When considering policy, I think of Texas as one big family where we care about and look out for one another. While not a perfect analogy, this framework provides a starting point for thinking about policy that is grounded in core family values–kindness, compassion, and protecting one another. No matter your political affiliation, I believe these are values all Texans share.
It is fair to say that, as Texans, we are a very wealthy family. Our 2015 GDP was $1.6T and our “rainy day” fund has $10B (after Fall 2016 transfer). By these two measures, an argument can be made we are the richest state in America. Amazingly, we amassed this wealth without collecting a state income tax and while rejecting federal Medicaid expansion funding that would have brought Texas ~$100B over the next ten years. Using the family analogy, our parents make a ton of money every year (GDP), have a boatload saved up in the bank (“rainy day”), turn away money when they don’t like the politics of the giver (Medicaid expansion) and for the most part, don’t always have their hands in our pockets (no state income taxes). Mom and Dad are really rich.
For such a wealthy state, Texas spends significantly less than other states on education. We rank 43rd among all states on education spending per student. We can do better.
Texas’ children deserve a real shot at competing for the spoils of an increasingly global marketplace for talent. Advances in technology and automation are accelerating. Across all industries, there will almost certainly be fewer well-paying jobs in the future that will require knowledge workers with more technical skills. In my travels to India, China and Eastern Europe, I observed young, hungry, technical PhD students who have learned English for the primary purpose of doing highly technical work for western companies at a fraction of the US worker rate. They are only an internet connection away.
Surely, companies would still come to Texas with fewer corporate tax incentives. A smaller “rainy day” fund of $8B or $7B would still provide an ample security blanket. Let’s take a small fraction of our states’ wealth and improve the public education of our children. We must also fund Texas higher education, both research and financial aid, in support of our community colleges and universities.
The story is very similar for Healthcare and Child Protective Services. Texas spends less than half the national average per child on children’s protection and foster care. Foster children are going without critical services. The problems plaguing Child Protective Services have been well-documented in the media. Additionally, 23% of Texans aged 18-64 have no health insurance. By some estimates, there are 4.6m uninsured Texans.
I’m all for our government spending less money–if it’s getting the job done. That is just good fiscal discipline. But when the job is not getting done, as is the case with Healthcare and CPS, we have to fix it. A big part of the answer is more funding. With regard to healthcare, let us expand Medicaid, accept federal funds and provide health insurance for the neediest among us. 1m uninsured Texans would benefit from Medicaid expansion. I am also currently researching the “Medicaid for All” bill which was passed in the Nevada legislature and whether a strategy like this can help Texans.
The attack on women’s rights has to stop. Just this past week Texas has said they plan to remove Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program in 30 days. Planned Parenthood clinics provide services to more than 11,000 low-income Texan women each year through the state’s Medicaid program. This has a very tangible, direct and negative impact on many women right here in District 46 where the poverty rate is 26%. In both East Austin and North Austin, District 46 relies on Planned Parenthood clinics. These kinds of policies create real anxiety and fear among women and families that need our help the most. The maternal mortality rate has doubled in Texas from 2010 to 2014. No other state saw a comparable increase.
I am pro-choice. However, no matter your stance on abortion, it makes no sense whatsoever that low-income women’s access to Planned Parenthood services are in any way different from a middle-income or high-income woman’s access. This inequality is unacceptable. Professional politicians, both men and women, with excellent private health insurance plans cannot use low-income women as a political football to be kicked around in the Texas abortion debate.
My hope is to bring our collective core values of kindness, caring for one another and protecting one another in alignment with how we spend our great state’s ample resources and how we draft our social policies.
Source / Credit: comptroller.texas.gov; Dallas Morning News 11/26/16; NPR 5/15; The Guardian 12/16