A good statement of the real budget issue before the 2011 state legislature was heard in today’s hearing of the Texas Senate Finance Committee. Today’s hearing topic was funding for health services. It came when a provider of services for individuals with autism, was explaining how early interventions can prevent the need for later, more costly long-term care. She prefaced her plea by saying “I know you have to make cuts.” When she finished, Sen. John Whitmire, Democrat of Houston, had this to say: “Let me just clearly state: We don’t have to make the cuts. We’re a wealthy state, we’re just not paying for basic services. Your being here will help us find the resources…one, the Rainy Day Fund, and maybe even look for additional revenue if necessary. That’s why we’re going through this process.”
Whitmire’s statement struck two important notes. He made it clear that the extreme cuts built into the first draft of the state budget, for everything from education to health care to public safety, are not a done deal. If these cuts happen, it will be by the deliberate choice of the legislature and governor, because the state has the resource base to fund essential public services. And he was exactly right to tell that witness that her participation in the process is vitally needed in order to help the legislature do what’s right for Texas children, the elderly, the disabled, and their families.
Texas AFT suggests a couple of ways for you to get involved, even if you cannot come to Austin and testify at a hearing the way that autism-services provider did today. Go to the Texas AFT Web site, www.texasaft.org, and take part in our online message campaigns in defense of state quality standards like 22-to-1 class-size limits in grades K-4, which are threatened by the extreme budget cuts currently proposed. And go to www.txforward.org, where you can find out about the coalition effort called Texas Forward, which is fighting against the cuts-only budget and for a balanced approach to balancing the state budget, by tapping the Rainy Day Fund and additional revenue sources.