Texas House budget includes anti-gay measure, leaves out needed funds for AIDS drug program

Posted on 04 Apr 2011 at 10:13am
Rep. Garnet Coleman

The Texas House approved a budget Sunday that includes massive cuts to public education, Medicaid and, well, just about everything else. The House budget, which now goes to the Senate, would trim $23 billion from current state and federal spending over the next two years. Democrats in the House, who are outnumbered 2-to-1, say the cuts will have disastrous effects on key services.

As we noted the other day, the House budget includes an amendment that would require public colleges and universities in Texas with LGBT resource centers to spend an equal amount, dollar for dollar, on centers promoting “traditional and family values.” The amdendment from Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, passed by a margin of 110-24.

The House budget does not include any additional money for the Texas HIV Medication Program, which will need $19.2 million more over the next two years to meet increased demand. The HIV Medication Program provides life-sustaining medication to 14,000 low-income people with HIV/AIDS. Last week, a Senate budget panel recommended providing the additional money. The Senate’s version of the budget is expected to include $10 billion more than the House, and the two measures will then have to be reconciled. As one lawmaker put it, “Thank God for the Senate.”

After the jump is the reaction to the budget of Democratic State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who called the budget “shameful.” Incidentally, Coleman proposed an amendment to the budget that would have required school districts to report incidents of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The amendment failed by a vote of 97-49.

Writes Coleman of the final House budget: “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.”

Texas House Budget: It’s Shameful

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.

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments