FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2003
AUSTIN, TX--Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. today voted against House Bill 1, the $58 billion budget for the 2004-2005 biennium.
"I voted against it because we failed to impose a $1 per pack cigarette tax that would have generated an estimated $1.5 billion to fund CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program) and Medicaid," he explained.
For the upcoming biennium, health and human services were cut by $171.9 million, while higher education was reduced by $173.3 million. Public education will receive $952.8 million less in funding. These figures reflect only general revenue funds (not dedicated funds). Total cuts for general revenue funding amounted to $2,582.4 million.
Sen. Lucio felt that "we (the Legislature) never made a serious effort to close the Franchise Tax loophole, which would have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars. Poll after poll has indicated Texans support closing a loophole that allows Texas companies to avoid paying their fair share of franchise taxes; yet it didn't even get serious consideration."
Another grave concern of Sen. Lucio's is the predicted 10,000 state jobs that will be eliminated. In fact, during the 1990s, when some state agencies experienced a turnover rate well above 20%, many of these employees stayed. He mentioned that even when the computer industry was luring people with higher salaries and fancy buildings, people dedicated to public service stayed.
"Some (stayed) because of job security and great benefits," he noted, "Almost none because of salary. How are we rewarding that loyalty today--by telling almost 10, 000 of them, 'Sorry, but you are no longer needed.'
He suggested that if every state employee took 10 unpaid days of vacation a year--perhaps one day a month--it would save the state almost $350 million a year. Cutting 10,000 jobs--paying an average salary of $32,000 a year plus benefits--would total about $350 million a year.
Sen. Lucio personally asked Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn today for a breakdown of the budget cuts impacting his district, as well as all other districts.
Though he thanks the members of the Senate Finance Committee for their work on the Budget, Sen. Lucio added, "Let's not congratulate ourselves on this budget."