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Tell It Like It Is


Budget Balancing and Political Blindness




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Thomas Segel is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.

Tell It Like It Is
March 7, 2011 | 1,400 views | Post a comment

Harlingen, Texas, March 1, 2011: There are few people remaining who can still deny the truth. As a nation we are up to our ears in debt and with every tick of the clock it appears that debt keeps growing far beyond our ability to handle repayment and still maintain the lifestyle we has always enjoyed. What is true for our country as a whole is also a separate reality in most of the fifty states. Even in Texas, where citizens have always functioned under a constitutionally required balanced budget a huge gap in the biannual financing demand looms.

It is understandable that legislators attempting to balance any budget must make serious cuts or end funding of unnecessary programs. To stop funding the Endowment to the Arts or Public Broadcasting is relatively easy to comprehend. These are both programs, which could privately raise revenue from those who utilize such services or wealthy patrons. In reality,even education funding can be replaced privately if tax dollars are reduced. This challenge may soon face the Lone Star State, where it is estimated up to 100,000 teachers may receive pink slips. That would mean a loss of up to one third of the current teaching force in the state.

But, there are some programs, particularly in the area of health services that pose a dangerous risk of extreme harm, particularly if the resources are taken away from poor and disadvantaged people of our country. Unfortunately, a case of political blindness when it comes to wielding the budget-cutting axe is often the case both nationally and in some locales such as Deep South Texas.

Though the rumors have been denied vigorously by the Texas Department of State Health Services and even the Chairman of the Legislative House Appropriations Committee, behind the scene rumbles of a possible closure of both the mental health and mental retardation services of Rio Grande State Center in Harlingen have been strongly voiced. This being the only public mental health in-patient facility 260 miles south of San Antonio, any such shutdown would have devastating consequences.

These rumored cuts in public services are bandied around regularly with no claim to ownership to the ideas by anyone. They are in reality just straw men who are placed in front of the people to gauge public reaction to the various cost cutting ideas.

Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D) from Brownsville has entered a bill to have a one-cent per ounce tax placed on all soft drinks, including diet sodas. His claim is the bill would reduce consumption and thus aid in the fight against obesity, with the revenue from this tax going into the Medicaid fund. In reality, when you consider the bill also taxes diet sodas, it has nothing to do with fighting obesity and everything to do with increasing the revenue flow.

While Texas legislators and the officials of multiple oil, gas and coal producing states anguish over how to balance budgets dripping with red ink, energy prices keep climbing through the roof. At the same time, states with abundant energy resources cannot capitalize on current high prices, because a Democrat president, a Democrat Senate and the environmental activists of the nation have killed energy expansion with overregulation and prohibition. The end result is states are denied energy money that could do much to repair damaged budgets and instead are forced to attempt taxation in such childish ways as putting penny taxes on soda pop.
 
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