Sunday, March 13, 2011

Budget cuts ripped at town hall

By Francisco Vara-Orta | My San Antonio
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Raising taxes and recalling Gov. Rick Perry from office were among the public's suggestions voiced during a town hall meeting Tuesday night organized by legislators to discuss looming state budget cuts.

The suggestions took the two legislators there, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Joaquin Castro, both San Antonio Democrats, by surprise.

Van de Putte audibly whispered to Castro that no one had mentioned a tax increase during a public forum a few weeks ago.

“All of us are avoiding the obvious solution and we are scared to say it — that is to raise taxes,” Mark Hammond of San Antonio said during the question-and-answer session. “I am asking you to raise our taxes if that means we can avoid these cuts and hurting our children. We are willing to do this.”

About 200 people attended the two-hour meeting at Cisneros Elementary School on the West Side, and 26 people asked questions or made comments, two via a live webcast. While no one raised their voice or got overly emotional, all urged Castro and Van de Putte to go back to Austin and fight the proposed cuts.

Many laid the blame for the shortfall at the feet of one person: Perry.

“We are all in this together: parents, businessmen and community members across every district in the state of Texas,” said Mike Espinoza, who said he thinks Perry's push for privatization of schools is what is behind the budget cuts in public education. “None of these cuts are acceptable and we can always do a recall.”

Van de Putte said public opposition to the cuts in education and social services is starting to sway legislators about the need to tap the state's reserve, the so-called rainy day fund.

Attendees were urged by Castro and Van de Putte to continue to write legislators to ask them to stop any cuts to education and social services and to attend rallies Saturday and Monday at the state Capitol.

“You have to get your neighbors involved,” Van De Putte said. “Don't lose hope.”

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