STATEMENT: Investing in Human Infrastructure will Move Texas Forward!

November 4, 2013

(TEXAS) - The November 5th constitutional amendment election is right around the corner, and lots of folks are talking about Prop 6 - the water issue on the ballot. Prop 6 would transfer $2 billion from Texas' Rainy Day Fund to newly created state water funds to help finance projects under the state's water plan. A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed that while Texans support the water measure by a 2-1 margin, an even greater majority of 73% ranked addressing public education funding above both water and roads as “very important.”


The state of Texas has more than enough money to both fund water and roads projects and invest in our state’s human infrastructure needs, such as education and health care. A recent study by the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association found that Texas collected $4.5 billion in oil and gas severance taxes in 2013 with $2.5 billion of that funneling into the rainy day fund, setting an all-time record. Even with the ballot measures this year and in 2014, this record-breaking trend isn’t expected to change anytime soon.


Texans should expect state leaders to prioritize public schools and health care as much as water and roads. We have the money to make it happen – the Rainy Day Fund has enough to support these investments, while continuing to grow its healthy balance. We need elected officials to invest in the future of our state and commit to moving Texas Forward!

ABOUT TEXAS FORWARD:


TEXAS FORWARD is a coalition of organizations that believes Texans deserve strong, safe, and healthy communities, and the opportunity to realize their potential. The member organizations represent a broad spectrum of interests, but all believe that meeting the needs of Texans and moving our state forward to greater prosperity and opportunity will require more than just belt-tightening and cuts in education, healthcare and other vital public services.

Contact:
Mia Ibarra
512.320.0222, ext. 115

STATEMENT: Texas Must Invest in Infrastructure to Ensure a Strong Economy

June 12, 2013

(TEXAS) - Today the Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on a proposed constitutional amendment to transfer funding from the Rainy Day Fund to fund transportation projects (SJR 2). Texas Forward released the following statement:

 

Texas Forward supports using the Rainy Day Fund both for human and physical infrastructure in Texas rather than hoarding billions of dollars while other vital needs, such as education and health care, go unmet. In addition to consider using the Fund for transportation needs, state leaders should support use of the historically-high Rainy Day Fund balance to fully reverse public education cuts that occurred in 2011 and to ensure access to health care coverage for low-income Texas' families. 

 

Disputes over the appropriate use of Rainy Day Fund money will continue so long as the Legislature fails to address the larger structural issue: Texas’ inequitable and inadequate revenue system. Shuffling money among under-funded programs and shifting the cost of public services off the state budget conceal the true need for more state resources. A truly balanced budget is supported by taxes that are imposed equitably on families of different income levels and businesses in different sectors.

 

We support investing in public infrastructure to ensure a strong economy for our future. Texas has long-term funding needs for education, health care, water and transportation – and we should develop sustainable revenue streams for all of them.

STATEMENT: Lawmakers Can Do the Right Thing and Invest in Future Generations This Session

May 13, 2013

(TEXAS) - The best way to create jobs and secure a strong economy for Texas is to invest in our future, but instead of restoring funding to pre-recession levels, lawmakers are passing more tax cuts and giving away revenue that would otherwise be available to fund education, health care, water, roads, and other needed services. The House has approved over a billion dollars in new tax giveaways while neither the Senate nor the House budget fully covers population growth or inflation, which means even more cuts to services. The Texas Forward coalition released the following statement and recommendations for the Texas Legislature:

“The budget is a reflection of our priorities and values as a state. Texans deserve quality education, healthy communities, and economic opportunity. Instead of leaving billions of dollars on the table and passing new tax giveaways, the Texas Legislature should prioritize public investments in future generations.”

Recommendations to Lawmakers:
- First, our lawmakers should raise the spending cap, which leaves dollars on the table. The current cap is artificially low due to the devastating cuts to services in 2011. With a simple majority vote, they can use the money Texas is already projected to have on hand and keep schools and communities from falling further behind.
- Second, legislators should use the dollars being socked away in the economic stabilization fund (sometimes called the rainy day fund). The fund was created to help sustain services during tough economic times.
- Third, the Legislature should have the courage to lead and tell the governor that now is not the time for new tax giveaways for businesses. Small businesses need Texas to invest in our human and physical infrastructure, and every dollar Texas gives up in revenue is a dollar lost for schools, college access, health care, roads, water, and other needed services.

