The Texas House and Senate passed a state budget Saturday that cuts billions from public schools, state universities and health care for the elderly.
The $172 billion legislation now goes to Gov. Rick Perry for his signature.
Facing a massive revenue shortfall, lawmakers crafted the budget by making cuts and using deferrals rather than raising taxes or dipping into the $10 billion reserve fund.
The Senate voted 20-11, mostly along party lines. McAllen Sen. Chuy Hinojosa was the only Democrat who supported the bill.
In all funds, the plan for 2012-2013 is $15 billion less than the current budget, but that doesn’t account for the costs of providing services to new population.
According to Postcards, the House vote was 97-53 for the budget – guess that means the Speaker cast a vote as well – and according to the Trib, one of the four Republican votes against was the turncoat Aaron Pena. Nice to see that he remains consistent in his lack of principles. That means that all 49 House Dems voted No, which is exactly what they should have done. Not much else for me to say about this, so let me turn it over to the numerous statements I’ve received, all of which are reproduced beneath the fold.
AUSTIN, TX – Senator Wendy Davis said that the state budget passed today is an insult to Texas families concerned about the education of their children and the training of our future “Cutting $4 billion dollars in state funding for public education will result in thousands of educator job losses, overcrowded classrooms and put an end to the state-funded prekindergarten programs,” Senator Wendy Davis said. “Throughout the state, school districts are already responding with massive layoffs and requests for the state to waive current restrictions on classroom sizes.”
While those in charge try to defend the budget with false assertions that public education received slightly greater funding in this budget than the prior biennial budget, for the first time student population growth has not been funded. Defending the budget through slippery wording and fuzzy math, as Perry and Dewhurst have done, will do nothing to erase the harmful consequences of these cuts on Texas schoolchildren.
“Even more disturbing, this budget kicks the can of public education and healthcare funding down the road, with deferrals of current obligations totaling $7.1 billion that will need to be backfilled in the next budget cycle. Accordingly, when the legislature reconvenes in 2013, it will begin its budget cycle at least $7.1 billion in the hole. This is not responsible governance.”
STATE SENATOR JOSÉ RODRÍGUEZ STATEMENT ON THE BUDGET
AUSTIN — Today, State Senator José Rodríguez released the following statement regarding his vote against the 2012-13 state budget:
“Today I voted against the final passage of the two-year state budget, because it will drastically cut funds for education, health and human services programs, legal aid and indigent defense services.
“Backers of the budget have said that raising taxes is not an option. But make no mistake, this budget does in fact raise taxes. It just passes the buck and shifts more of the tax burden to our local governments and local taxpayers. In property-poor districts and counties, including El Paso, this burden is especially hard-hitting because increasing local revenues requires a bigger tax hike and a bigger burden on citizens than it would in areas with larger, wealthier tax bases.
“When people are faced with tough choices, including ensuring their children receive an education and keep teachers in the classroom, they have shown that they are willing to raise revenue. However, during this session we have refused to do just that and as a result, our children, grandchildren and future generations will pay the price.
“Even without the cuts contained in this budget, our local communities are already having to shoulder the burden of unfunded mandates. My own county, El Paso, estimates that unfunded mandates, and the core departments necessary to perform those functions, cost them $179 million in this fiscal year.
“I think it’s critical that we all take into account what these cuts will mean, not only to the programs and institutions they will directly affect, but to our local governments, schools, and the taxpayers in our communities.”
Today, Republicans betrayed Texans of all ages by ramming through a budget that short-changes teachers, school kids, college students, nursing homes, and thousands of others across the state. The adopted budget not only fails to provide the basic services on which Texans and local economies depend, but also dumps an $18 billion tab on the doorstep of the 83rd Legislature two years from now.
The state portion of the budget is $18 billion short of the funds needed to maintain current service levels for a growing population. The budget eliminates financial aid for 29,000 low-income college students and cuts funding to nursing homes by $1.6 billion. It also cuts a historic $4 billion in statutorily-required funding for public schools that will result in pink slips for 40,000 to 50,000 school district employees.
“This budget makes crystal clear where Republican priorities lie. They care more about the Tea Party extremists than they do our teachers, children, and the future of our state,” said State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth).
