Texas Legislative Session Issue Update – Texas Budget

Dear Friend:

This legislative session, as we faced the worst economy in 75 years, Texas passed a responsible balanced budget – one which did not raise taxes and cut 8.1% in total spending.  Last November Texans sent a clear message that they wanted to see less spending of their hard-earned taxpayer dollars and I believe this budget is a reflection of that wish.

To balance the budget with no new taxes, some tough cuts had to be made to many state agencies.  The natural resources budget was cut by 25%, general government operations were cut by 19%, the judiciary by 13%, and the legislature by 9%.

Education is by far still Texas’ number one priority; in fact, 43.3% of the entire state budget is dedicated to public education (1.9% larger than last biennium).  The 5.6% “cut” to education is actually just a reduction in the growth of the education budget, rather than a true cut.  Only in government is lowering a projected increase in funding considered a budget cut.

This session, I received pressure from several unions to vote to drain the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund).  Many threatened that if I didn’t support this action, teachers would lose their jobs.  However, the size of the Rainy Day Fund relative to the size of the entire state budget is less than 4% and I’m not comfortable having anything less than that.  Families know that as a general rule you should keep at least 10% in reserve funds for emergencies.  In fact, collectively, the school districts in Texas have  $7.5 billion in their own reserve funds.  Most of the school districts in Parker and Wise counties have more in their reserve funds, as a percentage of their entire budget, than Texas does.  For example, Northwest ISD’s reserve fund is 18.22% of their entire budget, and Aledo ISD’s is 26.7%.

We did vote to spend $3.2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to address the shortfall from the previous budget cycle, and $80 million to pay for the wildfires in Texas.  Additionally, as we approach hurricane season, we need to ensure that we have reserve funds to address any possible catastrophes that could easily cost the state $1 billion or more.

I’m pleased that we were able to pass a budget that reigned in state spending, did not raise any new taxes on hard working Texans, and preserved a prudent balance in our Rainy Day Fund.  These policies will help to ensure that Texas continues to be the most prosperous state in the nation.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the Texas Legislature.

Thank you,

Phil King
State Representative

6 responses

  1. Thank you Rep King.
    Your statement:
    >Only in government is lowering a projected increase in funding >considered a budget cut>
    is so correct.
    If we think about our own income and budgets, are we getting more income? Can we go to our employeer with “we need to spend so much”, therefore you must increase our pay.

    Recently in Weatherford, the question was brought up about city employees getting a automatic 4% yearly rasied. I do not think that is a city policy. But one of our city council persons did say city employees do get merit pay increases based on their yearly proformance evaulations by thier supervisors. That could be upto 4%. From my talking with several city workers they have not recieved any pay increase in several years.

    It seem that only senior, upper midddle managment get increses from the city manager with the approval of the city council, prime example is Daniel Phelps.

  2. Sid , there are numerous ways to set up merit increases inorder to eliminate the possibility of actually having to give one. The fairest way is to set goals at the top and then set goals at each level on the way down the hierarchy, insuring that everyone is working toward the same goal. If goals are met, and each should have a value attached so that the “I like you better” syndrome does not work. Then increases are given ,or not, based on the measureable results. It is usually, If your boss makes his goals then the ones working for him/her must have made their goals, give or take a little but no one should be cut out, those that didn’t contribute? management problem

    1. You understand I do have an understanding of what you are talking about. The principle is great, BUT…
      ask rank and file employees if it works here in Weatherford.
      Only, senior and upper mid managment get raises.

  3. Senator Blutarsky

    Hey King – what about this ?

    did that self-righteous “conservative RepuliCON ” texas legislature and Governor, address this in l;ast session ?

    Nope

    Texas taxpayers pay big for straight teeth

    by BYRON HARRIS

    Bio | Email
    WFAA

    Posted on May 13, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    Updated Sunday, May 15 at 6:14 PM

    Related:
    More from News 8 Investigates

    NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

    DALLAS — Nobody has ever died from crooked teeth, some orthodontists say.

    Historically, straightening teeth with braces is viewed largely as a cosmetic procedure, done for cosmetic purposes.

    Yet, last year, Texas taxpayers paid for braces for more than 120,000 children under Medicaid. The total bill was more than $184 million, which was far more than the next 10 states combined.

    A News 8 investigation found that Navarro Orthodontix, which controls 11 clinics across the state, was paid more than $22 million in Medicaid last year. That’s more than the entire state of California, which paid out $19.4 million.

    All told, Texas paid out over $184 million for Medicaid orthodontics last year, which is nearly double the amount from 2008. The money is supposed to go for teeth determined to be so crooked they could handicap a child, usually between the ages of 12 and 19 according to state rules. Judging by the increased payouts, the teeth of Texas children are growing more crooked each year.