Services Texans Need More Than Over $1 Billion in New Tax Giveaways:

- $200 million for Pre-K grants for over 100,000 students
- $544 million for CHIP to cover almost 460,000 kids
- $18 million for the Veterans Commission
- $85 million to raise wages for community caregivers to low-income elderly and people with disabilities to a floor of $8.50/hour
- $35 million for the Professional Nursing Shortage Reduction Program
- $710 million for TEXAS Grants/financial aid
- $267 million for child support enforcement at Attorney General’s Office

Texas Forward Steering Committee Members:
Texans Care for Children
Methodist Healthcare Ministries
Texas AFT
Progress Texas
Center for Public Policy Priorities
Texas Well and Healthy
National Association of Social Workers-Texas Chapter
Texas State Employees Union
Coalition of Texans with Disabilities
Texas State Teachers Association
Texas AFL-CIO
Communication Workers of America, District 6
Texas Organizing Project


(full list of Texas Forward members)

 

Take Action Today to Move Texas Forward!

STATEMENT: Texas Can’t Afford to Give Away Revenue!

April 15, 2013

(TEXAS) - Today Governor Perry held a press conference calling for more tax breaks, despite the fact that Texas already gives up tens of billions of dollars each year in tax exemptions and both the House and Senate budget proposals for the next biennium fall woefully short of restoring funding to state services. Texas Forward released the following statement:

 

“Meaningful investments in education, health care, water, and other areas are necessary to ensure the prosperity of our state. In order to afford investments in future generations – for education, health care, transportation, and water, among other critically underfunded needs – Texas needs to scrub the tax code of outmoded and wasteful tax breaks instead of giving away even more revenue.”

 

TEXAS FORWARD is a coalition of organizations that believes Texans deserve strong, safe, and healthy communities, and the opportunity to realize their potential. The member organizations represent a broad spectrum of interests, but all believe that meeting the needs of Texans and moving our state forward to greater prosperity and opportunity will require more than just belt-tightening and cuts in education, healthcare and other vital public services.

 

Take Action Today to Move Texas Forward!

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STATEMENT: Budget Writers Hoard Billions - More Cuts for Texas Services

April 2, 2013

(TEXAS) – The Texas House of Representatives will debate the 2014-2015 state budget this Thursday. The House version of the budget invests even less in general revenue than the Senate version adopted in March. Neither the Senate nor the House budget fully covers population growth or inflation, which means even more cuts to services. The Texas Forward coalition released the following statement:

 

“We need a budget that will invest in the future of Texas by fully funding what is most important to our state: quality public schools, health care coverage for families, and long overdue improvements to our state's road and water systems. Budget writers should not hoard billions of dollars while Texas children, the elderly and the vulnerable continue to suffer the consequences of unnecessary funding cuts.”

 

The legislature can vote to invest beyond the artificial spending limit by a simple majority and to use the nearly $12 billion available in the Rainy Day Fund by a 2/3 vote.


Take Action!

STATEMENT: Senate budget means more cuts for schools, health care, and other services

March 20, 2013

(TEXAS) – The Texas State Senate passed their 2014-2015 budget today. Senate Finance workgroups wanted $8.1 billion more in General Revenue than the Senate budget as introduced would have spent ($89 billion). CSSB 1 is $3 billion, or 3%, short. The budget contains more cuts despite having enough projected revenue and Rainy Day Fund money to restore funding to vital services. The Texas Forward Steering Committee released the following statement:


“The best way to create jobs and secure a strong economy for Texas is to invest in our future. The Senate budget spends $3 billion less than is required to both maintain services at the current, bare-bones level, without even considering what should be spent to invest in the future of Texas. The Senate budget undermines our ability to build a strong, sustainable economy for Texas.”


"This budget fails to restore the devastating cuts made to education in 2011, it fails to provide any funding for expanding Medicaid, and it needlessly leaves billions in unspent revenue on the table instead of investing in future generations of Texans.”

