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State lawmakers announce harmful 2011-2012 budget for Texas children
(Austin, TX) Late yesterday, the legislative budget board of the Texas legislature filed the first draft of a state appropriations bill that projects deep cuts to vital services for children and other vulnerable Texans. This session it will be especially important for children’s advocates to monitor closely as state lawmakers are forced to balance an estimated $27 billion state budget deficit — representing more than one fourth of the state’s current budget.
Among CDF’s chief concerns is ensuring that these burdens are not placed squarely on the backs of children and the poor. According to a new poll commissioned by several of the state’s major newspapers, more than half of Texas' voters want lawmakers to spare public education and health care programs from spending cuts. In fact, 70 percent of respondents said lawmakers should not cut school spending, and 61 percent said they want no spending cuts on health care programs for children and low- to moderate- income families.
“In times of economic crisis like this, children’s needs continue to grow as resources become less available. Texas cannot afford to take a cuts-only approach to balancing the budget; it has got to take a balanced approach which includes tapping into reserves,” said Dr. Laura Guerra-Cardus, CDF–Texas associate director and policy director. “A budget that relies on cuts alone will cost thousands of jobs, have devastating consequences for our children’s health and education, and deny Texans the opportunity to have any meaningful discussion about our true priorities.”
Today, Children’s Defense Fund – Texas also released its policy agenda for the 2011 legislative session. Included among CDF’s legislative priorities this session are: maintaining an effective Medicaid and CHIP eligibility and delivery system, protecting Texas' public health safety-net infrastructure, and maintaining recent gains in children's health coverage. This session, specific actions will be required to preserve the integrity of CHIP and Children’s Medicaid.
CDF’s priorities also include protecting existing funds for early childhood education, and ensuring that Texas is prepared for successful implementation of major health reform provisions in 2014. Texas must lay the foundation for the state’s compliance with federal requirements outlined in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to be implemented as early as 2014. With a state legislature meeting only every other year, the time available to prepare the necessary statutory authorities will be more limited than in many other states.
“No matter which side of the health reform debate a person is on, one thing is clear — we’ve got to take care of our kids, our future. We must make sure that our elected officials do everything necessary to prioritize and protect children’s health and education, and are held fully accountable for their actions,” said Beth Quill, CDF–Texas’ new executive director.
To make all of this possible, CDF–Texas joins a statewide coalition of advocates in pushing for a balanced approach to addressing the state’s revenue deficit by utilizing new revenue sources and the state’s Rainy Day Fund preserved for extreme occasions, such as these.
Read CDF's policy agenda: http://cdftexas.org/policy-priorities