Sunday, April 08, 2012

Texas GOP Cuts Help For Disabled Kids

It has been said that a society can be judged by the amount of help given to the neediest citizens in that society. If that is true (and I believe it is), then the state of Texas is failing that standard thanks to the Republican leadership in the legislature and the governor's mansion. They have decided that it is more important to not tax rich people and corporations than it is to help disabled children.

The state faced a $27 billion shortfall for the current biennium when the legislature met in early 2011. The GOP-dominated legislature could have addressed this in a number of ways. They could have broadened the sales tax to include more taxable items. They could have initiated a state income tax. They could have reduced or eliminated subsidies for oil and gas companies that are no longer needed. They could have initiated a surtax for the richest Texans.

But they didn't do any of those things. Instead, they chose to cut state-provided services and funding. They chopped about $5 billion out of the education budget (even though the state already had the lowest per pupil funding rate of any state in this country). And they severely cut funding for all kinds of social programs -- programs that strive to help those Texans in greatest need.

Now we learn that aid to help disabled children was among those cuts. Disabled children (with problems such as autism, cerebral palsy, and complications from premature) are helped through the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Its Early Childhood Intervention program serves these disabled children through age three. Last year the program offered help to about 30,000 children a month.

But the legislature chopped around 14% off the budget (about $54 million) for these disabled children. They were warned at that time that it would result in 4,000 less children being helped each month. But the reality is even worse. About 5,000 less kids (a drop of about 17%) are now being served each month.

Frankly, I don't understand how these Republican leaders (who publicly revel in their "christianity") can believe tax breaks for the corporations and these rich are more important than helping disabled children. Could they get any more mean-spirited and hard-hearted than that?

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