STATEMENT: Supplemental Bill Tries to Build a House without Laying the Foundation -

Changing the date of a school payment does nothing to improve our public schools

March 5, 2013
(AUSTIN, TEXAS) - The Texas Senate approved House Bill 10, a general revenue supplemental appropriations measure for the 2012-2013 budget that pays outstanding bills for Medicaid. Additionally, the bill undoes a budgeting trick on payments to public schools.

 

The steering committee of Texas Forward released the following statement about House Bill 10, as passed by the Senate:

 

"The Texas Legislature is trying to build a house without laying the foundation for a strong economy that invests in our future. Our children deserve an all-of-the-above approach that increases funding for our public schools.

 

"Just changing a payment date by a few days does nothing to strengthen education for our students now. Instead, the bill focuses on something that is not an urgent priority--readjusting an accounting gimmick--instead of investing in proven solutions we know can improve education for future generations."

 

The following are examples of urgently needed restorations of public school funding the Texas Legislature should prioritize before it ties up resources merely to reset the clock on a budgeting gimmick:

  • Fully fund the Student Success Initiative, to ensure that more than 120,000 students who have failed to pass state-mandated exams have the extra instruction and support they need to succeed ($300 million)
  • Restore funding to community colleges ($87 million)
  • Restore funding grants for Pre-K for over 100,000 students ($200 million).

STATEMENT: Spending Approved by Texas House Just Covers Unpaid Bills
With Medicaid IOU Covered, Ample Funds Remain Available to Undo Deep 2011 Cuts

February 21, 2013
(AUSTIN, TEXAS) - The Texas House of Representatives approved House Bill 10, a $5 billion general revenue supplemental appropriations measure for the 2012-2013 budget that pays outstanding bills for Medicaid and other obligations the Legislature failed to fund in 2011. The steering committee of Texas Forward released the following statement:

"This is not undoing the cuts - lawmakers are just paying the bills the state owes for the current, bare-bones budget. Even with this bill, the Legislature has enough in general revenue and Rainy Day Fund money to invest in our future and undo the devastating 2011 budget cuts. With the Medicaid IOU behind us, we urge lawmakers to fund public services at the level necessary to meet the needs of our state and invest in future generations."

STATEMENT: Supplemental Appropriations Bill Doesn't Undo the Cuts - We're Just Paying the Bills We Owe

February 11, 2013
(AUSTIN, TEXAS) - The Texas House Appropriations Committee voted out House Bill 10, a $5 billion general revenue supplemental appropriations measure for the 2012-2013 budget that pays outstanding bills for Medicaid and other obligations the Legislature failed to fund in 2011. The steering committee of Texas Forward released the following statement:

 

"This is not undoing the cuts - we're just paying the bills we owe for the current, bare-bones budget. The House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees have enough in general revenue and Rainy Day Fund money, even with this bill, to restore state funding to pre-recession levels and make a true investment in future generations."

 

Texas Forward is a coalition of organizations that believes Texans deserve strong, safe, and healthy communities, and the opportunity to realize their potential. The member organizations represent a broad spectrum of interests, but all believe that meeting the needs of Texans and moving our state forward to greater prosperity and opportunity will require more than just belt-tightening and cuts in education, healthcare and other vital public services.

STATEMENT: Texas Must Invest in Future Generations
January 29, 2013
(AUSTIN, TEXAS) – The Texas Forward coalition – which advocates for public investments that improve people’s lives – responded to Governor Perry’s State of the State address with a positive challenge for the people of Texas.

 

“A strong economy requires we invest in our future,” said Eileen Garcia, Chair of the Texas Forward Steering Committee and CEO of Texans Care for Children. “Creating jobs requires smarter investments in education, health care, and the basic public infrastructure that every successful economy needs. If we work together now, we can build that economic foundation for future generations.”


Governor Rick Perry’s 7th State of the State address repeated many unfulfilled promises of the past. The real state of the state shows that Texas still trails other states in major areas essential to future growth, including education and health care. Members of the Texas Forward coalition believe 2013 is the year that Texas finally makes progress on some of those challenges.

 

“When we make smart investments in education we give our children the opportunity to succeed in tomorrow’s economy,” said Eric Hartman, Co-Chair of the Texas Forward Legislative Committee and Director of Government Relations for the Texas American Federation of Teachers. “The real state of our state is that $5.4 billion in student funding – more than $500 per pupil annually – was needlessly cut in 2011. Unless we make that right, we will leave hundreds of thousands of children behind and leave future generations worse off.


