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Care to CHIP in?

Various Texas campaigns are focusing on the cuts in CHIP.

U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco, a Democrat trying to win re-election in a Republican-majority district, charged his challenger the other day with depriving children of health insurance and shorting nursing home residents $15 a month for personal needs such as denture cream.

“When she says she wants to do for the country what she’s done for Texas, I’m not sure that’s a promise or a threat,” Edwards said after a Hill College debate with state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth of Burleson.


Republicans say such sallies won’t stick, in part because President Bush’s run for a second term will overshadow down-ballot races, to the benefit of other GOP candidates.

Budget-related barbs appeal to the news media, said GOP consultant Ray Sullivan, but “whether Texans believe we are taxing too little and spending too little remains to be seen.”


In Houston, Hubert Vo, challenging Rep. Talmadge Heflin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, emphasized the loss of millions of dollars in matching federal funds given up by Texas in CHIP reductions.

The state cuts led to a loss of at least $400 million in matching funds in 2004-05, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for programs serving low-income residents.

“It is ridiculous to lose these federal funds when we have children without health care coverage,” Vo said, referring to Texas’s last-place standing among the states, with more than 22 percent of children uninsured.

Heflin said the criticism lacks “traction” with voters who understand “there are many places that if we plowed more money into certain programs, there are federal matches.”

In East Texas, Bob Glaze of Gilmer has highlighted CHIP cuts in trying to beat Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola, who unseated Glaze two years ago.

Hughes said legislators should ensure that help “goes to the folks who need it most,” adding, “I’m not saying every change to (CHIP) eligibility was done exactly right.”

Waco’s Edwards, a seven-term congressman, has aired two TV commercials blaming Wohlgemuth for CHIP changes, including one in which a mother says her daughter was denied renewal about six months ago.

The mother, a bank teller, lost the coverage because child care costs are no longer exempted from family income, according to Edwards’ campaign. She cannot afford to insure her child through her employer, a spokeswoman said.

A consultant for Edwards said the budget cuts “matter to people. Regardless of party, people have a difficult time getting their minds around why these are good ideas.”

Consultant Craig Murphy of Arlington, whose clients include Wohlgemuth and Heflin, said the CHIP attack “is not working. Whether that’s because they’re overstating their case or people have other priorities, I have no idea.”

Do charges like this work? Without any poll data, I’m not going to take the word of some GOP consultant whose clients are on the receiving end of those charges. We’ll have some evidence on Election Day, of course, but it seems to me that this is as much an issue of framing as it is an issue of the claims about children and the elderly themselves. Greg gets to the nub of the issue in talking about schools:

Is there any potential scenario in which critics who view education as a tax issue whereby property tax rates go down? Let’s crunch some numbers … X number of students will go to school come hell or high water. If anything is done to move them from public schools to either private or charter schools, we still have X number of students in school. If you support vouchers, that money still has to come from somewhere. If you support charter schools, that money still has to come from somewhere. If you support dumping more money into the public schools, that money still has to come from somewhere. In short, there’s no solution that ends up with a net tax cut. Period. Republicans take pity on homeowners who have, in fairness, gotten stuck with the increasing bill on matters of education. But the reason this tab has fallen on them is due to the fact that the state has paid for a smaller and smaller portion of the education budget out of its coffers (again .. the money has to come from somewhere). If you cut taxes on home owners, you still have to find the money somewhere. There’s not a free lunch in the system, even if you’ve run through all of the qualitative fixes you can possibly imagine for schools of any variety.

“The money has to come from somewhere” – that’s exactly right. We’re told in this article that a cut in Medicaid money given to nursing home residents for personal needs from $60 to $45 a month, which Arlene Wohlgemuth voted for and still supports, is being made up by nursing home staff at some places, who are giving residents money out of their own pocket so those residents can buy the denture creme they prefer. Residents who aren’t so lucky are giving up cable and phones. The needs don’t change because the funds have been cut, and the money for those needs has to come from somewhere. The choice of where that money comes from is yours: if you think that it’s appropriate for nursing home residents to choose between phone service and denture creme if they’re not lucky enough to live in a home with generous staffers, then vote for Arlene Wohlgemuth because that’s what she stands for. If not, if you believe that the state has a responsibility to provide a basic level of care which doesn’t require nursing home residents to choose between denture creme and phone service, then vote for Chet Edwards. Or Hubert Vo, or Bob Glaze, or any of the other candidates like him. It’s as simple as that.

