Last week I bought a new Texas all water fishing license so I could get in a couple of last trips before the Coastal Conservation Association’s STAR tournament ended. Forty dollars! When I started buying these I think I paid $35 for a combo hunting/fishing package, and it was one of my favorite checks to write because all the money, along with a cut of the sales tax on sporting goods, went to Parks and Wildlife for conservation and enforcement.
Well, somewhere along the line, GOP legislators, who like to spend money as much as the rest of us but don’t like to pay the bills, raided those earmarks and now send those monies to the general fund like it was supplemental federal funding for education or something.
Due to ideology, venality, and plain meanness, the Lege has failed for decades to come up with an equitable system for school funding, the State Constitution is a monstrosity bloated with hundreds of amendments, and since the decline of the oil economy that once funded state operations, has been at a loss to come up with a workable tax system.
In the upcoming session, there will be no Federal stimulus money to make up the projected $18 billion deficit.
In 2003 the Lege made up a shortfall in part by laying off 2,900 state workers who administered the Food Stamp, Medicaid, and Childrens Health Insurance Program, giving a $900 million contract to Bermuda-based Accenture Corp, spawned from the Enron-tainted Arthur Anderson accounting firm. The contract was a disaster that lead to, among other things, 200,000 children losing their health coverage and 90 day waits for people applying for food aid, even as Perry’s Enterprise fund passed out $200 million in corporate welfare, such as the $20 million it gave to sub-prime lender Countrywide Mortgage. We can expect more of the same under Republican leadership in the next session. The state will shred the social safety net, cut back funding to already-strapped school districts and colleges, and close more mental hospitals, all while spinning-off more state assets and operations to well-connected private operators and developers.
This why I urge people to get out and vote Democratic this November 2nd. When Texas was a one-party state under Democrats, the election battles were fought between the mainstream tory democrats and the liberal wing. But under the GOP, the ruling party is under the sway of the right wing extremists who dominate the primary elections, leaving no room for moderates and pragmatists. The officials we elect are faithful to the corporations and wealthy individuals who support them, and secure in their gerrymandered seats, because instead of the voters picking their representatives, here the representatives pick their voters.
There is just too much going wrong in this state to blame on any one party or faction: re-electing the tools who have put us in this mess is not an option. The Texas Republican platform is rife with non-issues such as withdrawing from the United Nations, praying in school, denying rights and privileges to same-sex couples and requiring voters to show a picture ID. We have an opportunity this fall to put an end to “wedge-issue” politics and pull together for the betterment of all. Let’s do it.