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Friday, July 22, 2011

Good and Bad State Budget News for People with Disabilities


The recently passed Texas budget dealt people with disabilities good news, bad news and a couple of wild cards, and because the cuts didn't land evenly across the board, advocates are unsure how things will play out.

Overall, funding for human services took a 17.6 percent cut. The five state agencies whose responsibilities include providing services to people with physical, mental and other disabilities will receive about $53 billion in 2012 and 2013, down from $64.7 billion in the previous two-year state budget.

But some programs, such as community mental health services, emerged intact. Others, such as early childhood intervention, took big hits. And then there are the wild cards, like how funding shifts will play out for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"I would never say this was a successful legislative session," said Dennis Borel , executive director of the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities . "But what was once horrible is now merely awful."

Exactly how the cuts will play out across the state is still unclear. Agencies, nonprofits and other providers are searching for other sources of money to cover the cuts.

They're also wading through Legislature-mandated changes that alter the way providers bill for their services and switch clients into different programs covered by Medicaid.

"This was the hardest budget to analyze because it's not black and white," said Amy Mizcles, director of governmental affairs with the Arc of Texas, an advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. "There's a lot to be seen. Starting Sept. 1, the start of the new budget year, things are going to start getting rough because we're going to start seeing the real impact of these cuts."

Money for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — such as cerebral palsy or autism — took a hard hit. Legislators eliminated $65 million — or one-third — of the safety net budget used for services for people who live with their families at home, in group homes or in their own apartments.

That money goes toward services that are not otherwise covered for them by Medicaid, such as as speech therapy and day habilitation programs, which provide life skills training, job skills and other support.

Bluebonnet Trails Community Services, a publicly funded center in Williamson County that provides services for people with disabilities in eight counties, lost $1.1 million for 2012, a 30 percent cut from the $3.7 million in the current state budget that the center received for such services.

That puts at risk services for 450 people, about 26 percent of the total served by Bluebonnet with those funds in 2010, said Bluebonnet Executive Director Andrea Richardson .

The center will try to soften the blow by rationing services, but, ultimately, people will probably be cut from the rolls, she said.

"Right now, the families are in shock as we consider with them options for their family member receiving services," Richardson said.

Legislators tried to counter those safety net cuts by adding about $32 million to a similar program — the Texas Home Living Program — that is funded by Medicaid. But some of those cut from the rolls might not qualify for the program.

Austin Travis County Integral Care lost about $2 million, or 25 percent, of its budget for services for people with intellectual disabilities over the next two years. But between the Texas Home Living Program and other funding streams, probably no one will have to be cut from services, said Executive Director David Evans.

Money for Texas ' 13 state supported living centers, which are residences for people with intellectual disabilities, stayed stable. Legislators had considered closing one of the centers to save money but decided against it.

Statewide, Early Childhood Intervention took a big cut. The program — which helps children up to age 3 who have delays, disabilities or other developmental problems — lost more than $50 million (14 percent ) for the 2012-13 biennium. About 4,000 fewer children will be served each month, going from about 32,000 to 27,700, according to the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, which oversees the program.

The agency will reach that goal by tightening eligibility requirements for children. Families will also be asked to pay more, said the department's deputy commissioner, Glenn Neal . The maximum monthly fee, which is based on income, will go from $150 to $175.

Local Early Childhood Intervention providers felt the cuts acutely. Easter Seals Central Texas took a 15 percent cut, or $600,000, from its annual program budget, which means it will serve 90 fewer children per month.

Any Baby Can, an Austin nonprofit that administers an Early Childhood Intervention program and helps about 250 families at a time, lost $500,000 from its $2.1 million annual budget, Executive Director Ellen Balthazar said. That cut will force the nonprofit to serve 30 fewer families each month, she said.

No one knows how the new eligibility rules will play out.

Patty Fougerat started working with Any Baby Can after her 13-month-old daughter, Townes, was born two months early. Since then, the toddler has received monthly visits from physical therapists, nutritionists and other professionals that have helped her thrive, said Fougerat, a first-time mother who works for Wells Fargo.

