Subject: TSEU Legislative Update for March 18, 2011
TEXAS STATE EMPLOYEES UNION / CWA LOCAL 6186
March 18, 2011
- Furlough Bill filed by the Chair of House Appropriations committee
- Mini Lobby Days: HHSC, DFPS, DSHS
- Funding for FY2011 and the Rainy Day Fund
- Sunset Bill Proposes Merger of Texas Youth Commission and Texas Juvenile Probation Commission
See past LegeUpdates and more on the TSEU Legislative Pages.
Pitts - CHAIR (R)
Turner - VICE CHAIR (D)
Martinez, Armando (D)
Miller, Doug (R)
Furlough Bill filed by the Chair of House Appropriations committee - Pay cut will devastate the state's workforce
Representative Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) filed HB 2720 on March 9th. This bill would direct state agency heads to institute furloughs up to 30 days for state employees. The bill will allow state employees who are furloughed to continue to receive full time health care contribution from the state, however it will reduce the person's compensation for purposes of calculating retirement benefits.
State services will be severely damaged by the furlough program. Texans are still in need of services and furloughing state employees means the quality and prompt delivery of services will be diminished. Turnover in many state agencies is dangerously high; furloughs will only make a bad situation worse.
This is a full frontal attack on workers and the services that we provide.
FIGHT TO STOP FURLOUGHS
*Buy your ticket to lobby day. Legislators have to see that state employees care about their jobs and the services.
*Organize your co-worker, we can't stop these attacks alone, we need thousands of state employees standing together to protect the services we provide, our benefits, and jobs.
*Call your legislator and members of the appropriations committee and ask them to oppose any initiative that would furlough or layoff state employees. (names and numbers listed in left column)
Mini Lobby Days:
On Wednesday, February 23rd, 10 leaders from the TSEU statewide HHSC/DADS caucus came to the capitol to for the TSEU Mini Lobby Day. Samm Almaguer (Houston), Sheila Badzioch (Houston), Yoly Griego (El Paso, ERS Board Member), Lynette Johnson (Houston), Chickitha King (Dallas), Judy Lugo (El Paso, TSEU President), Naiman Rigby (Austin), Charles Shedd (Austin), Maria (Francis) Ortiz (San Antonio), Christina Vargas (El Paso) were in attendance.
In all, members met with 22 legislators and their staffers to discuss the proposed budget cuts. Members stressed the immediate need to hire thousands more front-line staff and urged legislators to pass legislation requiring cost-benefit analysis for current and any future contracted eligibility services.
In addition, members met to discuss TSEU's plan for defeating the attacks on state employees and services. We will have the largest turn-out ever at the all-agency/university/friends Lobby Day on April 6th. Ask co-workers to join the Union and COPE, get others to sign and send Stop the Cuts Postcards to their legislators, and be the front line of building a coalition to save state services. We also discussed the importance of getting Bob Stewart elected onto the ERS board of trustees.
For more information contact Jamie Berry at email@example.com or 713-661-9030
On Wednesday, March 2nd, TSEU activists in DFPS met in Austin for the FPS mini Lobby Day at the Capitol. A list of members who participated follows. Members met with State Legislators and their staff to seek support for our bills to lower caseloads and set caseload goals. We also explained how the proposed budget cuts would affect our clients, and urged all who would listen to find a better way to balance the budget. Our work paid off, and we found more support for our bills. Getting firm commitments to oppose the proposed cuts was more difficult though. We'll have to continue to build pressure to stop the irresponsible cuts in the budget.
Before heading to the Capitol, we met at the union office and discussed the various efforts to stop the budget cuts- Lobby Day on April 6th, postcards we're sending to legislators, and most importantly, getting more of our coworkers to join the union. In order to grow, we discussed how we need to ask more non-members to sign up, and get out a clear message that we are fighting for better services for our clients and vulnerable Texans. Coworkers "thinking about it" and "waiting to see what happens" will do nothing to stop the cuts; helping build the union will make a difference.
If you work with one of the participants, thank them for taking the time to trek all over the Capitol to get our message out. FPS mini lobby day participants were Elizabeth Goble (Austin), April Cumberbatch (Arlington), Susan Rial (Arlington), Stephanie Diaz (Corpus Christi), Henry Gutierrez (El Paso), Sally Baker (Houston), Christie Fleming (Houston), Patricia Johnson (Houston), Rayetta Riggans (Houston), Harriet Thomas (Houston), Lilly Cisneros (San Antonio), Jim Funk (San Antonio), Karen Gafford (San Antonio), Ray Kirsch (San Antonio), Sonia Samples (San Antonio)
Wednesday, March 9th, members from the Department of State Health Services participated in their own mini lobby day. In attendance were Liz Bruns and KayLin Mueller from the WIC program, Jonathon Poe from the STD/HIV/TB Surveillance program, Joanne Day from the Laboratory, and Karen Bitto from travel reimbursement. The team worked together and did an excellent job presenting the union's issues and concerns about the current budget situation and the states response. Primarily that message was that Texas is last in the country in most indicators of health, mental health, disease prevention, etc. because the state does not adequately fund services. Now is not the time to cut. Now is the time to increase revenue. That message was delivered to the offices of 10 Senators and Representatives.
