls and threatening of lawsuits surrounding those federal funds that Congress intends to be used for education and not general fund budget balancing tricks, we should all take a deep breath and keep in mind just what exactly it is that Congress is telling Texas to do.

The political jousting might all be for naught, depending on how strictly the Obama administration interprets the provision. Scott McCown, a former Democratic state judge, said a “reasonable” reading would allow Perry to simply give assurances similar to those he made last year to receive stimulus money.

“All the governor has to do is promise in good faith that he’s going to aim for this target and that he thinks Texas can hit it,” McCown said. “If he does that, we get the money.”

U.S. Education Department officials said that they would follow the law but that they would work closely with Texas to ensure that the state receives the funds.

A pinky-swear of our good intentions would probably suffice for now, as long as we don’t go backsies on it later. We could even be a little snotty about it – “Well, of course we’re going to use that money for education. Duh! We don’t need you to tell us that.” And it would still be a more mature response than the foot-stamping and breath-holding we’re getting from Rick Perry and his pals. It’s also less embarrassing later when you decide to accept funds you had once publicly rejected.

By the way, this same legislation also sends $850 million in Medicaid matching funds to Texas. A statement by Rep. Garnet Coleman about that is beneath the fold. BOR has more.

Moments ago, the U.S. House approved legislation that will reduce the budget shortfall in Texas by $850 million. HR 1586, which was approved by a vote of 247-161, extends the enhanced Medicaid match (FMAP) originally authorized by the stimulus bill and sends additional funds to Texas school districts.

The enhanced FMAP will send $850 million to our state’s Medicaid program. HR 1586 will send an additional $813 million directly to Texas school districts.

I am grateful for the members who voted in favor of this legislation. It’s unfortunate that not a single Republican member from the Congressional delegation in Texas voted to reduce our state’s budget shortfall. After accepting $12 billion in federal stimulus dollars to balance our state’s budget last year, Governor Perry was absent in helping Texas secure enhanced Medicaid funds. In February, a bipartisan group of 42 Governors sent a letter asking Congress to extend the Medicaid funding. Governor Perry was not amongst them.

Last week, I sent a letter to the congressional delegation from Texas encouraging them to support HR 1586, because it will reduce the Texas state budget shortfall by $850 million. Our office also organized a letter writing campaign to our state’s two senators and congressional delegation asking them to quickly approve legislation to extend the enhanced Medicaid match. We also reached out to our state’s leadership, asking for their help in securing funds to help reduce our budget shortfall.

I’m glad that because of the Democrats in Congress, $1.6 billion are coming our way.

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