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01/30/2017 Action Alert: Urge Senators to Use Savings Instead of Cutting Health and Human Services Programs

Submitted by Sean Hennigan on Mon, 01/30/2017 - 8:00am

ACTION ALERT: This week, Senate Finance Committee is considering the health and human services budget for the 2018-2019 biennium. This portion of the budget is known as “Article Two.”

The Senate budget as proposed would include nearly $500 million in unspecified cuts to general revenue for health and human services programs. The Senate also ignores the normal growth in the Medicaid program, irresponsibly leaving a couple billion dollars out of the Medicaid budget and setting up the program to run out of money early in 2019.

This week, the Senate Finance Committee will consider Texas’ 2018-2019 health and human services budget. Budget leaders warn that the state has less general revenue available for the upcoming biennium than for the current one—even though sales tax and other GR collections are expected to increase—because the state has dedicated so much revenue to the State Highway Fund.

Texas already is not keeping up with need in these areas, and we need to spend significantly more on foster care services to settle a federal lawsuit and ensure children aren’t hurt or killed in the state’s custody.

Luckily, voters have left lawmakers discretion to roll back portions of the highway dedications if conditions warrant it.

What about the “Rainy Day Fund?”

Lawmakers also could use funds in the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the “Rainy Day Fund.” This fund was set up after the oil bust of the 1980s to make sure Texas would never again have to cut programs and services due to sudden fluctuations in state revenue—especially oil and gas-related revenue. It’s inexcusable for Texas to continue to accumulate revenue in a savings account and refuse to spend it on lifesaving programs for Texas taxpayers and their families.

Take Action: Call the senators listed on this action alert and tell them you don’t support this budget approach. Tell them you support “undedicating” a portion of the highway funds to prevent cuts to Article Two programs, as well as transferring a portion of the Rainy Day Fund to avoid budget cuts.

A list of toll free numbers for each member of the Senate Finance Committee is attached to this week's action alert. Using the toll free numbers allow Texas Impact staff to track how many calls are going in to each office.

Sample Script

Hello, my name is                   and I live in ___________. I am calling to thank Senator     __  for his/her service this Legislative Session and to let you know that I and members of my congregation are praying for the Representative/Senator and his/her staff.

As a person of faith (or clergy) I want to urge Senator _______________ to recommend undedicating a portion of the newly dedicated highway funds instead of cutting health and human service programs. (If you voted for the constitutional amendment creating the dedication, you could mention that you didn’t intend to prioritize highways over human needs.)

I know you will be hearing public testimony on Article Two tomorrow, and I want to add my voice to those who say the Legislature should spend some of Texas’ considerable savings before we start taking away lifesaving and life-giving programs like health care.

I’m especially concerned that the budget as introduced include $489 million in general revenue cuts that aren’t clearly enumerated. Can you let me know what programs and services Senator __________ would be most likely to consider cutting to achieve this reduction?

Don’t forget to thank the staff member you are talking to at the end of the call, even if you disagree with their boss on the issue or bill—they are working hard and appreciate being appreciated!

In the past members have occasionally blocked our toll free number because of high call volume from people of faith. We want them to hear your voice, so if you call twice and received busy signals, email and we will update the number.

Weekly Witness Sponsors

Congregations, organizations, businesses or individuals can sponsor up to 19 weeks of legislative briefings to ensure that the 85th Legislature hears from Texans of all faith and cultural backgrounds in order to advocate for the common good at a time when Texas needs it!

Platinum Sponsors:

  • Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston

  • Members of Friends Congregational Church, College Station

  • Rev. Dr. T. Randall Smith and Rev. Sandra W. Smith