An Early Childhood Intervention worker was the first to notice that Townes had a flat spot on her skull that needed to be corrected.

"They pointed it out before my pediatrician pointed it out," Fougerat said. "It's little things like that that have helped so much."

Mental health services fared far better than expected. Early proposals suggested cutting 20 percent in funding to outpatient services for children and adults. For Integral Care, which provided psychiatric services to about 16,800 people in 2010, that could have meant losing funding for about 2,500 people each year .

Ultimately, the funding remained intact. 


Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Future of Texas Public Education Hangs in the Balance


"Waving Goodbye to Public Education" 

June 2, 20ll 4:04 pm


Peter Stern - Texas Legislature doing what it does best....removing tax dollars from public education


Slightly more than 10 years ago the state provided up to 70 percent of the total budget for public education. Local government, mostly via home property taxes, provided the remaining 30 percent. Currently, those percentages are reversed and now the State is looking to provide even less to public schools in the Special Legislative Session under proposed Senate Bill 1 that seeks to cut public education financing down another 6 percent.


During the past decade legislators and various members of the elite business sector have given lip service to finding financing for Texas public education, but every year or two committees failed and fewer tax dollars were provided. The Texas Constitution outlines the State's responsibility to provide our children with a quality education; however, every year the Governor and Legislators have taken chunks of tax dollars slated for public education and have diverted them instead to various other special interests.


Few Texans should be surprised that the State wants to remove more financing from public education, since it has been doing so almost every year for the past decade. However, it is a sad commentary on a State that is almost last on the list of states providing quality public education for Texas children. Currently, it is quite clear that there has been an active push by the State to develop private education and to eliminate its responsibility for public education. In fact, many legislators already sit on the boards of private, charter and religious schools. Special interests continue to push for a voucher program to enable parents to take their children from public education and use the vouchers for private enrollment.


Viewing the education issue completely, we may see that the State wishes to maintain educational objectives for the wealthy elite rather than for the majority of Texans. Furthermore, by crying budget poverty the State sees the opportunity to remove most or all tax dollars that finance public education and to divert those tax dollars to other special interests.  It is sad enough that Texas Governor Rick Perry and Legislators have no problem shirking their responsibility to the majority of children in Texas by cutting the financing for public education, but it is callous, irresponsible and un-American to remove educational opportunities for the majority of our children and their parents under the veil of secrecy and cries of State fiscal poverty.


Our legislators are trying to eliminate public education behind closed legislative doors.  SB 1 is the largest attempt in any previous bill to eliminate the financing of public education for our children and it is a symptom of special interest politics permeating throughout Texas. If the majority of voters sits back and does nothing, Texas may succeed as the first state in the U.S. to eliminate public education.



Post by Lou McCreary

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Don't Set Us Up to Fail!"

Action Alerts from TEXAS Foward and Kids Well:
Today, the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committees held public hearings on budget-related bills that affect every Texan. They are busy underfunding education and health care, and they are hoping you won't notice. Nine out of 10 Texans in a recent poll oppose cutting public education and children's health care, yet that's exactly what this budget does. What's more:
        - Over twice as many Texas voters oppose these cuts as oppose using the Rainy Day Fund.
        - Only 1 voter in 10 opposes all the revenue-raising measures the Texas Legislature opposes.
It is time for state leaders to stop being out of touch and start representing the views of the vast majority of Texans!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

See the Large Cuts in Your School District Under the Proposed Texas Budget

When It Comes to Budget Cuts in Texas Public Schools…

Look at the Numbers

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, killed completion of a proposed 2012-13 state budget that would take $4 billion out of Texas public school.