Such cuts are only necessary because state leaders have patently refused to address the $10 billion recurring deficit created by a 2006 tax swap and other glaring problems with our state’s financial system. Rep. Burnam filed legislation to eliminate billions in corporate subsidies that would generate sufficient funds to prevent the worst of these cuts. Unfortunately, state leaders showed no interest in making corporations pay their fair share or in fixing the state’s broken financial system.
Even with these cuts, House Bill 1 is riddled with dubious assumptions and shell games. It defers $7 billion in payments to the next biennium and assumes $700 million in savings from Medicaid waivers that likely won’t materialize. Combined with the $10 billion recurring deficit, the 2013 Legislature could start the session in an $18 billion hole.
“Texans deserve better than this budget, ” Burnam said. “The people of this state did not elect us to shirk our responsibility and adopt a cut-and-run budget that threatens the future of the state,” he added.
“We have failed the people of this state.”
In his inaugural speech in January, Governor Perry said that making Texas families’ lives harder “just to make our jobs easier” would be a “failure of leadership.”
This budget does just that.
Rep. Coleman: Republican Budget Deal Fails Texans
Austin– The Texas House today accepted a conference committee report for the state budget that is $18.3 billion short of current services, sending it to the Governor.
“Republicans are celebrating reaching an agreement on a budget that’s a rotten deal for the people of Texas,” said Rep. Coleman. “The budget deal struck by the Republican supermajority fails seniors, children, and vulnerable Texans. I’ve never seen a budget so detrimental to Texas and Texans.”
Over half of all nursing homes that Texas seniors rely on, depend on Medicaid for 70% or more of their income. Yet the budget cuts Medicaid by $6.3 billion, leaving it $15.3 billion short of the requested amount for enrollment growth and cost increases.
“Our seniors should have a chance to spend their golden years with dignity,” said Rep. Coleman. “With this budget, those in charge are betraying seniors and putting their health at risk.”
The budget does not adequately invest in Texas children by not funding enrollment growth in public schools. Over $1 billion is cut from the higher education budget in the current biennium, in addition to over $700 million in enrollment growth for 2012-2013 that is not paid for.
“This budget will devastate our public education system and could harm an entire generation of students.” said Rep. Coleman. “Instead of increasing opportunities for young Texans, those in charge are slamming the doors to a higher education for thousands of students.”
Under this budget, 43,000 fewer students will receive state aid, including 29,000+ fewer receiving TEXAS Grants. The remaining 14,000 students will not receive student aid as a result to cuts to the TANF Scholarship Program, College Readiness Grants, Texas Career Opportunity Grants, and Hospital-Based Nursing Education Grants.
“We all like to call ourselves proud Texans, but nothing in this budget makes me proud. Texas can do better,” concluded Rep. Coleman.
Statement from Senator Judith Zaffirini Regarding Passage of the Budget
(AUSTIN) – “I voted against the appropriations bill (House Bill 1) because it does not reflect the values of Texas families and because it will have a severe, lasting and negative impact on our beloved state.
“Texas is at a crossroads: Access to quality education and higher education are critical to maintaining our state’s economic competitiveness. To meet the demands of employers and educate our rapidly growing population, we should be strengthening our commitment to higher education, especially as every dollar invested in higher education returns up to $18 to the Texas economy.
“The state budget formalized today, however, shortchanges higher education by more than $960 million and public education by $4 billion.
“At a time when we should be expanding access to college, this budget slashes financial aid programs drastically, especially for low-income students. As a result, 28,700 fewer low-income students will receive TEXAS Grants (a 27 percent cut), and the B-on-Time Loan program, which promotes timely graduation and student success, will assist 30 percent fewer students. Even the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee was quoted by Dallas Morning News as saying, the “budget is going to make it harder for poor kids to go to college.”
“In 2005 the legislature and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board began an ambitious and important initiative called Closing the Gaps by 2015, which aims to close the gaps in student participation, student success, excellence and research. Instead of moving Texas closer to meeting those four goals, this budget makes it nearly impossible to achieve them. Instead of closing the gaps, it broadens the gaps and puts college out of reach for thousands of low-income Texas families.
