The Big Chill

There was definitely a big chill in the air as Tom Seuhs, Executive Commissioner of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, presented his services budget to the Senate Finance Committee. Suehs’ agency is so complex and diverse that its budget rivals the budget of most smaller states in the U.S.  With everything from Maternal and Child Health to the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), Suehs is constantly faced with trying to please (or appease) a variety of constituents and special interest groups.  His scope of services must provide health care and social services for Texans from “cradle to grave” while dealing with limited state resources and ever-changing federal and state regulations.  His job is not one that most people actively seek out.  In spite of the difficulties, the commissioner is an excellent leader who has approached his budget with a pledge to keep reduction of services to the barest minimums possible.  You can view the Department of State Health Services Presentation to the Senate Finance Committee at this link http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/news/presentations/2011/Finance-Committee-0211.pdf.

In spite of the freezing weather, some observers claim there has been a bit of a thaw in the frozen Rainy Day Fund option.  Or the perceived thaw might have been steam rising from some of the testimony and extended discussions among members as the reality of the impact of budget limitations became more apparent.  It is painfully clear with every passing day that the spending reductions required by the established parameters* will have far reaching consequences.

Politics is like that, isn’t it?  There is always a bridge to build between campaign promises and the reality of the legislation-making process. Our legislators are held accountable by their constituents for the political positions that got them elected.  At the same time neither the legislator nor the constituent wants to be the one to “kick granny out of the old folks home,” raise college tuition to levels the average family can’t afford, overcrowd classrooms by requiring teachers to teach as many as 40 students at a time, or let convicted criminals go free to bring down prison costs.

There are more chilly days ahead.  The committee work is intensifying with heavy schedules of proceedings, analysis, negotiations and decision-making.  It’s hard.  You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

*No new taxes, no Rainy Day Fund, stay with comptroller’s projected revenue

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