Expanding Medicaid would help over 1 million Texans gain insurance, and Texas economist Ray Perryman predicts it would be an economic windfall for our state, bringing $6 billion to Texas in the next four years. (Source). A December 2012 poll of 944 Texans by the American Cancer Society found that 58% of Texans want the Texas Legislature to expand Medicaid, while only 30% oppose. (Source).


“The stimulus from the additional federal funds from 2014 through 2017 would also generate an estimated $1.8 billion in new state tax revenue, if we do nothing Texas stands to lose these funds,” said Sandra Martinez, Co-Chair of the Texas Forward Legislative Committee and Public Policy Analyst & Advocate for Methodist Healthcare Ministries. A report recently commissioned by Methodist Healthcare Ministries, Smart, Affordable and Fair: Why TexasShould Expand Medicaid to Low-Income Adults, highlights the impact each county and regional health partnership will feel from the expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults. “The numbers speak for themselves; there really should be no other choice before the state.”

STATEMENT: Budget Proposals Fail to Meet State's Needs
January 14, 2013

(AUSTIN, TEXAS) – The starting-point budget proposals from the Senate and House for 2014 and 2015 fall unacceptably short of using the available money that was forecast in the Comptroller’s revenue estimate last week. With $101 billion in general revenue available and another $12 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, Texas should be able to cover 2013’s unpaid bills, undo the education cuts from 2011, and meet our state’s rapid population growth and inflation.

 

The steering committee of the Texas Forward coalition released the following statement:

 

“The budget must help create jobs, provide a safety net for our children and seniors, and ensure economic freedom and opportunity for all Texans. We can just barely meet this challenge with the money the Comptroller has told lawmakers they can spend.

 

“Yet if we retreat from this opportunity – as these starting-point budget proposals do – Texas will continue to fail meeting basic education, health care and infrastructure needs. It would be fiscally irresponsible to forgo necessary revenue just to give businesses or some other interest groups a tax cut.

 

“Texas lawmakers should embrace the opportunity to restore the $5 billion in funding to our state’s public education system and to adequately fund Medicaid to meet the health and long-term needs of low-income children, young adults and Texas seniors.”

STATEMENT: Revenue Estimate Gives Lawmakers the Opportunity to Undo 2011 Cuts
January 7, 2013

(AUSTIN, TEXAS)—The steering committee of TEXAS FORWARD released the following statement in response to the release of the biennial revenue estimate by the state comptroller.


“Today the Comptroller announced her initial revenue estimate, and Texas lawmakers heard they 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 leaves 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.


Today’s revenue estimate announcement officially begins this session’s budget writing process. By using all available revenue and the historically high Rainy Day Fund balance, which together total $108.2 billion, Texas lawmakers have the opportunity to undo the devastating 2011 cuts, fund services at the level provided before the financial crisis slashed state revenue, and also fund the rapid population growth and inflation.


Now it’s up to state lawmakers to create a budget that reflects our state’s needs. It is time for our elected officials to make investment in the future a priority. Legislators should use the money available now to restore funding cut in 2011 and invest in the education and health care systems that will help ensure our state’s prosperity and move Texas forward.” 

STATEMENT: LBB Spending Cap Arbitrarily Limits Opportunities for Texas Families
November 20, 2012

(AUSTIN, TEXAS)—The steering committee of TEXAS FORWARD released the following statement regarding the Legislative Budget Board's (LBB) spending cap adopted for the 2013 Legislature.


“The Legislative Budget Board's (LBB) spending cap artificially limits opportunities for Texas families. The pledge of some Senate members of the LBB to hold spending even lower--not even keeping pace with population growth and inflation--would make matters worse. With billions of dollars in additional revenue above the comptroller's forecasts pouring into state coffers, our state lawmakers should be making plans to undo the detrimental cuts to education, health care, and protection of our natural resources enacted last year. 


"At least House members of the LBB were sensible enough not to echo the pledge to tighten the budget straitjacket proposed by Senate leaders, but Texans have a right to expect much more from their legislature. We need Texas lawmakers and leaders to move Texas forward again. They must stop hoarding revenue and start making the investments needed to help hardworking Texans build a prosperous future for our state.”

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