For more information on DSHS and how to get involved with the caucus, contact Jim Branson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding for FY2011 and the Rainy Day Fund
State comptroller Susan Combs certified earlier this year that the state was running a $4.3 billion deficit for the current budget year. In order to makeup for this shortfall the governor asked agencies to make an additional 2.5% on top of the 5% cuts called for last year. Even with all these cuts the agencies were only able to cut about $1.2 billion from the current budget.
In order to cover the difference in the shortfall and the amount cut in the budget, House Appropriations Committee chairman, Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), filed HB 275. This bill would open up the Economic Stabilization Fund (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) to use $4.3 billion in the current budget. Thus began a week long tug of war between Governor Perry of and members of the House, particularly Rep. Pitts.
Early last week the governor met with the house Republican Caucus, pushing them to hold firm on their commitment not to use any of the Rainy Day Fund. He claimed that there was more to cut in the budget and he would not approve using the fund until those cuts had been exhausted.
Rep. Pitts called a hearing on the bill, after a series of cancelations and rescheduled meetings, invited testimony was taken on Thursday, March 10. Representatives from the governor's office, including former state representative and senator, Ken Armbrister, presented the governor's proposals of cuts and stood firm against using the Rainy Day Fund. On Monday Rep. Pitts invited the governor's office to come to the floor to discuss the use of the bill and was stood up by the office.
Tuesday afternoon in a joint press release from the governor's office, the office of the Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, and the Comptroller, Susan Combs, announced that they would approve the use of no more than $3.2 billion of the Rainy Day Fund for the current fiscal year. Between increased sales tax revenue, cuts made from the 5% and 2.5% agency cuts, and the $3.2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund the current fiscal year will be funded and the state will not default or go bankrupt.
Use of the Rainy Day Fund now reduces the amount available for FY2012-2013 to $6 billion. However, Governor Perry also stated, "As we craft the next two-year budget, Texas leaders will continue to focus on a more efficient, fiscally responsible government, essential state services, and private sector job creation. I remain steadfastly committed to protecting the remaining balance of the Rainy Day Fund, and will not sign a 2012-2013 state budget that uses the Rainy Day Fund."
While this is a move in the right direction, it does not do anything to solve our budget problems for the next budget cycle. TSEU remains committed to pushing for a more balanced approach to writing this state budget. This means using all of the Rainy Day Fund, maximizing all available federal funds, increasing revenue, and fixing the $5 billion a year structural deficit.
Sunset Bill Proposes Merger of Texas Youth Commission and Texas Juvenile Probation Commission
House Bill 1915 (HB 1915) was heard last week in the House Corrections Committee. The bill is a "shell bill" based off of recommendations from the Sunset Advisory Commission. This legislation, filed by Correction Committee Chairperson Jerry Madden, would merge the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. In addition to closing three TYC facilities and possibly six probation offices, the bill would pass the responsibility of caring for and housing youth offenders to the counties.
In her testimony on the bill last week, Mimi Garcia, TSEU's Outreach Coordinator testified -
It is tempting to think that by closing down state-run facilities and turning these youth over to cheaper, county-run residential facilities the state can save money and help close the immediate budget hole. However, this amounts to an unfunded mandate for county governments, most of which lack the resources, funds, and specialized workforce to deal with the TYC's specialized population of offenders. In addition, leaving it up to individual counties to develop their own programs, standards, and methods of running these facilities will create a patchwork of juvenile justice systems across the state. This will make it extremely difficult for future legislatures to adequately oversee such a wide range of programs. Texas needs a state-run, fully integrated system with uniform standards, goals, and accountability.
TSEU supports gradually transitioning TYC towards a system of smaller, residential facilities similar to the nine halfway houses already in operation around the state. These facilities could offer a wide range of programs to better suit the individual needs of incarcerated youth who come to TYC with mental health issues, histories of abuse, drug addictions, and little education. These smaller facilities would allow the state to increase the staff-to-youth ratio and thereby create a safer environment. The issue of long travel times for families of incarcerated youths coming to visit them would be reduced with these small facilities scattered all over the state.
These young offenders are here in our communities right now, and if we are not ready to deal with them now, if we do not put the resources into rehabilitating them before they wind up committing even more serious crimes, we will seriously regret our lack of foresight. The problem is real and simply pushing it down the road or trying to ignore it will not make it go away.
TYC is holding a series of community meetings on the facility closures over the next several weeks. All TYC members and TSEU members in the community should go to voice how important these facilities are for youth and the community.
Community TYC Meeting Schedule: All Meetings held 10am-2pm
* March 19, Mart:
Mart Community Center, 805 East Bowie Street, Mart, TX
Brownwood: Brownwood High School, 2100 Slayden, Brownwood, TX
April 2, Edinburg:
University of Texas Pan American, Location on campus TBD
April 9, Crockett:
Crockett High School, 1600 SW Loop 304, Crockett, TX
April 16, Beaumont: TBD
April 30, Giddings:
Giddings High School Cafetorium, 2337 North Main, Giddings, TX
May 7, Corsicana:
Navarro College Dawson Auditorium, 3200 West 7th Ave, Corsicana, TX
May 14, Gainesville: TBD
For more information contact Seth Huchinson at email@example.com.
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