“For the first time in memory, the budget initially was passed by both chambers of the legislature on party-line votes after most Democrats were shut out of the process.
“Some Republicans ignored our concerns and accused us of “frightening Texans” unnecessarily, but this budget truly is frightening.
“Unbelievably, it cuts health and human services programs that save the state money in the long run. Among the programs cut are the UT Community Outreach Program, which plays a critical role in reducing the high incidence of diabetes in South Texas, and prevention and early intervention services that keep at-risk children safe from abuse and out of the foster-care system.
“Also slashed are waiver programs that give older Texans and persons with disabilities the opportunity to live at home with their families or receive community-based care. Without these waiver programs, many will be forced to live away from their loved ones in more expensive institutional settings.
“The future fiscal implications of this budget are staggering. The American journalist George Horace Lorimer wrote, ‘Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.’ Texans aren’t afraid to tackle tough problems, but Republican budget-writers missed no opportunity to delay or defer critical decisions, thereby failing to solve the state’s fiscal problems and creating new ones for future generations.
“Budget-writers used accounting gimmicks and tricks such as deferring payments to ‘solve’ the budget gap. What’s more, because the budget fails to fund Medicaid caseload growth, Texas will have to address a fiscal hole that is at least $4.8 billion larger in 2013. Instead the of fixing the structural deficit they created in 2006, Republicans merely swept it under the rug.
“Some may congratulate themselves for achieving a balanced budget, but this budget tips the scales heavily toward severe cuts and accounting tricks. That’s not balanced. A balanced approach would require a thoughtful exercise in cutting wherever possible, while protecting safety net programs and preserving vital investments in Texas’ future.
“Some may believe that this budget reflects the values of the majority of the people in Texas. I strongly disagree. Countless Texans from Senate District 21 and across our state support our public school teachers and believe in helping the very young, the very old and persons with disabilities. They believe in investing in Texas’ future by strengthening public and higher education. This budget does not reflect those values.
“When the initial version of the budget was proposed in January, I hoped we would improve it by adding sufficient funding to protect the highest priorities and greatest needs of Texas families. Sadly, that did not happen. The budget approved today is fiscally irresponsible and morally wrong. Accordingly, I voted against it.”
Tonight Rep. Mike Villarreal voted against the state budget proposal for 2012-2013. The budget passed the House 97-53 with nearly all Republicans voting for the budget and all Democrats voting against. Those in control of the Legislature chose to not use any of the state’s Rainy Day Fund for the budget. The budget includes the following cuts:
$4 billion from public schools;
$1 billion from grants for pre-kindergarten and other education programs;
43,000 scholarships for college students;
66 percent of women’s health and family planning services;
30% in all funds necessary to maintain current health and human services for children, women, seniors and people with disabilities.
Rep. Villarreal spoke against the budget during the House debate. His prepared remarks are below:
I want to first recognize the efforts made by our Chairman of Appropriations, the Speaker, members of the conference committee and all of their staff. Thank you for all your efforts.
I want to be clear about three things:
1. This budget is a betrayal of Texas families, especially women and children.
2. Because of this budget, Texas will lose jobs today and worst of all will have a less-educated, less-skilled workforce to compete for quality jobs in the future.
3. Finally, this legislature had other options but failed to have the courage to do what’s right for all of Texas.
Women and children:
The budget cuts will have a disproportionate impact on women. There will be millions of women harmed by this budget. Here is one woman’s story, as she wrote in a letter to me.
My name is Danielle Hernandez, and I reside in San Antonio, TX. I am a single parent, employee, and full-time college student. I attend Our Lady of the Lake University where I am pursuing my teaching degree in Special Education…I am going to school in order to provide a better life for my son. I am aware that …Tuition Equalization Grant funding, and Teach grant funding may be decreased/eliminated. If there is no funding available, then I cannot continue my post-secondary education. Please help me be the first person in my family to obtain a college degree…My health has not been to good lately either, but I push myself to finish college in order to provide my son with a more stable life. God bless you…
Danielle, I am sorry to tell you that we did cut TEG and other state funded college grants and scholarships. You may be one of the 43,000 Texans who will not receive help from the state to become a teacher.
