by State Senator Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa
Texas is in the red. A $27 billion shortfall is not a figure we can reduce by
tightening our belts. There is a lot of rhetoric surrounding the budget. During
campaign season, we heard cries to lower state spending, lower taxes and shrink
the role of government. Now, the numbers are out, and there is a thunder of
public outcry rolling across the state of Texas.
We can't cut our way out of this deficit without negatively affecting our
economic recovery and thousands of Texans. We need a responsible, balanced
approach to the budget. Reduce spending, demand efficiency, eliminate
duplication. We need to tap the Rainy Day Fund, consider revenue sources, and
revisit the structural deficit created when the legislature reduced property tax
revenue for our schools.
Cuts in spending don't eliminate necessity; it increases local spending and
taxation. Local governments, lacking the revenue raising tools of the state, are
forced to raise property taxes to fund and support programs like schools and
healthcare. State budget cuts simple pass the buck to already-strapped Texas
families and local governments.
Texas already provides the bare minimum - we rank, per Capita, 46th in tax
revenue, 47th in expenditures - leaving local governments to pick up the tab.
Our roads, schools and institutions of higher learning, hospitals, research
centers - all things necessary to global economic competitiveness - depend on
Our population is growing, expanding at three times the rate of our state tax
base. We are choosing not to raise revenues for future investments, even though
investing in education, roads, and infrastructure yields great economic returns
and social benefits - jobs, higher wages, and innovation.
Texas will always be number one for me. Not because we execute more prisoners,
insure fewer children, and emit more toxic chemicals than any other state.
Certainly not because we have the least amount of people over 25 with a high
school diploma, rank last in per capita spending on mental health, and have the
largest population of uninsured non-elderly women. This is not my vision of
Texas. We can do better.
Our financial situation is sobering - a $27 billion shortfall is dead serious.
It's time for action, not reaction. The time for defending the status quo has
passed. Texas should create jobs, not lose 800,000. Texas should educate, not
lay off teachers or weaken our Pre-K programs. We should protect the most
vulnerable, not close hundreds of nursing homes.
This is unacceptable. We need a working budget that is easy on Texas taxpayers
and incorporates the services we need to be number one. Let's work together this
legislative session to find solutions to our economic afflictions, for a better
future. For a better Texas.
Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, a Vietnam veteran, has spent over 20 years in the
legislature. He has participated in the budget writing process of the last ten
biennia, growing his expertise and involvement through his appointment as Vice
Chair to the Senate Committee on Finance for the second time in a row and his
membership in the Legislative Budget Board.