Top lawmakers within the Valley delegation are urging local communities to 'push back' In light of potentially devastating cuts being proposed by Republicans in the Texas House and Senate.
Local leaders and residents need to oppose the proposed cuts from Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1, which will not only affect teachers, healthcare and public safety, but also threatens to throw Texas into a deep recession, according to Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
"This has probably been the worst session I have been involved in where we have faced such a large deficit," said Hinojosa, who is vice chair on the Senate Committee on Finance and a member of the Legislative Budget Board. Hinojosa addressed reporters and Edinburg's ECN 12 news station during the city's legislative trip on March 7.
"If those cuts pass, they will set us back not only in terms of jobs and education but it will create a recession in our state," Hinojosa said. "Keep in mind, for us here this is a very low tax state, we have very tight budgets and right now we do have the money. We are short $15 billion, but we can get by if we have the will and courage to do what's right."
Lawmakers need to take a 'balanced approach' to the budget, Hinojosa said. The senator suggested tapping $8 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, postponing capital projects, which can raise about $2.5 billion, and fixing the margin tax.
The margin tax is a tax on business that can produce another $2 billion, according to Hinojosa. On top of that lawmakers can look at raising fees, he said.
"SB 1 does not have any support from any senators because we understand the consequences," said Hinojosa. "The problem is in the House. There are a lot of new members who have a quick learning curve and they campaigned on the rhetoric of just cut cut cut. Now they are facing the reality and the consequences for the people they will impact. They are now putting a face to those cuts that are being proposed."
Hinojosa filed legislation earlier this month that would allow video lottery terminals to operate at existing racetracks and Indian reservations. The law would enable Texas to raise an average of $2.5 billion a year by targeting Texans who choose to go to neighboring states to gamble.
VLTs are a combination of slot machines and lottery, in which an often centralized computer generates random winners. VLT systems can be programmed to allow a specific total number of winners. They are currently legal in Oregon, Rhode Island, Delaware, New York, West Virginia, Louisiana, Maryland, and Montana. VLTs are not legal in Nevada.
"We need to stay involved, stay informed and read about what's going on in Austin. The decisions we make will impact our families back home," Hinojosa said. "They will impact our kids going to school. They will impact our elderly. Right now, out of 600 nursing homes, 450 of those get 70 percent of the budget through medicaid. If we cut Medicaid by 10 percent, out of those 450 I guarantee about 250 will have to close down. As a consequence you are going to see thousands of elderly people kicked out of nursing homes. Some of them don't have families. That's not right. We have to do what's right and make hard choices and decisions."