The Lege Begins: What’s Your Priority?

There’s no doubt that Latinos take a hit every time the Republican-led Texas Legislature meets. $5 billion in cuts to K-12 funding affects Latino kids who make up a majority of all Texas students. $1 billion in higher education cuts affects Latino college students who were made an admissions priority, yet struggle with college preparedness because of the K-12 cuts. Add to that cuts to health care, and, no doubt, a vicious circle appears that threatens to do in the State of Texas.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities released a statement today after the State Comptroller released a higher estimate than expected of the revenue that will be available for the next biennial budget.

“Today Texas lawmakers heard they will have $101.4 billion in General Revenue to work with when writing the 2014-15 state budget. However, $5 billion is needed for the Medicaid IOU, leaving $96.4 billion to barely continue the current barebones budget and leave in place the devastating 2011 cuts to education, health care, and other areas of critical need. In addition, the state’s Rainy Day Fund will have $11.8 billion available to support state services and investments by the end of 2014-15.

“With available revenue and the historically high Rainy Day Fund balance, which together total $108.2 billion, Texas lawmakers have the opportunity to return to the level of services provided five years ago—-before the financial crisis slashed state revenue. If we are willing to use the Rainy Day Fund, we could fund the rapid population growth and inflation while also undoing the devastating 2011 cuts that have left so many Texas families struggling.

“Today’s revenue estimate announcement officially begins this session’s budget writing process. Now, it’s up to state lawmakers to create a budget that reflects our state’s needs and priorities.

“Legislators should use the money available now to invest in the education and health care systems that will help ensure our state’s future prosperity.

If only it was that easy with the vicious Republicans at the helm. I say vicious because their attitude exhibits more than just plain carelessness as elected leaders, but a lack of care for their fellow Texans. Much like Boehner’s Republican Congress, it’s all about paying back their political contributors–the wealthy Texas corporations.

I was having a conversation with a Republican Latino friend from Denver Harbor and we both agreed that somewhere along the line there needs to be middle ground on which to move legislation that takes care of the people, the schoolkids, the college kids, and those who need health care. I even admitted that, as liberal as I am, even I understand the need for compromise. But if his side is going to talk or act crazy, then I’ll sound so left that I’ll put a few Latin American Presidents to shame.

So, while I’d love for the Texas Lege to come together and do the right thing, perhaps discuss the Texas HOPE legislative priorities, I expect for the Latino community to be on the defensive again from Republican attacks. Once Rick Perry rattles about his non-existent voter fraud and sanctuary cities, and when some other righty whines about HB1403 (Texas DREAM Act), Republicans will once again prove themselves a failure. Of course, we will fight back!

But if the Republicans prove me wrong, well, great!

Best of luck to my State Rep. Gene Wu and the rest of my friends in the Lege.

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