Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fwd: TSEU Legislative Update

Subject: TSEU Legislative Update


TSEU Legislative Update
January 24, 2011

For more details contact:

TSEU Austin Office


On the first day of the legislative session, Tuesday January 11, 2011, TSEU members visited all 180 legislators' offices to distribute our 2011 Legislative Agenda and meet the new and returning legislators. Austin ROC members Leslie Cunningham, Steve Bradley, Vicki Clark-Bradley, Hank Leithner, Janie Aguilar, Travis Benford, and Elaine Blodgett were joined by William Blake (UT-Austin), Alice Navarro (FPS-Austin), Charles Shedd (HHSC-Austin), James Nauls (ROC-Houston, TSEU Board Member), Jerry Wald (ROC-Houston).

Items in our legislative agenda include:

Protect employees' pension and health care plans
No more privatization
Fully fund all state agencies and universities
Preserve and expand state employees' right to justice on the job
Stop the erosion of state employees' pay

Budget Watch:

Last Tuesday night the House's budget proposal landed in legislators' offices and TSEU's legislative team was there to take a first look. While elements of the budget require greater analysis, we can give you a breakdown of what is being proposed.
It is important to understand that this budget bill was written with only the money the state comptroller estimated will be available for 2012-2013. It does not replace any of the over $6 billion in federal stimulus money the state used in 2009 to balance the budget; there is no use of the projected $9.4 billion in the Rainy Day Funds, and no growth in population or increased need was included. This budget is $30 billion less than the current budget and all agencies take huge hits.

Employees Retirement System (ERS): The state reduces its contribution from 6.95% to the constitutionally mandated 6.0%. Increased employee contributions are not included in the budget, but they are not off the table. There are several proposed changes to employees' health insurance including:

Rider 6 creates an incentive program for employees to waive ERS health insurance: This proposed program would pay workers who do not enroll in the ERS health insurance program $60 a month for other health coverage.

Rider 13 establishes tiered coinsurance. Currently employees pay 20% coinsurance on all medical procedures $10,000 or more. Tiers would be added to the insurance so that an individual would pay an additional 5% for procedures costing $10,001-$50,000 and an additional 2% on procedures above $50,000 up to $100,000.

Rider 14 creates a tobacco surcharge. Employees who smoke could be required to pay a $30 a month surcharge on their health insurance.

Other recommendations from the Legislative Budget Board that were not included in HB1 include a pill splitting program for prescription drugs, increased premiums for retirees with dependents, and changing the premium contribution from the state based on an employee's years of service.

Teachers Retirement System (TRS): The proposed budget has the state contribution for TRS reduced from 6.4% to 6.0%. This includes the retirement plan for public school teachers, public university staff and lecturers. The state contribution for the Optional Retirement Program (ORP), the retirement plan faculty and upper administration at public universities, was also reduced from 6.4% to 6.0%.

TDCJ-Parole: The proposed budget destabilizes the Law Enforcement and Custodial Officers Supplemental Retirement Fund (LECOSRF) by zeroing out the state's contribution. TSEU won inclusion of parole officers in the 20 year retirement fund in 1999.

Texas Youth Commission (TYC): TYC is losing 553 FTEs, up to three facilities will be closed, and the Juvenile Corrections Officer (JCO) career ladder is unfunded. In addition to these blows in the budget, the Sunset Advisory Commission recommended TYC be shut down and incorporated into the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission to create the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS): In the proposed budget the agency is slated to lose 543 FTEs, two State Supported Living Centers will be closed and a program of "culture change" at the SSLCs will be implemented.

Rider 42 allocates $250,000 to hire someone to oversee a plan of "culture change" at SSLCs.

Rider 43 lays out a process to close two SSLCs, but does not specify which facilities to close.

Rider 44 creates a commission for "realignment" of SSLCs and provides for the travel expenses of this commission.

Department Family and Protective Services(DFPS): The agency is losing 802 FTEs, 400 layoffs will be investigators and case workers. These layoffs will increase caseloads by more than 25% in some areas. Child abuse and neglect prevention programs are cut by 55% with two programs eliminated completely – Other At-Risk Prevention program and Relative Caregiver payments, which provides monetary assistance for family members who take in child relatives.

Department of State Health Services (DSHS): The agency is losing 207.7 FTEs, primarily in the state hospitals. Numerous programs have had their funding reduced significantly or completely lost. Chronic disease prevention – which funds diabetes prevention, Community Primary Care Services – which funds medical clinics in south Texas, and state and community mental health services were among the hardest hit.

Rider 67 calls for the privatization of one state hospital and lays out the process for awarding this contract.

Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS): While the agency is losing 42 FTEs, more staffs are lost in vocational rehabilitation services while federally funded positions in the Disability Determination Services are being increased. Several departments' budgets are significantly reduced including Early Childhood Intervention, rehabilitation services for blind children and adults. The new autism program that served hundreds of families with children with autism spectrum disorders between the ages 5 and 8 was completely zeroed out.

Special provisions for the HHSC agencies, Section 2(d), lays out the protocol for a shift differential for staff at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center. Night shift workers would receive up to 15% monthly pay differential while weekend workers would receive up to a 5% monthly differential.

Health and Human Services (HHSC): The agency is gaining 80.8 FTEs, primarily in the Integrated Eligibility program. This increase does little to fill the hole created by the privatization attempts of 2003. Multiple programs are losing considerable funding. Medicaid funding is being cut by about $4 billion, areas such as coverage for pregnant women (-28%) and medically needy children (-35%) are hardest hit. Other programs to be cut are the CHIP perinatal program (-37%) and alternatives to abortion which was completely zeroed out.

Rider 52 expands managed care for Medicaid and CHIP.

Rider 58 requires HHSC to certify savings associated with closure of a State Supported Living Center. This couples with riders 42-44 of the DADS budget.

Public Higher Education: While we are still completing our analysis on the various public universities in the state, there are some major cuts to public higher education that will affect everyone. Universities are losing about $2 billion across the state. In addition to direct funding cuts at universities, assistance programs for students are being reduced significantly. The Texas Grant scholarship program, alone, would fund 70,000 fewer students.


Bills to Watch:

HJR 5: Filed by Rep. John Otto (HD 18), this bill would essentially place a cap on how much the state could spend every year from tax revenue. This would mean that the state would not be allowed to spend more based on economic growth or population growth. It could tie the states hands for years to come.

SB 218: Filed by Sen. Jane Nelson (SD 12), this bill would completely privatize the oversight and management of the foster care system in DFPS.


TSEU and Texas Forward: Fighting for a balanced approach to a balanced budget

On January 5th TSEU stood with other coalition members at a press conference at the capitol to launch Texas Forward. We are working with other progressive organizations to push for a more balanced approach to writing the state's budget. A balanced approach means using the Rainy Day Fund, finding new revenue, and closing wasteful tax loopholes instead of relying on cuts alone to balance the budget.

For more information on Texas Forward go to:



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