The Texas Observer

The Stimulus Teeters on a Lege

The Stimulus Teeters on a Lege

Sonograms, voter ID, and now a bill that makes it illegal to discriminate against creationists in schools. If you’re outside the Capitol looking in, the 82nd Texas Legislature is nothing if not memorable. But the sturm and drang over culture-war issues has drowned out some of the more substantive challenges the lawmakers face. One of the least-discussed so far: how best to use federal stimulus money. There won’t be enough to fill the state’s budget gaps this time — as legislators did in 2009 – but the state has at least 18 more months of funds to draw. That’s hundreds of millions for Texas to put to good, or bad, use.

Texas Impact, an interfaith group that focuses on public policy and social justice, just released a report titled “It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over: The Texas Legislature and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.” Compiled by a coalition that includes the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Texas Legal Services and Public Citizen, among others, the report points out where ARRA funding is helping the most, and presents cases that demonstrate the need for continued funding.

This should be old news to lawmakers, as they’re already aware of how stimulus money is being spent. Right? Well, considering that a committee was formed in the last session, and a website created, one would hope so. But the Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization disbanded after its chairman, former Rep. Jim Dunnam, lost his seat last November. The Lege also let their website’s domain name, http://www.txstimulus.com, expire in December 2010. Who cared enough to save the domain from dying? That would be Bee Moorhead, head of Texas Impact. The URL now goes directly to TI’s report.

“Texas will keep spending ARRA dollars for at least another 18 months and we could still draw hundreds of millions of dollars more,” Moorhead said in a press release. “Considering the losses of jobs and services that are likely to result from looming state budget cuts, lawmakers should be trying to maximize every penny.”

So what’s in the report? It highlights the good the stimulus funding has done for Texas, and what the Legislature needs to do to make sure those pennies are maximized going forward. A few major points:

 

 

 

 

 

 

If ever there was a time to voice an opinion on Texas’ budget problems, that time is now. The Texas Impact report will give you plenty of ammunition. The ARRA might be two years old, but that is no excuse for the House and Senate to forget the impact—and potential future benefit—that the stimulus can bring to the state.