Representative Susan King informed her Nolan County constituents during a luncheon in Sweetwater Thursday, held at Texas State Technical College West Texas, that everything “is on the table” when it comes to considering what to cut in order to pass a non-deficit budget during the coming legislative session.
The new Texas legislation meets Jan. 11, 2011, and one of the big things legislators must deal with is a budget shortfall of around $20 billion, according to various news reports. “You can’t pass a deficit budget in Texas,” King stated during the TSTC luncheon. She explained that the only options are to raise taxes to continue covering the programs like they are or to make cuts. And cuts could be from anywhere or everywhere. She said anything from education to Medicaid could be in danger of seeing some cuts.
She went on to explain the tough task for lawmakers to agree on where the cuts should be made. “I bet not everyone in this room agrees, so you can imagine how tough it would be for 150 people in the House to agree,” she said.
King pointed out that no matter what is cut, someone or some group will be upset. She said that everyone realizes that cuts have to be made, but they don’t want to see their programs cut.
The other two big issues she discussed were redistricting and the state and federal government interface.
King said it was possible that her district - District 71 - could see a loss of representation because of its minimal growth. King represents Nolan and Taylor Counties. She explained that West Texas has seen 4 percent growth since the last session began while everything east of I-35 has seen 40 percent growth. This could mean West Texas folks could lose representation to the more populated areas of the state.
“We in West Texas will have to fight, scratch and claw for representation,” she added.
The redistricting decided during the next two years will go into effect in 2013.
As for the state and federal government interface, King discussed possible challenges for Texas lawmakers. She said Texans will have to deal with things like the new healthcare bill and cap and trade “unless we succeed from the Union.” She noted that there are a lot of grassroots organizations that have good ideas when it comes to dealing with things passed by the Obama administration that some Texas residents do not like. “But will they work?” she asked.
She added that some of the ideas just aren’t practical.
King fielded a few questions from members of the audience, which included members of the Sweetwater Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary Clubs - the hosts of the luncheon. One question came from Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development (SEED) Director Ken Becker, who asked about the possibility of the state cutting funding that would go to updating and enlarging the transmission line system for electricity created by area wind farms. That’s when King said “everything is on the table to be cut,” even entire state departments.
King added that she thought the only things that were truly safe would include anything to do with public safety and corrections. She also said she didn’t see anyone “going after veterans’ services.”
King encouraged anyone with a concern or idea for better governing the state to contact her office. “If you have ideas or concerns, we want you to weigh in,” she said. She added that it’s better to make yourself heard on an issue before a bill hits the floor, and it’s too late for her to do anything to change the outcome of the vote.