I hope I'm wrong, but I heard and my friend Bill McKenzie at the Dallas Morning News, appears to confirm that in next year's legislative session we can expect to see education funding pitted against Medicaid. You know the deal, 'You can have one or the other, but you can't have both!'.
Not only do I not believe that, I believe it's one of the most cynical games that politicians and bureaucrats play. The 83rd session of our state legislature should be one of unprecedented citizen action, to make certain that the chicanery and short-sidedness of 2010 doesn't repeat itself.
Believe me, we don't want Bill to be right on this one!
"Texas educators understandably are eager to see legislators make up for the damage they did to school spending in the 2011 Legislature. As you may recall, at least $4 billion in school funds were cut then.""Those numbers weren’t some ethereal figures, either. They hit the bottom line of many districts."
"The cuts are why Dallas had to close some schools. They are why districts will struggle to hire specialists to help failing students. And they are why some classrooms will be more crowded this year."
"The ugly truth was, the Legislature had to cut something from schools to make ends meet in 2011. The deficit was so huge lawmakers couldn’t have avoided them. But I don’t blame the districts that have filed suit claiming that the state is not adequately funding them. They are forcing legislators to make schools a higher priority next time."
"Here, though, is another element that school districts won’t like. Although Comptroller Susan Combs predicted last week that the current two-year state budget could end up with $6 billion in unanticipated revenues, those extra dollars already have a claim on them."
(UPDATE: Combs’ office said she gave no official estimate, despite reports to the contrary. The Austin American-Statesman, however, did some crunching and estimated the number around $6 billion. Also, the comptroller’s website shows tax collections up about 14 percent over this time last year.)
"Legislators closed up shop last year postponing about $5 billion in Medicaid payments. They have to take care of that debt before they can start making up for the damage they did to schools."
"What should we wish for? Even more extra revenues so Medicaid and schools both can be done right during the 2013 session."
"Eva DeLuna Castro, a budget expert at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, suggests an even better revenue picture is not a pipe dream. She knows as much as anyone in the state about the budget picture, so I hope she is right."
"Meanwhile, educators must be realistic. Medicaid is ahead of them in line for the revenues that already are being projected."
Read Bill's more expansive editorial on this subject here...