VETERANS', HISTORICAL COMMISSIONS WOULD BE HIT HARD BY PROPOSED CUTS
(AUSTIN) — The Senate Finance continues budget hearings, and Monday brought testimony from two agencies that face severe reductions in operating budgets. First was the Texas Veterans' Commission, an agency that provides services to military veterans who live in Texas. Commission Executive Director Tom Palladino asked Senators to preserve funding levels for the commission and spare the agency from the proposed 20 percent cut. He pointed out that the cuts would have dire consequences for the veterans served by the Veterans' Commission. His top priority was the claims representation department, which represents Texas veterans and helps them file claims with the Federal Veterans' Administration. Claims filed by Texas veterans bring billions of dollars to the state, and reductions to the agency budget would reduce the number of claims the agency can file, reducing the number of payments made to veterans here in Texas. Palladino also warned that the proposed reduction of 22 employees, in addition to reducing claim filings and increasing processing time at the agency, could lead to some offices being closed.
The Texas Historical Commission would also see a significant reduction in funding, more than three-fourths of state and federal money and a third of the agency workforce. Commission Executive Director Mark Wolf testified that the proposed budget would mean the end of several programs, including Military History, Heritage Trails, site websites administered by the commission as well as educational materials. County historical commissions, who look to the state commission to maintain standards and encourage communication between counties, would be isolated. The proposed budget does not cut the Main Street Project, a state fund that helps small Texas towns maintain their historic downtowns.
Testimony on the budget will continue through the week. The Senate Committee on Education will meet Tuesday to consider how class size impacts education expenses, as well as look at a bill aimed at increasing financial flexibility at the local level, to help districts cope with proposed cuts. The committee will meet in the Capitol Extension at 8 a.m.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, March 8 at 11 a.m.