    “There’s a large population of people that are somehow qualifying for Medicaid treatment that seven years ago weren’t qualifying,” said Dr. Greg Greenberg, a Dallas orthodontist.

    While the worsening economy has put more kids into poverty, it’s also true that orthodontics is booming.

    On Garland Road in Dallas, two clinics are paired off like gas stations across from one another. All Smiles Dental sits directly across the street from the Smiley Dental Clinic. Smiley’s vans, used to pick up patients, prominently display “Medicaid Accepted” in their bright yellow paint scheme.

    Last year, Smiley took in nearly $2 million in Medicaid through its affiliates in North Texas. All Smiles collected $7.5 million. Together, the two chains collected more than twice as much as the entire state of Illinois paid out last year.

    In Tarrant and Parker counties, doctors Sheila Birth and Charles Stewart run six offices, and like all the clinics mentioned in this story, they employ several orthodontists. All told, they collected more than $5 million in Medicaid last year, according to state records. That’s twice as much as all the providers in the state of Florida.

    Birth declined to be interviewed on camera for this story. In e-mails, she pointed out that a lawsuit in Texas forced the state to expand its Medicaid coverage in 2007, and that states have differing criteria for Medicaid reimbursement, which makes comparison inappropriate.

    Texas was successfully sued over Medicaid underpayment, dental care included, but orthodontic care was not part of the lawsuit. Texas specifically prohibits Medicaid reimbursement for cosmetic orthodontic care.

    Critics say the state simply doesn’t evaluate claims.

    “There’s no accountability,” said Dr. Larry Tadlock, an orthodontist with a private practice who’s also an associate professor at Baylor Dental School in Dallas.

    Texas allows general dentists, as well as orthodontists, to deliver orthodontic care. What one dentist may diagnose as simply crooked teeth may be crisis teeth for another dentist. Crisis teeth get fixed at taxpayer expense under Medicaid, usually at about $2,200 per mouth.

    “There’s no checks and balances,” Tadlock. said “There’s no legitimated approval process.”

    Medicaid claims are processed by an outside contractor in Texas. According the the Department of Health and Human Services, claims are rejected only if paperwork is incomplete, not on a standard of medical evaluation.

    A dentist, the state says, oversees a team of four people that do not have dental backgrounds. The dentist consults on close calls. Each mouth gets a score. A score of 26 or more on a standardized rating sheet gets Medicaid dollars. But, orthodontists say there’s pressure to push the score when there’s money at stake.

    “Any way you fill out that sheet will be approved,” said one orthodontist who has worked in several high volume clinics and asked not to be identified. “Providers use that (evaluation) as an excuse to lie on that sheet because there’s no checks on that sheet.”

    The state depends on the attorney general to prosecute Medicaid orthodontic abuse, and the AG has not done so in the last two years. The Department of Health and Human Services is aware of a potential problem.

    “Dentistry is an area we’ve bee

    n concerned about for a long time,” said Stephanie Goodman, of HHS. “And for whatever reason, we’ve had more trouble there than in other parts of Medicaid.”

    Many of the state’s highest-billing orthodontists made more money last year than the year before.

    Navarro Orthdontix collected $7 million more last year than the year before. Owner Dr. Carlos Navarro did not respond to phone calls and a visit to his office. Navarro’s attorney, Mike McCue, said Navarro “strives to follow all state and federal requirements.”

    Smiley Dental Clinic and All Smiles Dental did not respond to phone calls.

    http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Texas-taxpayers-pay-big-for-straight-teeth–121818164.html?commentPage=1

  4. Jack C. Pickard

    Representative King; it was a tough year in politics; which it should be every year. I like what you did this year and look forward to equally prudent action in future years in Texas. We still don’t like to be groped and overraidiated in Airports, but it appears the Govenor and the LT Govenor bailed on that one, and it needs to come back next session! Please use your off time (LOL), to influence our Federal Reps both Senators and House Reps from Texas to demand no more taxes, a balanced budget, and shrink the Fed by 40% now! While I am at it, it is time for all Government entities to equalize the Taxing standard everywhere. I am talking one consumption tax rate for Fed/State/County/City divided by statutory requirements one consumption tax for all entities and that is it. repeal Income/Estate/Property and all other taxes. Yes, it will unemployee Many Tax enforcers and Accountants and Lawyers, but half my life won’t be aimed at trying to figure out my taxes with 1400 new laws and regulations every year in taxation alone!

  5. Where does this leave us on general non emergency care provided at medical centers throughout the metroplex? I have asked this question, and the respose was not fulfilling.
    Although our rep was aware of the abuse to taxpayers and agreed that it occurred. There are no new laws preventing this atrocity.

    Example: 80 dollar office visit or 600 dollar visit to emergency room for a cough. If you come for general care triage and weed out the ones just showing for free care.

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