February 14, 1969 Twenty-Five Cents A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South The Texas Observer Reform in Texas As the 61st Legislature proceeds to get itself untangled and about the business of considering the state’s needs for the coming biennium, and beyond, Observer editorat-large Ronnie Dugger has been, himself, devoting time and study to these same problems. Following is the first of a twopart article on nine major problem areas, the status of each today and suggestions Texas lawmakers might well consider. This week, we present a discussion of: our neglects welfare, education, and mental health and retardation; taxation; labor; the ghettoes, medicare for all poor, and integration; and utilities, commerce frauds, and auto insurance. In the next issue will be: marijuana, abortion, suicide, crime, guns, Rangers, youth detention; penal code, equal penalties, sex laws; civil liberties, election reforms, legislative reforms; and the region’s communications system. Austin The average American is providing $18.07 a year for public assistance programs through his state and local governments. The average Texan is providing one-third that, $6.70. Only the citizens of Southern states and Nevada, Indiana, and Arizona provide less: Texas ranks 39th in the union. A Californian provides six times as much as a Texan, a New Yorker seven times as much. In June, 1968, in Texas, the average monthly payment to a family receiving aid for dependent children was $95, compared to $170 per family nationally, ranking Texas 46th among the states. Texas paid $73 a month in aid to the blind, ranking 35th; the national average was $91. Texas paid $56 a month to the permanently and totally disabled, ranking 44th in the nation, where-across the average was $81. To those receiving old age assistance, Texas paid $60 a month, $8 below the national average, anking the state 32nd even in this group of the needy toward whom the state’s rural legislators are so publicly solicitous. A caseworker in the adult public assistance programs in Texas carries the heaviest case load of such workers in any state 370 cases a month, compared to the national average of 160 cases per worker.’ Texas is one of only eight states which have no general assistance welfare pro gram .2 Last November the voters of the state refused, in the general election, to raise the present $60 million Texas constitutional ceiling on state welfare payments to $75 million. The Legislature, of course, has no decent choice but to submit the change to another vote, this time, preferably, abolishing the ceiling and leaving the question of welfare benefits to the Legislature’s discretion just like any other such matter. The vote last November means in all likelihood that aid to dependent children will be drastically cut in a few months, even though the Texas grant is already the 46th lowest in the United States. Because the money was running out, the grant was cut $12 per mother and one child last September, from $72 a month to $60. The Legislature this year passed an emergency juggling of $350,000 which, matched by three times that much federal money, will last the children’s program at the reduced level up to May. But there is no more money to get by this method; the ceiling prevents any other transfers; and it is the grants to the children that will be cut. Since the children’s, program has expanded unexpectedly by 3,000 persons a month for the last 18 months, it is the program that will come up short in money. “It’s a pretty deep hole,” Herbert Wilson, deputy commissioner of the state Welfare Department, tells the Observer. “Yes, sir, I think we’re in a hole.” Gov. Preston Smith favors abolishing the ceiling, but an amendment to do this could not be voted on before August. “All we could do I think is just have a further cut, unless something gives, and I don’t know what it would be,” Wilson says. The transfer, he says, was “a manner of trying to get a little money for these kids. That’s all there is to get. Anything short of a miracle, I think there’s nothing to do but cut.” 3 Office of Economic Opportunity lawyers are suing the state, alleging the state constitutional ceiling is unconstitutional federally. Another 0E0-originated suit just filed in Dallas contends the state cannot constitutionally fail to pay the full grants provided for by law. Possibly, a federal emergency appropriation might save the situation, not for the state, which it would humiliate, but for the children. IN THE ordinary exercise of its policies, Texas cuts off aid to dependent children at the fourth child in a family. This is called the “family maximum” rule. A federal court in Maryland has held the practice to be unconstitutional, and an appeal on this issue is on the way to the Supreme Court. Forty-four thousand Texas children received child welfare services in 1968 because of neglect, abuse, abandonment, deprivation, exploitation, pending adoption, or other reasons, but 124 Texas counties, more than half, had no child welfare unit. Needful children in these counties “received service on an emergency basis from the regional child welfare
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