With the opportunities our state has the budget this session could have have been so much more. But instead it comes up short of what is needed. The cruel conditions that are allowed to persist in Texas, while it’s proclaimed to be a miracle economy, is deplorable. Via CBPP, Texas Model Isn’t All That It Seems.
- Texas has the second-highest share of minimum-wage workers of any state. In 2012, 7.5 percent of Texas hourly workers were paid at or below the minimum wage, more than any other state except Idaho and well above the 4.7 percent national average.
- In part because wages are low, a large share of Texans are poor. Some 17.9 percent of Texas families live in poverty according to the most recent Census data (2010-2011 average), the seventh-highest rate in the nation and well above the national average of 15.1 percent (see graph).
- Twenty-four percent of Texans lack health insurance, well above the national average of 16.0 percent. Many Texas employers don’t providehealth insurance for their workers. Just over half of the state’s non-elderly residents have employer-provided health insurance — the fifth-worst rate among the states. And Texas’ Medicaid program fails to cover many who can’t afford health insurance, yet Governor Perry has rejected health reform’s Medicaid expansion.
- Texas invests less than most states in education, healthcare, infrastructure and other public services important to quality of life. Those services have suffered as a result. For example, the state ranks 43th among states in education spending per pupil and is tied for last in the share of its population with a high school diploma.
Texas also spends less on health care, per person, than all but four states and has fewer doctors per resident than all but eight states. In addition, Texas ranks 46th in the nation on highway spending.
Regarding this lets look at what a couple of local state representatives had to say about what went on during the legislative session.
Via Capital Tonight at YNN state Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) gave some of his thoughts on the session that was and the special session. The most interesting part was when he responded to why nothing was done on transportation. He said there is a lot of money involved with three issues – education, water, and transportation – and that, “It’s a big ask to do all three in one legislative session”.
He knows that his party doesn’t want to spend money on these kinds of things. They’d rather not do what’s needed, raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations in Texas, and instead neglect the needs of our state. As has been stated before here many times we can’t expect people who think government is the problem to use government to help people.
One of Williamson County’s other members of The Lege, Rep. Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park), recently published an Op-Ed in the Statesman, Balancing the Texas Budget.
Over the last two years the Texas economy was the best performing in the nation. The leading sector, then and now, is oil and gas, which not only created tens of thousands of new jobs, but also contributed substantially to state tax collections. The robust Texas economy assisted by low taxes, low regulation and civil lawsuit reform filled state coffers. However, this year — when more than 40 new members like myself arrived at the Capitol — we found that last session’s bills were immediately due.
He then went on to explain all the money the “robust economy” had to use to pay for what it shorted the the previous budget (last sessions bad budget estimate). Much of those “collections” he refers to went to the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), aka the Rainy Day Fund (RDF), and none was allowed to be spent on transportation. Of course poverty is never mentioned.
Texas can’t succeed unless it takes care of all of it’s issues, which are more then three. Obviously there’s a better way to do things then our current system that continues to allow so many to struggle and suffer while billions of dollars just sit there. Of course putting a fourth, Medicaid expansion, on the agenda would be way too much. So they shrug that off with and ideological dodge.
It’s much less expensive and much more compassionate to provide health care to those that need it. Especially since the federal government will foot most of the bill and it’s money Texas taxpayers have already paid. Our state cannot succeed in the future without a well educated and healthy populace that can travel around efficiently. Those things can’t be done on the cheap. And it’s easy to see that the Texas budget comes up short.
[UPDATE]: Here’s state Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) on a local radio show this week. He appears to be on board with using the ESF to pay for transportation, like SJR 2. He calls it “diverting future tax revenue” that would go to the RDF, but that’s using the money that would have gone into the RDF. But of course when the oil boom ends, which is inevitably will, so will that money for transportation.