Budget Conferees Take the Ax To Teachers and Ronnie Earle, Good News On CHIP

Posted in Health Care, SD 5, Teachers, The Budget, Corruption, Around The State, 80th Legislature, The Lege at 10:45 am by wcnews

Startlegram has the story, Panel votes to reduce teachers’ pay raise.

In a fast and furious spurt of late-night budget writing Thursday, Texas lawmakers moved to roughly cut in half an across-the-board teacher pay increase approved earlier this year. The House had voted for an $800 yearly increase, but a panel of negotiators knocked it down to about $400 Thursday night.

In exchange, the House-Senate budget committee — handing Gov. Rick Perry a victory but angering teachers groups — increased funding for incentive pay programs for Texas educators.


Earlier in the day, the Texas prosecutor who helped end the political career of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was poised to lose money and investigative manpower Thursday, when state lawmakers moved to cut proposed funding from his Public Integrity Unit.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, is responsible for policing the ethical conduct of state elected officials and enforcing anti-corruption laws in the state capital — where Republicans hold every statewide office and both houses of the Legislature.

Earle said if the funding decision is signed into law he could lose up to three full-time employees, hampering his ability to prosecute waste, fraud and public corruption. He called it a “significant loss.”

“They’re whittling away at our ability to enforce the law,” Earle said. “They’re really cutting off the taxpayers’ noses to spite their own faces.”


“I think it ought to be fully funded,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. “I think it has a real important role, and we shouldn’t be cutting their budget.”

Elsewhere, the House and Senate negotiators decided to increase funding and ease eligibility requirements for kids who receive healthcare under the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

Sen. Whitmire is continuing to work his way back into the good graces of Democrats with actions like this. For more on the teacher pay raise here’s what the TFT had to say:

The House budget conferees also this evening gave up more than half of the $583 million that the House had voted to invest in a cost-of-living raise for teachers, counselors, nurses, and librarians. The legislature’s budget staff estimated that what’s left would provide an annual raise of only $425, which equals less than 1 percent for the average teacher. That translates into a minuscule $35.42 a month in gross pay-before you deduct taxes, before you take out 0.65 percent for TRS-Care, and before you deduct 6.58 percent for the TRS pension fund, if Sen. Duncan gets his way. For the average teacher, the net raise after taxes and deductions likely would boil down to less than $25 a month.

In other words, a pay raise of less than 1 percent will be tied to a 3-percent increase in pension deductions for 300,000 teachers and others on the state minimum salary schedule. Meanwhile, 300,000 or so other school employees will receive no pay raise at all but will have the same 3-percent increase in pension costs deducted from their paychecks. You have to give Sen. Duncan and company credit-it takes a certain ingenuity to come up with a plan this bad.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what the heck happened to the other $303 million that was in the House-proposed pay raise. The answer is that the budget conferees would plow that money back into the incentive schemes passed last session, tying bonuses largely to students’ test scores. In fact, for this purpose, the conferees magically managed to find an extra $40 million, goosing the total for incentives up to $342.8 million. The pay and benefit priorities that have emerged from the back rooms at the capitol are pretty clear, and clearly wrong.

There is good new on CHIP, Budget writers expand CHIP benefit.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program would be expanded under action by the Senate Finance Committee, which voted 12-1 to allow youngsters to be enrolled for a year at a time as long as some families’ eligibility is checked more often. The committee action sends the measure to the full Senate.


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, was the only “no” vote on HB109. He has voiced concern about the cost of 12-month eligibility.

Thanks for bringing us back to reality Senator.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.