With much of the current budget debate centered on proposed reductions in funding for public and higher education, the biggest elephant in the room is the Texas Medicaid program.
As the Texas Legislature battles an unprecedented budget gap this spring, advocates of various types of gaming are promising billions of dollars for education and other state programs if Texas voters are allowed to approve a constitutional amendment expanding gaming in the Lone Star State.
From 1949 to 1991, poor school districts had largely driven the debate over reform of the Texas school finance system. They had provided the initial impulse for Gilmer-Aiken, unsuccessfully sued the state in federal court, and ultimately triumphed at the Texas Supreme Court. Successive legislatures had responded to litigation and public campaigns by increasing total funding to public education and distributing that funding in a more equitable manner. Since 1991, however, the worm has turned.
Liz’s family moved to Austin when she was seven years old, so that she and her older siblings could ultimately attend the University of Texas. This was a transition that prepared her for the wider world. By the time she graduated from UT with a degree in journalism, she sensed that her prose and her spirit would enable her to make her mark. “Give me wide open spaces, a Model T, and a typewriter,” she wrote to her mother, “and I’ll see you in the hall of fame.”
Public education has long commanded the lion’s share of state resources and, consequently, controversy over how the money should be raised and spent. Texas has historically spent nearly half of its general revenue on the maintenance and operation of “public free schools,” which supplement state aid with property taxes raised at the local school district level.
As one of the students in my U.S. women’s history class put it, “Women are just like men; except that they are different.” For all that men and women have had in common these many millenia, women’s experience has often been different.
This spring the Texas Legislature will consider numerous proposals expanding the right to carry a concealed firearm. Two of these proposals—one prohibiting colleges and universities from barring concealed firearms on campus and another restricting the ability of an employer to prevent employees from carrying weapons in vehicles parked on the employer’s premises—are particularly contentious.
Judging from the past half century, only one thing is certain in this year’s redistricting battle in the Texas Legislature: the lawyers who attack and defend the maps will do very well, indeed.
Austin’s moonlight towers have long been a distinctive part of the city’s landscape, their lights casting a gentle glow on the streets 150 feet below. Though Austin’s fifteen surviving towers are now the last of their kind, this form of street lighting was once common across the United States. Many cities erected tower lights in the 1880s and 1890s and Austin’s system was modeled closely on Detroit’s, then the most extensive in the world.
The proposed appropriations bills introduced in the Texas House and Senate over the past two weeks merely confirm that Texas is in a budget crisis of historical proportions.