To get an idea of what this looks like for your school, go to:

Funding the 2012-13 Budget: Legislature Kicks the Can Down the Road

From: Center for Public Policy Priorities <>
Date: Wednesday, June 1, 2011, 1:30 PM


At the beginning of the session, the state faced a $27 billion gap between anticipated revenue and the amount needed to fund current services.  Rather than relying on cuts alone to close the gap, CPPP urged a balanced approach that used the state's Rainy Day Fund and added new revenue to minimize damaging cuts. With the Governor putting the Rainy Day Fund and new revenue off limits, however, the Legislature has been left with no alternative but larger-than-necessary cuts reduced only to the extent possible by payment delays and tax speedups.

This Policy Page highlights the major provisions of Senate Bill (SB) 1 and House Bill (HB) 1, the fiscal matters bills introduced in the special session to fund the state budget for 2012-13. The bills are scheduled for hearing in Senate Finance and House Appropriations on Thursday. The bills are almost identical to the conference committee report for SB/HB 1811 from the regular session.  

These bills create the appearance of an additional $7.55 billion in General Revenue.  In reality, almost all of this "revenue" comes from a permanent reduction in state support for public education by $4 billion, deferral into the next biennium of a $2.3 billion payment to school districts and other transfers, and acceleration of certain tax payments. In addition, the bills would actually reduce state revenue by $171 million by extending the small business exemption from the franchise tax and creating new exemptions for certain other businesses.
Between now and 2013, Texas needs to give serious consideration to developing a tax system adequate to meet our needs.

Read the Policy Page

Save Texas Schools! Quote and Info Shared by Allen Weeks

Quote from Allen Weeks:
"I have no illusion that things will drastically change until we elect a new set of pro-education legislators. However, it is vital that we make sure people know how this legislature has betrayed our schools, leaving billions on the table that should have been used to preserve thousands of teaching jobs for no other good reason than their desire to shrink public education."
Mark Your Calendars- Save Texas Schools Statewide Conference
July 15 6-9 pm
July 16 8 am -4 pm
Austin, Texas (venue to be announced)
More information:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Accurate or Inaccurate? What do you think? re: Governor Perry's Quote from his 5/30/11 Press Release on the Special Session

Monday, May 30, 2011:  Governor Perry Press Release     Austin, Texas
Gov. Rick Perry tonight announced a special session of the Texas Legislature will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 31.
"We have taken great strides this session to strengthen Texas' economic environment and protect private property rights, victims of human trafficking and the unborn, but critical work remains to ensure we have a balanced budget that provides essential services without raising taxes, while protecting the Rainy Day Fund for future emergencies," Gov. Perry said.
"I urge lawmakers to work quickly to complete the important work Texans expect us to finish."
The special session will consider the following issues:

• Legislation relating to fiscal matters necessary for the implementation of House Bill No. 1 as passed by the 82nd Legislature, Regular Session, including measures that will allow school districts to operate more efficiently.

• Legislation relating to healthcare cost containment, access to services through managed care, and the creation of economic and structural incentives to improve the quality of Medicaid services.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Republicans Voting No - Why This Budget is a Fraud

Dear Take Back Texas Alliance Members and Supporters:  

Here is a story in the Texas Tribune that is worth reading.  The Rs and Ds who crossed party lines were asked to explain their positions.  Of particular interest are the comments made by 4 of the 5 Republicans who voted against the budget, such as the $500M in special interest money contained in it and the accounting gimmicks which will cause Medicaid to run out of money in February 2013 (David Simpson of Longview), Will Hartnett (Dallas), who lamented the lack of Rainy Day spending, observing that most of it will be spent anyway, and Raul Torres (Corpus Christi), stating that the accounting gimmicks are probably unconstitutional and will simply create a monstrous problem for the next Legislature to address. 

In closing, let's give three cheers for Senator Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, whose filibuster caused the death of SB 1811, the school finance bill that was brought to a vote for the first time in either body after having little more than a day to read it.  By the way, this bill had a rider attached to it that would allow the DPS to deny anyone a driver's license without even having to give a reason.  It's such a great thing to know that the Republicans believe in due process and individual liberty!


