Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Texas on the Brink

Perry won re-election last year by touting the strength and health of Texas under conservative governance, a familiar strategy he has consistently repeated since taking office in late 2000. Perry again used that theme for his State of the State address to the Texas Legislature in early February. Perry's bottom line assessment of the state of the state is that it's all good. Contrary to Perry's rosy superlatives, it's not all good in Texas, according to the fifth edition of "Texas on the Brink," an annual review by the Legislative Study Group that ranks the state on dozens of factors ranging from health insurance to voter turnout. (PDF)

Texas on the Brink 2011: Blessed with land, rivers, oil, and other abundant natural resources, early Texas welcomed everyone from cattle ranchers to braceros, from cotton farmers to Chinese railroad workers. These pioneers built a great state, and together we fulfilled a destiny.
From humble beginnings, we built a state with the firm belief that every Texan might rise as high and as far as their spirit, hard work, and talent might carry them. With education and determination every Texan might achieve great success – home ownership, reliable healthcare, safe neighborhoods, and financial prosperity.

In Texas today, the American dream is distant. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation. Texas is dead last in the percentage of residents with their high school diploma and near last in SAT scores. Texas has America’s dirtiest air. If we do not change course, for the first time in our history, the Texas generation of tomorrow will be less prosperous than the generation of today.

Without the courage to invest in the minds of our children and steadfast support for great schools, we face a daunting prospect. Those who value tax cuts over children and budget cuts over college have put Texas at risk in her ability to compete and succeed.
Perry's office released a 2011 budget plan (PDF) that largely resembles those put forward by the state House and Senate in recent weeks. Those plans cut $31 billion in spending from the Texas budget, which will result in the firings of tens of thousands of teachers, closure of community colleges, eliminate tuition support for 60,000 college students, closure of correctional facilities and firings of correctional officers and drastic cuts state services for the poor, elderly and young and those with mental health problems.

The Texas Tribune pulls a few facts from the report to give a look at how Texas compares to other states, before the $31 billion in spending cuts called for by Perry and Texas Legislature:

At the bottom:
  • Tax expenditures per capita (47th)
  • Percent of population 25 and older with a high school diploma (50th)
  • Percent of poor people covered by Medicaid (49th)
  • Percent of population with employer-based health insurance (48th)
  • Per capita spending on mental health (50th)
  • Per capita spending on Medicaid (49th)
  • Percent of non-elderly women with health insurance (50th)
  • Percent of women receiving prenatal care in first trimester (50th)
  • Average credit score (49th)
  • Workers' compensation coverage (50th)
Near the top:
  • Number of executions (1st)
  • Public school enrollment (2nd)
  • Percent of uninsured children (1st)
  • Percent of children living in poverty (4th)
  • Percent of population uninsured (1st)
  • Percent of population living below poverty (4th)
  • Percent of population with food insecurity (2nd)
  • Overall birth rate (2nd)
  • Amount of carbon dioxide emissions (1st)
  • Amount of toxic chemicals released into water (1st)
  • Amount of hazardous waste generated (1st)

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