Even worse, this budget cuts thousands of jobs for teachers, which will make it harder for you to find employment but also harm the quality of education your son is currently receiving. With fewer teachers and more school children, there will be more crowded classrooms.
Please take care of your health as best as you can because this legislature has also gutted women’s health and family planning services by 66%. When the House debated the budget in April, Republican legislators spent hours attacking women’s health and family planning services, and Texas women now have to live with those cuts. Basic preventative healthcare that might have been there for you will most likely not be there anymore.
The legislature could have done more to protect innocent children from being hurt by this budget.
Let me tell you about little Kira. She is 3 years old and lives in Burleson, Texas. She attends a public pre-k program. Little Kira has down syndrome but her program has mainstreamed her with other three and four year olds and they have all benefited. Her grandfather Roger loves her so much. He called me to tell me about little Kira and how much she has grown socially and academically over the last year. Roger asked that the legislature do all that it could to prevent little Kira from losing her pre-k program. As it stood then, the district would be eliminating full-day pre-k as a direct result of this legislature eliminating pubic pre-k grants and cutting public education.
Roger, I had hoped Little Kira and thousands of others would be spared. Unfortunately, this legislature failed to act. They will lose their access to full-day pre-k. I wished we had used some of the rainy day fund for the next two years or cut back on some of our corporate tax giveaways to help your granddaughter. This legislature felt differently.
Please try to find a way to provide little Kira the professional services she will need. As you know, if she does not receive them at an early age she will have a much harder life.
Seniors and disabled:
The Brigidine Sisters of San Antonio wrote to me begging me to stop health care cuts for the elderly and to understand that they are not statistics – they are real people. They told me about one of their own – Sister Winifred, a woman who dedicated her entire life to caring for others. The Sisters are very concerned for Sister Winifred because their entire community is aging and if Sister Winifred loses her spot at her nursing home they won’t be able to take her in and properly care for her.
Sisters, we did make some progress. However, I am sorry to inform you that this budget leaves in place the cut to nursing homes last year and cuts our overall current services healthcare budget by 30 percent in all funds.
Please prepare for the worst. Because in 2013 our health care budget that makes payments to nursing homes and other health care providers runs out of money four months too soon.
Women & families
This budget is also bad for women because if the state is not there for vulnerable children and elderly, it will most likely be women who pick up the pieces.
Carol Poor has an 83-year-old mother who lives in an Alzheimer’s unit in Gunter, Texas. Carol said she would have to resign from her secretarial job to care for her mother if she were to be discharged. Neither of the women is able to pay for a nursing home or a home health care nurse.
Janet Armacker Yow in San Antonio has a 23-year old son with severe autism who cannot communicate, is aggressive at times, and requires 24 hour supervision. If he loses his group home slot, she too will have to leave her job as she could not afford to pay for the specialized care that he requires. She fears that she will become reliant on public assistance if funding for her son’s Home & Community-based Services run out.
Let’s now talk jobs.
Make no mistake – this budget will impact all of us because it will harm our economy. A conservative estimate earlier this year by the LBB put the damage at a loss of 335,000 jobs and a rise in unemployment by 2%.
We can debate these economic impact projections, but one thing that we cannot debate is the fact that those in control should have seen this coming since 2007. In 2007, we had an 8% hole in our budget. In 2009, the revenue short all nearly doubled to 14%. When we arrived this year, the shortfall nearly doubled again to 27%.
Texas cannot grow itself out of this problem because our population is growing less educated. Our population is growing less educated because we are failing to educate them. We are setting up the state for financial and economic failure. Standard & Poor’s has already warned us: by not addressing our broken revenue system they will be re-evaluating our credit worthiness.
It didn’t have to be this way. The Governor and this legislature made a choice to do this. They could have chosen to use some of the Rainy Day Fund to pay for services the next two years. They chose not to. They could have chosen to close tax loopholes and make all corporations pay their fair share. They chose not to. They could have chosen to fix our broken business tax. They chose not to.
Instead, those in control of state government chose to balance the budget on the backs of women, children and vulnerable Texans.