Page 11


higher education and corrections would be particularly hard hit by the LBB budget reductions. It is estimated that the Department of Human Services would face more than a $128 million cut and the Department of Health would be cut by about $22 million over the biennium. Although the precise effects of these budget reductions on individual programs are still being evaluated, the impact would be disastrous for health care and human services for lowincome Texans. In the TDHS budget the Medically Needy Medicaid program would be completely eliminated. This program allows pregnant women and young children whose incomes are slightly above the Medicaid limit \(100 qualify for Medicaid if they have significant medical expenses. Nor does the LBB budget include funding for Medicaid coverage for children up to age six, as requested by the agency. The budget for the Health Department would cut all funds for expanded services for chronically ill and disabled children, does not include requested funds for the Women, Infants, and Children’s restricts the Environmental Health area. In short, many of the gains made in recent years with the passage of indigent health care legislation will be undermined unless these funding reductions are restored by the 71st legislature. Texas continues to rank at or near the bottom among the states in virtually all health and human services programs and balancing the state’s budget on the backs of the poor is unfair and unreasonable. State legislative leaders immediately signaled that the LBB budget was insufficient to meet the state’s needs and was only a starting point for deliberations during the upcoming session. Subsequently, Gov. Clements also endorsed the LBB budget as a departure point for budget consideration, which means that the legislature and Governor will be starting from the same set of preliminary figures and assumptions. The positive comments by state leaders about the insufficiency of the LBB budget are welcome signs that the 1989 legislature will find additional revenues to at least continue current state services. On the other hand, Gov. Clements is still holding to his “no new taxes” pledge. Once again, low-income advocacy groups will be forced to fight tooth and nail just to hold the line on funding for health and human services programs in Texas. Michael Hudson is Texas Director of the Children’s Defense Fund. Make Human Needs First Priority in State Spending BY LIN TEAM TEXAS IMPACT represents the concerns of a broadly ecumenical state wide group of religious organizations. In 1989, our goal in the legislature will be the same as it has been in the past few years and it will not be any easier. We are concerned with directing the state ‘s resources to meet human needs. That goal involves both the means and the ends of state government: revenue and spending. On the revenue side we hope to encourage a dialogue on a meaningful reform of the tax system. As we have studied this question in recent years, we have come to the conclusion that one of the worst ideas being proposed is a state lottery. We are concerned about the effects lotteries are having on low-income people in other states. Several state lottery commissions have found in their own studies that poor people, immigrant and ethnic minority groups, and uneducated people are most inclined to buy lottery tickets. We are persuaded that a lottery is two to three times as regressive as a sales tax on groceries. So we will vigorously . oppose such a regressive approach to the state’s revenue problems. On the spending side, we see several pressing needs in health care and in human services. We favor expansion of medicaid to include as many people as federal law makes possible, specifically children up to age eight and pregnant women with incomes .up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, as well as aged and disabled people with incomes at the poverty line. Medicaid eligibility for nursing home care, and community care for the aged and disabled should be increased to maximum federal income limits. We also see a need for funding AIDS services, both prevention and treatment. \(We also will support anti-discrimination provisions and several other recommendawe support rural health policies that preserve access to health care in rural areas, and community mental health services to people in appropriate settings. And in the area of alcohol and drug abuse, we support funding for education, prevention and treatment, and protection and extension of private insurance coverage. There will also be a need for adequate funding and appropriate implementation of the federal welfare reform leglislation. This includes programs that provide basic education, job training and placement, child daycare, child support enforcement, and family planning services for needy families. We also favor a constitutional amendment eliminating the spending ceiling for Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Lin Team is the director of Texas IMPACT, and is coordinator of People First, a campaign by more than 40 statewide organizations to urge the legislature to support funding for health and human Services. It’s Time to Bring Fairness to School Finance BY REBECCA LIGHTSEY AND AL KAUFFMAN FINANCES, BUDGETS, appropriations it’s enough to make your eyes glaze over. But one finance issue in the 71st session merits the attention of eagle eyes; that’s the issue of school finance. For years, poor school districts have been trying to give their kids a decent education with what little money they have, but they’ve been pointing out that the state system of funding education is just not fair. The state system funds public schools partly the rest from miscellaneous funds. This financing system means that school districts with lots of rich, high-dollar local property can get a whole’ lot more money for their kids than districts without expensive property. That’s why Highland Park, which levies taxes on Governor Bill’s house and the Mansion at Turtle Creek, can afford a planetarium in its high school while Valley districts, which collect taxes on colonias and trailer parks, can’t even afford air conditioning. Several years ago, poor districts got fed up with the system and sued the state. In the meantime, the legislature passed House Bill 72 in 1984. This gave more of the state share of the money to poor districts, ‘but the bill also made districts spend a lot more by reducing class size, raising teacher salaries and the like. These were all good things to have in schools, but somehow they had to be paid for and the extra state dollars did not cover the extra expenses. After studying the new system, the poor districts realized they had to go back to court and proceed with their suit. Last summer, state District Judge Harley Clark ruled that the school system was blatantly unfair to the property-poor districts and that it violated the Texas Constitution. The state was ordered to fix the system. Instead, the state appealed the lower court ruling to make sure changes would not occur. Just last month, the Court of Appeals overturned the lower court opinion; the court said the system was not very fair, but THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15