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The Observer’s Position We Declare an Emergency Austin Texas ranks, in aid to dependent children, “49th among the states, just ahead of Mississippi,” as Bill Wagner, assistant to the chief for information services of the Texas Department of Human Resources, says. In 1980 the average grant per Texas child was $33.33 a month, or $1.10 a day. This munificent sum went to the benefit of 232,106 of our poorest children, most of whom also receive food stamps and medicaid. At our request the state ran a computer analysis of the children’s ethnic characteristics: 47% are black, 39% are Hispanic, and 14% are white. How does Texas decide if a child is poor enough to get this state help? That, says public servant Wagner, is complicated. Say an employed mother of three earns $150 a month. The bureaucracy is permitted to disregard $30 plus one-third of the remainder, leaving $80. She can deduct work-related expenditures: say, $34 for a uniform, so she’s down now to $46. Suppose, Wagner continued, she’s got child-care costs of $10 a week that’s $44.33 that’s deductible. This leaves her a net income from earnings of $2.67 a month. There is a “recognized need” level, established in 1969, that is still used without any change for inflation. “We have been paying 75% of that [1969] need,” Wagner says $140.25 for the three children of our eligible working mother, minus her $2.67 earnings for the month. Recommended grant: $138. Who has decided that the average needy Texas child shall receive from this rich state $33.33 a month? The bureaucrats make the rules 75% of the 1969 standard, $140 to a mother for her three children but all they are doing is spending the $80 million the legislature permits, dividing the sum up among the eligible children. The legislature has decided, by its constitutional $80 million ceiling on welfare spending, that Texas is the 49th meanest and stingiest state among the 50 states. In the next two years, “we probably will” bump that ceiling because of rising caseloads, Wagner says. As Merle Springer, the department’s deputy commissioner for programs, tells us, “If we reach the $80 million ceiling, we won’t pay out any more state funds [than the $80 million]. If you bump the ceiling, .. . you just have to cut grants to accommodate the existing eligibles.” The poverty level now is about $200 a month a person, and “What we’re paying now,” Springer says, “is about 20% of the poverty level. . . . Our per-capita income is going up substantially, and yet there’s no substantial change in this program. The result is, the gap between the well-off and the very poor is widening.” Declaring his various emergencies, Governor Bill Clements gave the green light to school curriculum revision, letting the state weigh vehicles within city limits, and creating a department of commerce. The desperate plight of hundreds of thousands of the state’s poorest children seemed no emergency to his Republican mind. There is no proposal now pending in the legislature even to appropriate the $80 million for them. Only one of the 181 legislators, Rep. Craig Washington of Houston, has even introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to abolish the $80 million ceiling. Fortunately Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby is determined that the state avert the impending crunch in this continuing moral disaster. The comptroller this month released a new revenue estimate the state has $377 million more than we thought. All the Legislative Budget Board recommendations for spending could be effected and the state would still have $134 million left with “no new taxes.” So we declare an emergency, and we call on the citizens, in your communications with your legislators, to declare an emergency: Abolish the ceiling, at least triple the AFDC outlay to $240 million, so that, by paying half the poverty level, we’ll at least be able to hold our head up among the most humane states. If not if these helpless children continue to be last on the agenda of the 67th legislature then this will go down as the rottenest-hearted legislature in modern times. In fact if these birds refuse to abolish or at least raise the welfare ceiling for the state’s poorest children we have already decided on the label for them: The Heartless 67th. Let all 181 of them, one by one, deal with that when they go back to the people for reelection. R.D. Endorsements In the Austin city election April 4, the Observer endorses Bob Binder for mayor and, in significantly-contested city council races, Roger Duncan, Larry Deuser, and either Bertha Means or Charles Urdy. In the April 4 city election in San Antonio, the Observer endorses Henry Cisneros for mayor and, in four of the city council races, Joe Alderete, Jesse Diaz, Joe Webb, and Bernardo Eureste. The Texas OBSERVER Business Manager Cliff Olofson Vol. 73, No. 6 The Texas Observer Publishing Co., 1981 March 20, 1981 Editorial and Business Office 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 74310-.1.f.g: eit;2 Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in turn incorporated the Austin Forum-Advocate. Editor and Publisher Ronald Dugger Staff Reporter Mary Lenz Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues twice a year, in January and July; 25 issues per year. Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. 750 prepaid. One year, $18; two years, $34; three years, $49. One year rate for full-time students, $12. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilmed by MCA, 1620 Hawkins Avenue, Box 10, Sanford, N.C. 27330. POSTMASTER: Send form 3579 to: 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701, 2 MARCH 20, 1981