By Mary Ellen Summerlein
Amid all the terrible decisions by the state legislature, the proposals for spending $16 billion of the American Rescue Plan money for Texas are not bad! Senate Bill has passed the Senate. The House is working on its version in committee this week. So far, fortunately, the Senators have chosen solid purposes for this portion of the money:
$7.2 billion to the Comptroller’s Office for the state’s unemployment compensation fund
$3.5 billion to the Criminal Justice Department and DPS for salaries and overtime related to the pandemic
$2.5 billion to the State Health Services department to fund salaries for surge staffing in hospitals, infusion centers, and therapeutic drugs
$500 million for broadband infrastructure including $75 million to the broadband pole replacement program
$237 million to Health and Human Shrives to complete a state hospital in Dallas
$300 million to Emergency Management to build an operations center
$286 million to the TRS to help cover COVID-related health claims and ensure that no health care premiums are raised for teachers due to the pandemic
$500 million for recruitment and retention bonuses for nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, emergency medical services
We may not agree with every priority, but at least these are good uses of the money.
Very different is the last minute surprise of SB1 which proposes a payment of $200 to $500 to every homeowner (not renters) in Texas. Thinly disguised as COVID relief (since tax relief is specifically forbidden in the federal legislation) this payment is designed to arrive this fall in plenty of time for the campaigns of 2022. This would take about 1/5th of the federal money, and it’s not clear what would have to be reduced from Senate Bill 8.
According to the Texas Tribune of 10/15/12 ‘State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, said Republican leaders had found a “pretty brilliant” way to take federal money from an administration they regularly bash and then use it for something they can campaign on.’ It’s not too late to call your state representatives and senators with the simple message: “Don’t use federal money to cut my taxes; improve my state services!”
Proposed Constitutional Amendments on the November 2 Ballot
Learn why it is important to vote in the upcoming election. The League of Women Voters of Texas has over 100 years of history providing non-partisan information for voters. You can learn more about the 8 proposed amendments that will be on the ballot by going to Vote411.org. There is an explanation of each proposed amendment along with the pros and cons. Please educate yourself before you vote.