Texas AFT Speaks Out in House Budget Hearing

Texas AFT spokesman Ted Melina Raab carried that same message before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education in testimony this evening. Melina Raab noted Texas AFT’s strong support for an end to unjustified tax exemptions that subtract billions of dollars a year from the state treasury. He also cited the need to correct the structural revenue deficiency caused by the failure of the 2006 business margins tax as a replacement for lost school property-tax revenue.

Melina Raab also challenged the budget proposal to cut the state’s contribution to the Teacher Retirement System pension fund and to cut in half the state’s share of health-care costs for TRS retirees. This destructive budget also cuts funding drastically for community colleges and their employees’ benefits—at the very moment that the legislature proposes to put even more reliance on community colleges and their staff to deliver higher-education opportunity to Texas students.

Children, their families, TRS retirees, school and college faculty and staff all would be the front-line victims of the unbalanced approach to the current revenue shortfall in HB 1, the budget bill introduced in the House. Beyond that immediate harm, there would be the overall cumulative effect of all these cutbacks—particularly the loss of nearly a quarter of a million Texas jobs if these cuts take effect—on the state’s  economy. As Texas AFT’s Melina Raab said today, this impact could be enough to send the Texas unemployment rate above 10 percent (from the current 8.3 percent) and could stifle the state’s recovery from recession. The right alternative, he said, is  a balanced approach to balancing the budget that will protect schoolchildren and  their families and make necessary investments to secure our state’s future prosperity.