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  1. kevin whited says:

    Nub of the issue?

    I can’t even follow the clauses in that first sentence from Greg, so I’m not so sure I would call it the “nub.” It seems the clause “critics who view education as a tax issue” was just thrown in as an indirect reference to Chris Elam. I think the sentence is suggesting that education funding has to come from somewhere, but the clauses are so awkward that I can’t say for sure. No, “nub” doesn’t quite work for me. Maybe stub.

    In any case, many of those who have been most active on the property tax reform front (including Paul Bettencourt) don’t view it in terms of education at all, but don’t like the notion that under the current fiscal regime, appraisal creep has caused some property taxes to double in as few as seven years.

    Education may well need additional funding to offset a stricter cap on property tax appraisal creep. It may well need greater accountability (Elam’s point). But it’s a misrepresentation of what Elam wrote to assert (awkwardly) that he views education as a “tax issue” and leave it at that. Elam can speak further to the topic substantively if he wants — I’m just speaking as someone who’s carefully read both.

  2. Nicole Roberts says:

    Not to proclaim from atop a box of Tide or anything, but..

    There is an organization that works with communites (usually churches) to help address issues of note in local politics. The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) has organized what they are calling an Accountability Session this Sunday. At the session, they plan to ask questions of candidates for State Legislature, County Judge Robert Eckels, Mayor Bill White, and City Council Members.

    The focus of these questions is what specific actions each individual would take to address 1) the reduction of funds for CHIP, 2) the need for additional health clinics in Houston.

    The session is Sunday, October 3, 3:00 pm at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church ( 12955 Memorial Drive , just west of Beltway 8). For more information, call TMO at 713-807-1429.

    I thought I might attend to see if there is something that I can do to affect the politics that affect my life, and I thought others might also be interested.

  3. Greg Wythe says:


    My aim (good or bad as it may be) wasn’t necessarily Chris in noting “critics who view education as a tax issue.” If you’ll recall the last special session, I believe it was Republican legislators who turned “Educational Excellence” into “How can we cut property taxes?” That said, Chris DID make his first and foremost reflection a concern about taxpayers moreso than those kids whose lives are affected by the phony improvements of the “Texas Miracle.”

    I’m all for taking the burden of that issue off of homeowners’ backs, but um … where do you see the money coming from to replace it? And furthermore, with Robin Hood having a near death experience, how do you pretend to finance the education needs of those most in need of it to escape poverty?


    Great plug … I may try to make it out, but my schedule is rather bleak.

  4. Charles M says:

    Once the public education system is totally broken, maybe we’ll wind up with the hoped for end result.
    If you can afford to educate your children, they get an education. If you can’t, you should have worked harder to get ahead.

    But taxes will be lower and that’s good. Dystopian but good.

  5. Dema says:

    If anyone is interested in being part of a push to restore children’s health care coverage, there is a rally at the Houston Public Library on October 23rd at 6 pm organized by Health Care for All Texas. Those who attend will have the added bonus of hearing my children’s choir from First UU sing. : )

  6. Robin Holzer says:

    I want to call attention to Nicole’s post about The Metropolitan Organization (TMO).

    Facilitated by a handful of professional organizers, TMO is helping institutions (schools, churches, civic clubs, unions) figure out what issues concern their members most and address them effectively. What’s significant is that a couple dozen Houston-area institutions, who together represent more than 15,000 Houston voters, decided that funding for CHIP, health clinics, and schools are issues they want addressed this year in this election cycle.

    The Accountability Session will allow more than 500 TMO members to hear first-hand whether the candidates will support CHIP and health clinics next session. I will be particuarly interested to hear what Heflin, Vo, Wong, and Dougherty have to say to the TMO members from their districts. I expect there to be good media coverage, so look for a writeup in Monday’s Chronicle.

  7. Michael says:

    I am a conservative republican, part of the “religious right”. I spent years working for President Reagan and the ideals he stood for. But today, I am ashamed to say that the so-called “conservative” candidate in this race is Arlene Wohlgemuth. This woman, with the passage of one bill that she authored, heaped hundreds of thousands of dollars of new taxes on Texas citizens and in the process cost thousands of Texans their jobs. Arlene Wohlgemuth is no conservative! I have done all that I can to see to it that the money needed to defeat this woman is there. I, and many, many of those whom she has destoyed economically are ashamed to have her as a Republican and we will continue to do everything we can to insure that she is defeated and removed from the Texas political scene forever.