Texas AFL-CIO: What to Look for in House Budget Debate

The Texas labor movement today called on the Texas House to go further to address the needs of working families when it debates SB 1, the 2022-23 state appropriations bill.

Based on proposed amendments and the general contours of this year’s budget discussions, Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said lawmakers should insist on progress on core issues affecting working families, including health care, public education, racial justice and state employee pay.

“For far too long, Texas has starved important functions of state government, forcing working people to pay a heavy price,” Levy said. “Yet this year lawmakers appear ready to adopt even more artificial spending restrictions that leave working families further in the lurch.”

“The consequences of long-term austerity have been dramatic in this budget cycle, and working families are suffering,” Levy said. “This budget leaves millions uninsured, misses out on the benefits of billions of dollars in federal assistance, and maintains without significant change an electricity market that has failed Texas miserably.”

“Some lawmakers are now trying to use the budget process to undermine public education and institutionalize ignorance and discrimination. The labor movement asks lawmakers to reject these attempts to divide us, and instead focus on meeting the real needs of working Texans.”

“The state budget needs to be modernized and reimagined, not rubber-stamped.”

Among items the Texas AFL-CIO will watch:

Expand Access to Healthcare — Several proposed amendments by Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston would seek to cover more Texans. Coleman’s key proposals would adopt legislative intent to participate in the Affordable Care Act, which would bring tens of billions of federal dollars into the state to create a broader, more inclusive public health system;

Fully Fund Neighborhood Public Schools — Nearly half the $35 billion the federal government is sending to Texas for pandemic relief is slated for public education. Those funds need to go to schools now, as suggested in a proposed amendment by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez of Austin;

Stop Starving State Employees — Loyal, dedicated state employees have not received a general pay raise in seven years, threatening costly turnover that undermines state services. At least two proposals would take steps in the right direction: An amendment by Rep. Michelle Beckley of Carrollton would offer raises to state employees at state-supported living centers and state hospitals, while an amendment by Rep. Rhetta Bowers of Rowlett would help make sure men and women in state government receive equal pay for equal work.

Reject School Vouchers — The House should again explicitly oppose private school vouchers that undermine public schools. Reps. Abel Herrero of Corpus Christi, Terry Meza of Irving. and Gary VanDeaver of New Boston have amendments that would reject vouchers, while the House should kill an opposite amendment by Rep. Steve Toth of The Woodlands calling for a voucher program; and

Fight Discrimination — The House should reject amendments that undermine racial justice, immigrants or the LGBGQ community. Examples: a proposal by Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City to deny COVID-19 benefits based on immigration status, along with a number of proposed amendments that would circumscribe public school instruction on the history and legacy of slavery and white supremacy.