MISSION – State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa spoke about issues the state is currently facing at Mission Chamber’s Buenes Tardes Luncheon this week. Hinojosa said this last legislative session was probably one of the most difficult sessions he has seen, due to budgetary challenges. And the next session might just be as difficult.
Hinojosa said Medicaid is one of the fastest growing parts of the state’s budget. Last session, Medicaid was underfunded by $5 million, said Hinojosa.
Hinojosa said Governor Rick Perry has already made a decision to reject the extension of Medicaid, but it isn’t only his decision; it is up to the legislature as well.
With the issues of the Affordable Care Act, I would like to wait before making a decision, said Hinojosa.
“Let’s wait before we make any rush decision based on politics,” said Hinojosa. “Let’s look at the facts.”
About 25 percent of the state’s population does not have health insurance, but they still get healthcare by going to hospitals and seeing doctors, and those paying for insurance pay some of that tab.
With the Affordable Care Act, it says it will pay 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid for the first three years, then 90 percent after those three years.
By 2019, if we don’t do anything, we will walk away from about $76 billion. That’s a lot of money, said Hinojosa.
“One way or another, we end up paying for it,” he said. The better decision is seeing what is the best course for us to go.
We shouldn’t reject it outright; we should look at what is the best for our state by looking at the facts, not politics. Too many decisions are being tainted by politics, added Hinojosa.
Hinojosa said there are some good parts, and there are some bad parts.
Good parts include how long a dependent can be under their parents’ insurance and the coverage for pre-existing conditions. The bad part is that it is mandated. This upsets a lot of people.
“This upsets me,” said Hinojosa. “It clearly goes against our history, against American liberty and state rights.”
At some point it needs to be modified, continued Hinojosa.
The state currently has a $25 billion deficit, said Hinojosa. $15 billion has been cut from the budget to make sure some doors are left open, he continued.
Our state does lead the nation in jobs though, said Hinojosa. The last 22 months has seen an increase, keeping our economy healthy. Since May of 2011, Texas has created 240,000 jobs.
The issues with the budget deficit affect everything else in the state, including education. Public education was undercut, said Hinojosa because of the money shortage. A total of $5 to $7 billion has been cut from education programs state wide including grants and public education.
“We have a lot tools to raise revenue without hurting the economy,” he said. With cuts right now, most of the expenses are being passed on to the local communities.
Hinojosa said the state can’t afford to keep passing the cost to communities because that will in turn hurt the economy.
The senator said he believes the state needs to look at tax exemptions and see which ones are still needed or warranted, and which ones are not.
The Rainy Day Fund could be up to $9 billion dollars by January, which could help with some shortages, but the state is in the hole by nearly $15 billion.
“I know if we weather this storm, the future will be brighter for Texas,” said Hinojosa.
Another issue that will be discussed during next session is the state’s water plan. The water plan includes water conservation, keeping water from evaporating, creating more reservoirs and finding ways to pay for those improvements.
The state has a 15-year water plan. Every year the state delays on finding a way to pay for the water plan, the price increases, he said. The cost for this water plan has increased year after year. In 2002 the cost was $17.9 billion, in 2007 the cost was about $31 billion. Now the cost is over $53 billion.
“We cannot survive without taking care of the water needs for the State of Texas,” Hinojosa said.
One idea the legislature is looking at is adding a small fee to tap water, water meters, and bottled water. This way the cost is spread evenly without people feeling too much pain.
Transportation is another issue. In Texas, it is key to the economy. Goods are transported throughout the entire state. More toll roads are going up to pay for the increasing costs for roads. There is already an additional fee on gas that helps with the cost. Vehicle registration fees have increased for Hidalgo and Cameron County to help fund a county loop and transportation bonds for the area.
Hinojosa said another complaint he hears is the lack of skilled labor in the area. The jobs are there, but there is a lack of applicants with skilled labor. Hinojosa said schools need to offer more technical classes for students that might not want to go to college, but learn a trade that can still make them some money when they leave high school.
Hinojosa said he recently had his air conditioner repaired and it was $150 for the person to come out and look at it.
“Someone has to be able to do that work.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.