If the Texas GOP increases it’s power this election cycle and is able to institute their much ballyhooed austerity plan, things will get much, much worse for poor and working Texans. Here’s who was forced to sacrifice in 2003, the last time Texas faced a multi-billion dollar shortfall with Perry as governor:
That 2003 budget-balancing act included reductions that knocked about 220,000 youngsters out of the Children’s Health Insurance Program; deregulated university tuition rates, which meant a big jump in college costs; increased fees by an estimated $2.7 billion; and reduced benefits for state employees.
From what this DMN story over the weekend, it will be more of the same this time around, Legislature likely to cut deep to meet possible $25 billion budget gap.
Texas faces a budget crisis of truly daunting proportions, with lawmakers likely to cut sacrosanct programs such as education for the first time in memory and to lay off hundreds if not thousands of state workers and public university employees.
Texas’ GOP leaders, their eyes on the Nov. 2 election, have played down the problem’s size, even as the hole in the next two-year cycle has grown in recent weeks to as much as $24 billion to $25 billion. That’s about 25 percent of current spending.
The gap is now proportionately larger than the deficit California recently closed with cuts and fee increases, its fourth dose of budget misery since September 2008.
Against the backdrop of the acrimonious campaign between Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White, Texas’ top elected and budget officials have guarded even more tightly than usual against leaks of information. But bad numbers continue to dribble out in legislative testimony and agency reports.
The bottom line: Public schools, college students and government employees, not just poor and needy Texans, might very well lose money, grants, benefits and even livelihoods during and after next year’s legislative session. [Emphasis added]
“They’ll have to cut,” said former Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, the House’s budget chief during the last budget meltdown, in 2003. “When you look at the big numbers, I just don’t think there’s any way that you make it match without making some reduction in education, both higher [education] and public education,” or grades K-12.
Two officials familiar with the budget process, who said they were not authorized to speak publicly about current deliberations, said the introductory spending blueprint will contain cuts touching a broad swath of Texans.
They said the base budget, if passed, would force universities and junior colleges to raise tuition again, while slashing financial aid. Teachers, some of whom keep asking lawmakers how big their pay raises will be next year, would be lucky to keep their jobs after the state scales back aid to public schools, the officials said.
“There are going to be entire agencies zeroed out and a lot of employees and programs cut to unsustainable levels,” one official said.
The other official said he’s unsure how many Republicans could support so many cuts.
Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, the House’s chief education budget writer, said he sees no way public schools will be spared if the GOP majority rules out raising new revenue.
Hochberg said no-tax-hike pledges by many Republican colleagues ignore Texas’ dire need to improve high school and college graduation rates, so it can capture higher-paying jobs.
“We’ve been following a path of trying to be the cheapest state to do business in,” Hochberg said. “To the extent we continue … we’re destined to be behind not only the rest of the world, but other states in our ability to be economically prosperous.”
They will balance the budget on the backs of poor and working Texans, while the wealthy and corporations skate free. It’s key to realize that it’s always mentioned what poor and working Texans will HAVE to give up, but nothing is ever mentioned about any sacrifice the wealthy in Texas will have to make. Because they’re never expected to by those in power in this state. There is no equal sacrifice in the Texas budget. It would be much easier to fill this massive budget hole if everyone was asked to sacrifice.
Cutting public education and cutting more Texans out of higher education, does not bode well for Texas’ economic future. It makes the number one economic development program, a good education, less attainable. Anyone who thinks an austerity program in Texas will actually help our long-term economy is just ignoring reality. And laying off and/or furloughing state employees and public school teachers will just contract economic activity even further.
What’s needed is what’s not coming, government investment in it’s people and infrastructure. The reason it’s not coming is because those with means would have to give up some of what they have, in order for that investment to be made. And that’s not going to happen until things get worse.