State Comptroller Susan Combs has been touring the state warning of the dangers of rising Medicaid costs (the “Big Red Monster” as she calls it) and proclaiming that we spend too much money on public education, even though Texas ranks near the bottom nationwide in spending per pupil, and lawmakers cut funding by $5.4 billion in the last legislative session. The comptroller was even labeled with a “Pants on Fire” ruling by PolitiFact for trying to perpetuate the myth that the legislature didn’t cut school funding.
Education and health care aren’t the problems. The real need is for leadership in state government to use the Rainy Day Fund in the short term to reverse cuts, and then to fix the ongoing $10 billion hole in the budget from the structural deficit created by lawmakers in 2006. That’s not only our take, it’s the key message of Texas Forward, a coalition of some 50 organizations–including Texas AFT–promoting a balanced approach to state budget decisions.
Texas Forward members know that Medicaid is a lifeline for millions of families with children, elderly parents in nursing homes and family members with a lifelong disability, and quality public education is the key to our state’s future prosperity, preparing our youth for higher education and good jobs.
Texas Forward has prepared a petition telling state officials: “Let’s not drag schools OR healthcare backwards!” You can sign the petition on their Web site. The petition reads:
Tell Susan Combs and State Leadership:
The problem is not Medicaid, public education, or any other essential public service; the problem is the priorities of state leadership. We need a real plan to meet the needs of Texans!
Fix the hole: We must fix the $10 billion hole in the budget that state leaders put there in 2006, leaving Texas without the revenue it needs for health care and education.
Use the Rainy Day Fund: Stop prioritizing tax giveaways over investments in our children’s future. In the short run, use our Rainy Day Fund for its intended purpose, to maintain vital services in this Rainy Day economy. The Fund replenishes on its own, and when matched with a fix for that $10 billion hole, we can give our schools and kids what they need.
Have the courage to lead: We need real solutions to our revenue crisis. Take an honest look at the challenges that our rapidly growing population faces, and stop using rhetoric that asks us to choose between quality education or quality health care for our children.