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House passes its budget

The Trib has a good writeup of how it went down on Sunday. Mot of the heavy lifting was done before then, in the bills that closed the books on the previous biennium and allocated Rainy Day funds for them and in Friday night’s session, when the articles that deal with public education and health and human services were debated. So far, Democrats have done what they’ve needed to do politically. They’ve offered amendments that show their contrasting priorities and try to mitigate the damage being done, nearly all of which have gone down on a straight party line vote and a few of which generated some whining from Republicans who knew they were being forced to take bad votes. They voted unanimously against HB1 (two Republicans joined them) and made numerous statements about how bad it is, several of which I’ve reproduced beneath the fold. That needs to continue, in a steady drumbeat, all the way through next November, and it needs to directly refute this:

“It lives within the available revenue that we have to work with,” [House Appropriations Chair Jim] Pitts said. “…This budget is the result of the worst recession that anyone in this room has ever experienced.”

No. It was the result of deliberate policy choices made by the Republicans, who for the most part still haven’t acknowledged, much less taken steps to fix, the structural deficit caused by the 2006 property tax cut. We will be in the same position two years from now regardless of how good the economy is because of that. We will also see hundreds of thousands of jobs lost due to the choices the Republicans have made. And there was a lot more revenue available that the Republicans refused to take, from another $6 billion in the Rainy Day Fund to many billions more in outdated and inefficient tax expenditures, plus whatever non-tax revenue the Senate manages to scrape up. Speaking of which, Rep. Harold Dutton gets credit for best line of the night when he said “Thank God for the Senate” as things wrapped up. That will put the lie to Pitts’ assertion about available revenue, and it will make everyone feel a little better, but it will still fall far short of what we need to do. The budget is a failure in every way. Here’s the LSG analysis of the budget again to remind you just what it will do. PDiddie, Martha, Bob Moser, and Abby Rapoport have more. Read on for the Democratic statements.

Rep. Garnet Coleman:

I refuse to vote for a budget that will hurt children, harm our elderly, and risk the lives of Texans. In my 20 years as a state legislator, I’ve never seen a budget so devastating.

The cuts in House Bill 1 are unsustainable and cut into the marrow. Our state may never recover from the cuts to essential state services in this bill, and maybe that’s the design.

Texas should pass a budget that funds the needs of Texans. All we’ve done today is move around the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks.

Also from Rep. Coleman:

Governor Perry earlier this year said the sky’s not falling. Although it may not be falling for the Governor, the House budget is making the sky crash down on the people of Texas.

The Texas House of Representatives today passed House Bill 1, the budget bill for the state of Texas for the 2012-2013 biennium. I voted “no” on this bill because in my 20 years as a state legislator, I’ve never seen a budget so devastating to children and seniors. All we’ve done today is move around the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks.

The Republican supermajority cut the budget by $23 billion, or more than 12 percent, from our current funding levels. Those in power chose to use only a portion of the Rainy Day Fund – dollars that Texans have already paid the state. Even if they would use all of the Rainy Day Fund, the state would still face $17 billion in cuts.

HB 1 leaves Texas $7.8 billion short of meeting the education funding levels required by state law. This will cram more students into already overcrowded classrooms, cause more schools to close, and cause more Texans to suffer from the effects of a diminished education. According to the experts, 100,000 people that Texas children and parents rely on – including bus drivers, counselors and teachers – would lose their jobs.

The proposed budget only further closes the doors to a higher education for thousands of Texas students. HB 1 slashes almost $1 billion from our institutions of higher education. If universities tried to offset these cuts, full time Texas college students could pay an extra $1,023 a year in tuition. With these cuts to education, it’s evident that the Republican supermajority is taking the lead in the race to the bottom.

The House budget will erase any gains made in increasing access to care for Texans. The Republican supermajority voted to take away medication from individuals living with HIV, putting lives in great danger. HB 1 severely underfunds Medicaid, which more than 3.3 million Texans – mostly children, pregnant women, seniors, and adults with disabilities – rely on to access health care. The House budget slashes the rates paid to doctors so drastically, that Texans who have Medicaid could lose access to a doctor. The cuts to Medicaid endanger seniors in our nursing homes. The Texas Health Care Association estimates that with the budget cuts, 50 percent of all nursing homes could shut down, forcing 43,700 seniors out of their home. I offered an amendment to restore these funds and keep quality health care a priority. Unfortunately, my amendment was voted down by Republicans.

The House budget endangers our state’s economic prosperity. According to the Legislative Budget Board, the House budget will cost Texas over 335,000 jobs by 2013, 44% of which are in the private sector.

The cuts in House Bill 1 are unsustainable and cut into the marrow. Our state may never recover (maybe that’s the design) from the cuts to essential state services in this bill, and that’s simply not a way to run government.

The Legislative Study Group (LSG), a House Caucus that I Chair, analyzed House Bill 1 and all the amendments that were filed for the bill. You can read those analyses here.

Earlier this year, the LSG released Texas on the Brink: “How Texas Ranks Among the 50 States.” You can read that report here, and see where Texas currently stands in major policy categories. The cuts to essential state services by HB 1 will only make our already dismal standings worse.

