This Halloween, millions of children across the United States will be putting on a costume and going door to door in search of candy. Though most of them have already planned their outfit, I want to suggest an idea for the undecided how about going as the Texas state budget?
Like any good Halloween costume, the 2012-13 budget is scary — but essentially fake.
The budget is scary because it contains nearly $1 billion in cuts to higher education, $4 billion in cuts to public education, and more than $6 billion in reduced funding to Health and Human Services.
Our school districts will lose nearly $500 in funding per student, forcing layoffs. Our universities have had their budgets for TEXAS grant scholarships cut by the equivalent of 30,000 students statewide.
The budget is essentially fake because of the way it is funded. For example, despite reducing spending on Medicaid, the state’s leadership nevertheless underestimated how much money the program would cost over the next two years — by more than $4 billion dollars! This was quite deliberate. Additionally, the budget defers payments to schools from this biennium to the next. In other words, when the legislature reconvenes in 2013, lawmakers will have a multi-billion dollar IOU to take care of before they can begin to write the 2014-15 budget.
Our state budget should be based on sound financial principles, caring for the vulnerable and investing in our future. However, the combination of gimmicks and cuts means that the current budget is more trick than treat. That is not acceptable to me or to millions of Texans.
In reality, it would be difficult to dress up as the budget. But come to think of it, perhaps the best costume out there is also the simplest. Why not dress up as a voter?
You can wear what you usually wear and do what you usually do. You can wear your costume every day. All you need to do is register to vote and then follow through on election day. Now there is an outfit that will strike fear into the hearts of those in charge in Austin! Happy Halloween.
Lucio, D-Brownsville, is a member of the Texas Senate.