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Falcon International Bank
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Suite 103
San Antonio, Texas 78224
210.932.2568
Toll Free 1.800.459.0119
Fax 210.932.2572
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Maverick County Courthouse
501 Main Street
Suite 114
Eagle Pass, Texas 78852
830.758.0294
Fax 830.758.0402
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Suite 100
Pecos, Texas 79772
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Fax 432.447.0275
Capitol Office
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
512.463.0119
Fax 512.463.1017
March 25, 2011 - Session Watch

Session Watch: A Weekly Column on the 82nd Texas Legislature

By Sen. Carlos Uresti

The House Appropriations Committee finished the first phase of its work this week, and the spending plan it produced for the 2012-13 biennium should be of great concern to all Texans — regardless of their political persuasions or economic philosophies.

Austere, lean, bare bones. None of these terms goes far enough in describing the level of cuts this bill would impose on public education and fundamental health and human service programs.

The bill is based on the notion that cuts alone can close a budget deficit of $27 billion and still adequately provide for school kids, special needs children, child abuse prevention, seniors, and mentally and physically handicapped Texans who can't entirely fend for themselves.

The Foundation School Program, which provides the lion's share of state funds to public schools, is underfunded by almost $8 billion, while Medicaid would have to do with $6 billion less. Health providers under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Plan, CHIP, would suffer an across the board 10 percent cut.

Some of these Medicaid cuts would be magnified because the state will lose federal matching funds as well.

This bill ignores the increased demand for education and health services over the next two years brought by Texas' growing population. It does not anticipate that lawmakers will come up with any additional tax revenues, and incredibly, it does not use one dime of the state's Rainy Day Fund.

The result: teacher layoffs, increased class-size ratios, school closings, fewer loans for college students, rollbacks in Child Protective Services programs, and drastic reductions in reimbursements for foster care families, nursing homes, and doctors who serve children and the elderly through Medicaid.

On Monday I attended a Capitol rally organized by the parents and caregivers of children with severe disabilities. If the proposed cuts for home health care programs are enacted, many of these children can no longer be cared for at home and fewer institutions will be able to accept them.

The stories these families have to tell are touching. Many of these kids are immobile; some are unable to communicate effectively with others; some are barely aware of their surroundings. But they all have something in common — their parents' love and commitment to keeping their families together.

Without the support of home health care providers, the future of these families is uncertain.

Sadly, many other Texas children are at great risk of death and injury because of their parents. The programs designed to protect them — the foster care system, Prevention and Early Intervention, kinship assistance, family based services, adoption subsidies, the Nurse-Family Partnership and the relative caregiver program — are all in store for debilitating cuts.

Make no mistake. Under budget reductions of this magnitude, children will suffer, along with our ability to give them a proper education.

I do not believe that's the message voters sent in the last election. Yes, they want the Legislature to spend wisely and efficiently. They want government and those who receive government services to be responsible. I support those goals as well.

But most people — whether Democrat, Republican, or independent; liberal, moderate or conservative — know we cannot move Texas forward by regarding education, sick children and infirm adults as money-wasting line items in the state budget.

Lean, not mean. That's what Texans voted for in November.

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©2011 Carlos Uresti Campaign  •  A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer  •  P.O. Box 240431  •  San Antonio, Texas  •  78224
www.carlosuresti.com