Tom Archer

President – Take Back Texas Alliance


"No New Texas"- Kids Well Texas Video

As the session wraps up, Kids Well Texas reminds us what is at stake. Watch for yourself as the story of damages from budget cuts unfolds:
Info taken from a posting on the "Progress Texas" Facebook page:

Texas Capitol SOS (Save Our State)!

A sign of the times!
Post by Lesa R. Walker, MD, MPH

Defending Our Freedom: DON'T MOURN...ORGANIZE

-----Original Message-----
Date: Sun, 29 May 2011 02:11:47
To: Bob Kafka. sbc<>
Subject: Texas Legislature Passes Budget | The Texas Tribune

Confused about what they did in passing the budget. Join the crowd. It is confusing and HHSC and DADS will have to calculate what they finally did. What is clear that nobody on a waiting list will get services because of new funding.  There will be reductions in state funded programs and some waivers. Durable medical equipment rates have been reduced. How this effects services remains to be seen.
Attendants wages will not improve and reductions are inevitable.

People will be harmed.

The only way to know how people on current services are effected is if we start collecting these stories now. We need to document how real people's services are reduced. If individuals are forced into an nursing home, ICF MR or State Institution we must file an Olmstead complaint. We must fight back. The way we do this is by documenting what real harm Gov Perry, Lt Gov Dewhurst, Speaker Strauss, Sen Ogden and Rep Pitts orchestrated on families, seniors and people with disabilities. 

We fought the cuts with statewide campaigns (INVEST IN COMMUNITY, LEMONS TO LEMONADE).
We joined Texas Forward to broaden the coalition

ADAPT and Community Now folks engaged in Direct Action and folks got arrested fighting for our rights.

We did make a difference.

Could we have done more?  Yes!  We needed more people with passion and focused anger. We intellectualize too much when the "enemy" repels logic for idelogical purity.

Sometimes lobbying the old fashioned way needs to be coordinated with an aggressive well funded statewide grassroots effort. And targeted Direct Action.

I asked a month ago what gets a Texan angry? I'm still not sure. Maybe the effects of this budget will spur us to Action before next session so we can say NEVER AGAIN. 

Kafkaesquely yours

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Texas Cuts Essential Services While Giving Tax Breaks So Rich Can Buy Yachts

Texas is cutting public education, health care, & community-based service options for people with disabilities, but giving a tax break so rich can buy yachts:

STATEMENT: Rodriguez Stands with Sen. Davis

--- On Mon, 5/30/11, Emily Amps <> wrote:

From: Emily Amps <>
Subject: STATEMENT: Rodriguez Stands with Sen. Davis
To: "Emily Amps" <>
Date: Monday, May 30, 2011, 12:11 AM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                          

May 29, 2011                                     


CONTACT: Emily Amps Mora                                                                           

512.463.0129 O

254.715.1127 M




AUSTIN -- Today, State Senator José Rodríguez released the following statement regarding the filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis of S.B. 1811, the fiscal matters bill:

"Senator Davis is not only standing up for the children of her district, she is standing up for all of the children in this state who will suffer as a result of the $4 billion in cuts to public schools. For El Paso ISD alone, the cuts will equal
$39.5 million during the next two years. Other El Paso County school districts will also stand to lose millions, including:


Anthony ISD: $475,000

Canutillo ISD: $3 million

Clint ISD: $6 million

Socorro ISD: $38 million

Ysleta ISD: $22 million


"Under this plan, there will be fewer resources in the classrooms, fewer teachers to instruct, and ultimately fewer opportunities for the children of our state. Over and over, the people of Texas have urged lawmakers to use the Rainy Day Fund to make up these cuts, and time and time again, the people were ignored. Instead the leadership chose to use accounting tricks to defer a $2.3 billion payment to the Foundation School Program, leaving our children and our schools in a deeper financial hole.


