Today, House members got their first look at the state’s proposed budget, as filed by House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, (R- Waxahachie). The introduced version of House Bill 1 gives us a glimpse at how the new Republican supermajority in the House intends to address the nearly $27 Billion deficit.
HB 1 proposes a number of cuts that will hurt Texas families, especially seniors and children.
HB 1 would kick nearly 200,000 children out of Pre-Kindergarten Early Start and Early Childhood School Ready Programs. In total, $740 million would be cut. This, despite a study on the Texas Education Agency saying that Pre-K is a “fundamental part of educating disadvantaged children.”
Sadly, the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute endorses this cut, stating that “the long term benefits of Pre-K are disputed at best.” On the contrary, numerous case studies have shown that educating our youngest learners is vital to their success in grade school.
HB1 would also rob $9.8 billion from the Permanent School Fund, which is the primary source of funding for public schools in Texas. Make no mistake, when we cut money from education on the state level, we are forcing local school districts to raise taxes to cover the gap. There is nothing conservative, much less- smart, about robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The budget also proposes to reduce funding for nursing home payments by $1.57 billion less than what the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) requested for the biennium. The average nursing home resident is a woman over the age of 80, who has used all of her assets to pay for a nursing home. This is a case of the Republicans balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable and those who can least afford it.
HB1 also takes a cleaver to higher education in Texas, proposing a $1.15 Billion cut in programs for “Closing the Gaps” on diversity enrollment, Including the TEXAS Grant Program, which many disadvantaged students rely on as their only means to attend a public university.
HB1 would also eliminate 9,600 state employee jobs across Texas’ state agencies. This hits home in House District 51, which includes the second most state employees of the 150 districts in Texas.
There are many more cuts than those I’ve discussed here and the scale of our budgetary challenges are quickly becoming realized by the media. While there is sure to be a session-long battle, Democrats in the House have already begun debating Republicans on the merits of issues like fully funding public education, reducing job cuts and mitigating the harm to our most vulnerable citizens. This may wind up being the most challenging legislative session in modern Texas history and no less than the long term health of our state is at stake.