Working for the State of Texas can be frustrating. Demand for services is always heavy; resources for providing them are always thin.
That frustration level will increase dramatically if Texas’ leaders succeed in closing the state’s $21 billion budget shortfall through budget cuts.
The looming cuts to state services are one reason that the Texas State Employees Union, a statewide local of the Communication Workers of America, joined Texas Forward, a coalition that advocates for a balanced state budget that adequately funds public services.
“TSEU has always believed that it’s not enough for public service unions to focus solely on wages and benefits; we have to ally with our clients and fight for better services,” said Mimi Garcia, the union’s research and communications director. ”Joining Texas Forward formalizes this attitude and takes it to a higher level.”
Nearly 40 organizations belong to Texas Forward including other labor organizations. SEIU Local 5 of San Antonio, the Texas Federation of Teachers, and the Texas State Teachers Association are also members.
Other organizational members include religious groups, disability advocates, charities, civil rights groups, healthcare organizations, and other groups concerned about the impact that reducing state services will have.
If enacted, the cuts will cause Texas’ threadbare social services network to become even more porous, threatening services and benefits for people like:
Richard, a 90 years old man who worked hard and saved all his life but because his savings were depleted by a long illness finds himself on Medicaid in a nursing home,
And Sarah a young woman who has been looking for work nearly a year since being laid off last year and barely manages to get by now on her unemployment benefits,
And Miguel, an ironworker who hasn’t worked since being injured on the job and relies on food stamps to feed his family until he returns to work.
Budget cuts will also mean more crowded classes in Texas public schools, which will make learning more difficult, and less financial aid for working-class students who want to go to college.
Texas Forward has a three-point agenda for maintaining Texas’ vital services: 1) Use the state’s $9 billion reserve known as the Rainy Day Fund, 2) Maximize the use of federal funding, and 3) Create new sources of revenue that are equitable and can grow along with the growth in the need for public services.
Garcia says that TSEU, which represents a wide spectrum of state agency employees including university staff, can make an important contribution to Texas Forward and the effort to maintain state services.
“State employees deal most directly with the people who will be affected most by these cuts,” Garcia said. “We know first hand what these cuts will do to the people we serve.
“And because our members work in so many agencies and universities, we can provide a broad perspective on the impact of these cuts. We also have 12,000 members who will fight like hell to prevent further reductions to the services they provide.”