Rep. Mike Villarreal:

Today Rep. Mike Villarreal voted against HB 1, the Republican state budget proposal for 2012-2013. The Texas House of Representatives passed the budget by a vote of 98-49. No Democrats voted for the budget.

“I’m disappointed that my Republican colleagues passed a budget that cuts support for classrooms, makes college more expensive, and closes nursing homes,” said Rep. Villarreal. “We need to make cuts, but I will continue fighting to prioritize our children’s education and keep nursing homes open.”

The budget cuts state support for both public education and higher education by 21 percent, eliminating the TEXAS Grants financial aid program for incoming college students. The budget also cuts nursing homes by 33 percent, closing up to 80 percent of nursing homes according to recent estimates. According to the Legislative Budget Board run by the Speaker of the House and Lt. Governor, the budget would eliminate 335,000 public and private sector jobs from the Texas economy over the next two years. The budget does not use any funding from the Rainy Day Fund or closing tax loopholes to support public education, higher education, or nursing homes over the next two years.

Throughout the marathon budget debate, Republican budget amendments focused on cutting deeply into access to contraception and basic women’s health programs, which do not include abortion services. The House spent several hours debating the amendments, approving them over Democratic objections.

Democratic amendments focused on prioritizing education. For example, Rep. Villarreal filed an amendment to fully fund the TEXAS Grants financial aid program if the Legislature approves use of the Rainy Day Fund for the next two years. Republicans voted down the amendment and many other Democratic education amendments.

Rep. Villarreal passed a budget amendment directing the state Comptroller to identify corporate tax loopholes to close during the 2013 legislative session, but the Legislature has chosen not to close tax loopholes to pay for education or nursing homes during the next two years.

“This budget gets our priorities wrong. We need to prioritize quality education and keeping nursing homes open instead of protecting corporate tax loopholes and hoarding the Rainy Day Fund,” said Rep. Villarreal. “Today Texans got to see which legislators are willing to stand up for our children and seniors, and which ones are not.”

Rep. Carol Alvarado:

“HB 1 is not a budget I can support. The deep cuts seen in the proposal are detrimental to our public education system, our healthcare services and our state. This proposal will put over 300,000 public and private sector jobs in jeopardy, affect the way we educate our children for years to come, close over 80% of Texas nursing homes, have disastrous effects to our mental health services, and make it harder for students to pay for higher education on top of already rising tuition rates. ” said Alvarado.

“We should not have looked at a cuts-only approach to solving our budget shortfall. We have a structural deficit that is not going away and although it is understandable that in tough times we all must look at ways to live within our means, we must also look for lasting solutions. Just like Texas families do in tough times, we should be seeking out all sensible solutions in our reach to implement along with some cuts, such as utilizing majority of the Rainy Day Fund, closing extraneous loopholes in our business taxes, identifying predictable streams of new revenue, and attracting new business enterprises, such as gaming, to our state.”

Rep. Borris Miles:

Tonight, Rep. Harold Dutton said it best, “Thank God for the Senate.” The House Republicans crafted and passed a budget that even they do not believe in and plan to have the Senate do the job that we should have done. I believe we are sent here to set legislative priorities and provide leadership. Tonight, the budget did not reflect our mission. Instead, the House Republicans let Governor Perry dictate the terms of the budget and they did not have enough strength to stand up for their constituents.

The votes have been made and the people of Texas lost. By a vote of 98-49, the House passed a budget that will cut education, close nursing homes, and devastate the Texas economy. I voted against this bill along with my Democratic colleagues. In a state where two-thirds of Texans under 18 are minorities, the House has passed a budget that will create a lost generation of children. Their favorite teachers will be laid off, their schools will be closed, and their dreams of an affordable college education will be dashed.

The future of Texas is now in the hands of God.

Rep. Eric Johnson:

State Representative Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) voted this evening against House Bill 1, the state’s proposed budget for fiscal years 2012-2013. House Bill 1 is $23 billion short of providing the current level of services to Texans for the upcoming two years, and leaves $6.2 billion remaining in the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“The Rainy Day Fund belongs to the people of Texas, not to politicians in Austin,” said Representative Johnson. “Texas House Republicans have chosen to let the people’s money sit in the Rainy Day Fund while our most vulnerable citizens are left in dire straits. Thousands of our seniors will watch nursing home doors close behind them and have no place to go. Our public schools, the greatest investment we make in our future, will be forced to lay off 80,000 teachers. Having fought against this disastrous budget since the day it was introduced, I pray that my colleagues in the Texas Senate will return a more sensible proposal to the House.”

The proposed budget reduces funding for Texas public schools by $5 billion, a decrease of 9.4% from 2010-2011, and cuts funding for health and human services by $11.4 billion, or 17.5%. Representative Johnson strongly urges his colleagues in the Texas Senate to use additional dollars remaining in the Rainy Day Fund to mitigate the draconian cuts that remain in House Bill 1 before returning the bill to the House.

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