AUSTIN, TX–On Friday, May 29, 2015, State Representative Sergio Muñoz, Jr. voted against the conference committee report to HB 1, the final version of the two-year state budget. After much consideration State Representative Sergio Muñoz, Jr. made the following remarks about his position:
"I proudly supported HB 1 when it first hit the House Floor in March.” Initially, the House Budget provided the following:
• Public Education - $2.2 billion dollars towards basic allotment, increasing equity among our school districts, with an additional $800 million proposed.
• Employee Retirement System (ERS) was made actuarially sound.
• $460 million (GR) to continue a rate increase for primary care providers, especially those who treat Medicaid patients.
• Acute Care Therapy Rates were to be examined with industry input so as not to disrupt or jeopardize the care for those serving children’s therapy.
• Community Care Attendants wage increase to $10/hour.
• Contingency plan for the 1115 waiver, if this waiver is not renewed.
• An additional $1.5 billion for transportation and infrastructure needs.
• Border Security Funding at approximately $565 million dollars.
"The conference committee report to HB 1, however, stripped some of the essential funding proposals listed above. Whereas this budget has some notable qualities that I support, such as partial payment for tuition revenue bonds for institutions of higher education, tax cuts, partial Pre-K funding, ERS and TRS funding, the overall budget has shortchanged public education, infrastructure, healthcare and created a permanent hole that will need to be filled next legislative session."
Here are some facts of the conference committee report to HB 1:
• Only provided $1.5 billion for public education with $1.2 billion of that going towards the basic allotment, on average raising it from $5,040 to $5,140 per student. 1/3 of all school districts, especially in House District 36, remain below the funding levels they were before the 2011 cuts.
o Looking towards the future and accounting for inflation, funding could drop below
$5,000 per student in 2017 unless the legislature acts to correct this.
• State contribution to Teacher Retirement remains at 6.5%. TRS serves approximately 1.4 million participants, unless the state increases its contribution to offset the increase in healthcare costs, TRS will still have an insolvency rate of 50%.
• Medicaid reimbursement rate increases for doctors were removed completely. Currently, only 34% of doctors accept Medicaid patients, and the lack of a rate increase will bring this down even further.
• Medicaid cost growth of inflation and acuity is still not funded, and the only way to afford the funding is through cost containment riders added by the Senate.
o The cost containment initiatives result in $373 million in general revenue savings, but they are based primarily on cutting services, increasing premiums, and increasing or implementing higher co-payments.
o This is the third legislative session that cost containment riders are included for the purpose of dismantling the Medicaid service. The State should be preserving Medicaid's integrity and functions rather than eliminating them.
• Acute Therapy Rates have been cut by $150 million, which account for almost 25% of the entire programs funding. Additional cuts will have a drastic effect on services and access.
• Community Care Attendants hourly wage increased by only 14 cents, to $8 dollars an hour. This is a departure from the request and House committee budget that funded $10/hour. These workers are already denied health care and retirement benefits, yet they attend to and care for some of our most vulnerable and needy.
• Removed the additional $1.5 billion for transportation and infrastructure.
• Appropriation of an additional $235 million dollars for Border Security, bringing the total to
$800 million. Increasing operations and funding a 10/hr workday is important to make our communities secure; however, with no additional resources to help our local law enforcement agencies, local law enforcement agencies will not be able to compete with the salaries of DPS.
"The budget that we have sent to the Governor has many misplaced priorities. My colleagues and I in the House Appropriations Committee fought to increase funding and make our education and healthcare system meet the demands of our state. We addressed many of the critical infrastructure needs for transportation and deferred Capitol maintenance and improvements for facilities across our state. We started this legislative session with billions of dollars of extra spending money, and the current state budget leaves an estimated $18 billion in state coffers. We missed the opportunity to better fund numerous underfunded state services and critical infrastructure needs."
“Our state budget should not supersede the needs of everyday Texans. When given the opportunity, the legislature's focus was to expend the state’s finances on border security and tax cuts, which amount to approximately $4.6 billion dollars. Although I support tax cuts, the legislature has created a permanent hole in the state budget that will need to be filled by the next legislature. If not public or higher education, access to healthcare or transportation will continue to be underfunded and cut to fill that hole. That is why, in good conscience, I could not support the conference committee report to HB 1.”
CONTACT: DYLAN MATTHEWS
121 E. Tom Landry