"In addition to standing up for the children of this state, Senator Davis is fighting for veterans, victims of abuse, and the elderly, many of whom may have lost their access to the courtroom. As a result of the choices made by the conference committee, my amendment to create a funding mechanism for legal aid services and indigent care was stripped. This choice denied over $32 million in legal aid and other services to Texans in need."




Sunday, May 29, 2011


Contact: F. Scott McCown,
900 Lydia Street • Austin, Texas 78702-2625 • T 512/320-0222 • F 512/320-0227 •


(AUSTIN, Texas)─Center for Public Policy Priorities Executive Director F. Scott McCown released the following statement today in response to the budget committee conferees agreeing on the state budget for 2012-13.

"If the Legislature adopts this budget, the Legislature will have failed to meet the needs of Texas.

"The far right’s demand that our state’s revenue crisis be addressed by cuts alone instead of through a balanced approach that uses the Rainy Day Fund and adds new revenue has forced damaging cuts to essential state services. For the present biennium, 2010-11, the state’s general revenue budget totals $90 billion (roughly $82 billion in state general revenue and $8 billion in federal recovery dollars). To provide the same public services in 2012-13, because of more people and higher costs, the Legislature would have to spend at least $99 billion in general revenue. The conferees’ budget deal (with HB 4) would appropriate just under $80.7 billion, leaving the state short more than $18 billion—about $5 billion of which would have gone to public education. at least $99 billion in general revenue. The conferees’ budget deal (with HB 4) would appropriate just under $80.7 billion, leaving the state short more than $18 billion—about $5 billion of which would have gone to public education.

"A balanced approach was the better choice.

"The Legislature could easily have written a 12- or 18-month budget, giving the economy time to improve. Or the Legislature could have taken a balanced approach to the state’s traditional 24-month budget—one that included cuts, but also used much more of the state’s $9.7 billion Rainy Day Fund and added new revenue. Rather than use the Rainy Day Fund to protect Texans during an economic downturn (the fund’s constitutional purpose), the far right demanded that Texans "protect" the Rainy Day Fund. This irrational demand was merely a tactic to force the Legislature to gut education and rip our state’s safety net. In the face of our revenue crisis, refusing to add new revenue—not even revenue from closing unwarranted tax loopholes—is unconscionable. The Legislature could easily have written a 12- or 18-month budget, giving the economy time to improve. Or the Legislature could have taken a balanced approach to the state’s traditional 24-month budget—one that included cuts, but also used much more of the state’s $9.7 billion Rainy Day Fund and added new revenue. Rather than use the Rainy Day Fund to protect Texans during an economic downturn (the fund’s constitutional purpose), the far right demanded that Texans "protect" the Rainy Day Fund. This irrational demand was merely a tactic to force the Legislature to gut education and rip our state’s safety net. In the face of our revenue crisis, refusing to add new revenue—not even revenue from closing unwarranted tax loopholes—is unconscionable.

"The next Legislature will face a fiscal mess in 2013.

"Even with strong economic growth, the next Legislature will face a fiscal mess in 2013. The Texas population will continue to grow. Costs for goods and services will continue to go up. Yet our state’s major tax will still be a sales tax on goods, a tax designed for yesterday’s economy. And our state’s business tax will still be flawed in design, again producing a $10 billion per biennium structural deficit. And, of course, all the steps taken to balance this biennium’s budget will make balancing the next budget even harder, for example, one-time accounting adjustments, unrealistic cost-saving assumptions, and a projected $4.8 billion Medicaid deficit.

"Texans must insist on a tax system that can meet the state’s needs.

"Texas has the resources in its trillion-dollar economy to meet today’s needs and to build a prosperous future, but until our state fixes its tax system, it will never have adequate revenue to do so. Instead, Texas will spiral downward session after session with one round of cutting after the next. Between now and 2013, we must all work together to build the public will for responsible tax reform.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) is a non-profit, non-partisan policy institute committed to improving public polices to better the economic and social conditions of low- and moderate-income Texans. We pursue this mission to achieve our vision for a BETTER TEXAS. You can learn more about CPPP at