From the S&P to Privatized Medicaid

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Day 43 of the 82nd Texas Legislature 

Work continues at the Texas Legislature as lawmakers struggle to plug the Texas sized budget gap. According to Standard & Poor’s, the state should not cure its budget woes through cuts alone. And while our state’s education program may be failing, lawmakers are not ready to let public safety slip and are looking for new ways to fund the Department of Public Safety and other border protection agencies. Meanwhile, some new ideas to improve “government efficiency” include, shifting a bunch of Medicaid recipients to market based plans and moving illegal immigrants into congressional offices.

1. Standard & Poor Choices

Apparently lawmakers’ cuts-only approach to balancing the budget doesn’t go over so well with some rather prominent bean counters. Bond rating giant Standard & Poor’s released a report arguing Texas needed a “balanced approach” to its budget problems. Cuts alone wouldn’t solve the problem, they said, and we may need—gasp—to raise some revenue.   [Austin American-Statesman]

2. Bad Education

The state’s education funding system is filled with shortfalls and gaps right now—but is the problem related to the business cycle or is this a permanent hole? The Legislative Budget Board says it’s too soon to tell, but with budget legislation only weeks away, there’s not much time to debate. [Texas Observer

3. Threat Level: Orange 

Schools may be closing and Medicaid programs cut, but border security is one area of the budget that may survive the financial crunch unscathed. The Mexican cartels and drug-related crime across the border has prompted senators to consider diverting money from the state highway fund and using seized drug money to help beef up funding for the Department of Public Safety and other border security agencies. [Houston Chronicle] [Austin American Statesman]

4. Capitalism and Medicaid

Former state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, would like to, “make shoppers out of our Medicaid recipients,” according to Robert Garrett at the Dallas Morning News. The conservative think tank suggests that Texas shift over 3.3 million Medicaid recipients to private insurance providers in order to relieve some of the strain on the state’s health insurance program. [Dallas Morning News]

5. Office Space

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst has an interesting idea of how to deal with illegal immigrants—stick them in offices. The Brenham Republican filed legislation yesterday that would allow sheriffs to drop illegal immigrants off at the local office of any U.S. representative. Apparently it’s a message to the Feds to take responsibility for the illegal immigrants languishing in our overcrowded jail system. [Dallas Morning News]