State Cupboard Not Quite Bare
Health care advocates were quick to point out that the LBB's action did nothing to restore benefits to 147,000 children dropped from CHIP coverage over the last year, or to restore eliminated services like dental and vision care. The Campaign to Restore CHIP continued to call for restoration of the program cuts initiated last year.
In a press conference following the meeting of the LBB, Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, applauded the board's action but said it remains insufficient both to state resources and public needs. "The bottom line is that Texas has over $1.3 billion in total available revenue," said Coleman, "more than enough to fund Governor Perry's proposals, completely cover the Medicaid and CHIP shortfall, and still completely restore CHIP and other vital programs. Over $470 million has been available for immediate expenditure since last year. The funds announced today represent only a small step toward assuring Texas will fund its true priorities."
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick acknowledged another $207 million in available funds, but said that money is a hedge against other obligations to be addressed in the next legislative session. These include further Medicaid and CHIP shortfalls, shortages at the Texas Education Agency and the Teachers Retirement System, and millions needed to support the increasing prison population.