There have been several reports from yesterday’s lunch Lt. Gov. David Dewhust had with the capitol press corps to lay out his legislative priorities for the 81st session. From those reports his comments were on wide range of subjects, and what seemed at times rather “scattershot”.
Most reports from the get together focused on his comments on college tuition, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst wants tuition lowered – let’s be honest tuition will not be lowered, they just might not raise it- and what he said about CHIP and health care, Lt. Gov.: Texas needs major health-care reforms – that’s overstating the obvious. Going so far as to say this about CHIP:
“If I had a magic wand, I would get them all enrolled,” Dewhurst said. Asked how he would pay for the increased costs during fiscally tough times, Dewhurst said “we’ll just have to find the money.”
“I can’t imagine a person with a heart not wanting to make sure that kids get their shots, their immunizations and get an annual physical,” Dewhurst said.
That coming from the same man who two years ago was trying to keep a 6 month enrollment scheme for CHIP, which was responsible for dropping the number of eligible children in the program significantly after the 2003.
David Dewhurst, is resisting House efforts to return CHIP to its original 12-month enrollment plan, which proponents say is necessary to replenish the CHIP insured rolls and avoid losing precious matching federal dollars. With his eye on a 2010 gubernatorial run, Dewhurst favors the current six-month enrollment requirement, which health-care advocates say defeats the program’s purpose, because it leaves too many children in the lurch when paperwork processing goes awry or a deadline is missed. The HHSC implemented the six-month requirement in response to the Legislature’s slash-and-burn directives on social-services programs. Drawing on the knowledge that 25% of CHIP recipients either leave or are dropped from the program at the end of each 12-month period, HHSC officials came up with a strategy for unloading even more kids from its rolls – reduction by regulation.
“They reasoned that if you doubled the number of children [dropped from CHIP] by having families enroll every six months, you’ll have twice as many kids leaving the program,” said Anne Dunkelberg, a health-care policy expert with the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities. As a consequence, Texas CHIP enrollment is currently 184,000 children below the levels of September 2003, when the health-insurance program was just beginning to blossom.
While it’s always good to see a politician come around on an issue it may be hard to take Dewhurst at his word on this one – let’s wait for action. From this report by KVUE’s Elise Hu, Dewhurst’s Top Priorities, he said quite a bit, and some of it seemed pretty hard to square with the impending budget shortfall.
Proposes drawing down a little from rainy day fund, wants to avoid the kind of across-the-board spending cuts we saw in 2003
..Blasts tuition increases, “cannot price out” students, touts a 35% increase in financial aid as accomplishment of 2007 session.
Wants $20-25 billion to fix roads/infrastructure
Wants to revamp the system in Texas, laments how much the US spends on healthcare because of the way doctors are compensated, wants all eligible kids on CHIP. “We’ll just have to find the money,” when asked how to pay for that.
This riff got a little opaque toward the end… wants more people on the border, compares the number of border patrol to number of cops in Los Angeles and New York to show how few agents are on the border. Then he says: “We’re doing as much as we can in Texas… At the end of the day, we’re all from some place else. Let’s just come together.”
While some of this may have been Dewhurst thinking out loud, at times he seems to almost directly contradict himself, like on immigration. $20 – 25 billion for transportation is definitely needed, but where does he propose to get it? Especially since one report had him saying he doesn’t want to index the gas tax. And where will the money for health care “reform” (a pilot program), CHIP, and his other priorities? Some of these items may be able to be paid for with money from the federal stimulus package. Reports are that Texas could receive $15.5 billion…in federal stimulus.
It’s not clear to what end Dewhurst is prattling on about these wide and varied topics. His new CHIP stance is not helping him on his right flank. But his change of heart on CHIP and wanting to do away with the TAKS test are items that will help him with teachers and more Democratic leaning voters. Maybe this is Dewhurst being Dewhurst, who knows. But is seems pretty clear that he’s trying to distance himself from some of the more extreme stances that hurt GOP candidates in Texas in the recent past.