TSEU Legislative UPDATE – MARCH 3, 2015

thingsToDO_listThis week the Senate Finance Committee will be holding hearings on multiple tax cut proposals. Both the House and Senate have proposed roughly $4.6 billion in tax cuts, most of which would benefit high income earners and business owners. The state of Texas has an estimated $18 billion budget surplus plus another $11 billion in the “Rainy Day Fund”, adding up to nearly $30 billion in available funding for the biennium.

While many lawmakers see excess funds as an opportunity to give tax cuts, there have not been any commitments to fund items that are a high priority for state services and employees. Such items include funding state agencies at a level that keeps pace with a growing population, reining in skyrocketing tuition and increasing funding for universities, providing an across-the-board pay increase for all state employees, and allocating the $377 million needed to sustain the ERS pension fund.

Legislators from both political parties have raised concerns about using the surplus revenue for tax cuts while many state programs and services remained underfunded. Republican State Senator Kevin Eltife (SD 1, Tyler) stated, “We need to deal with the real problems of this state first and then deal with tax cuts…I cannot support tax cuts until I know there’s a plan in place to meet the needs of this state.” Multiple Senate Democrats have also voiced similar concerns.

The bottom line is that the state of Texas is currently experiencing financial prosperity while state employees continue to endure low and stagnant pay, attacks on our benefits, and under-staffed state agencies. Texas families face soaring tuition rates that are keeping their kids in debt longer as they graduate from universities. And state retirees are still living on the same flat pension annuities they were receiving 14 years ago. Ignoring these issues before giving tax cuts is not only damaging for state employees and retirees but to the 26 million Texans who rely on the services we provide.

Call the members of the Senate Finance Committee from your region of Texas (see below) and tell them:

My name is __________________. I’m a state employee/retiree and I’m calling to ask Senator __________________ to provide the ERS pension fund with the additional $377 million it needs, increase funding for state services and universities, and provide an across- the-board pay increase for all state employees before the Legislature considers tax cuts.

*Calls can be made both today and tomorrow (Wednesday, March 4th)

After you’ve made the call, email Harrison Hiner (TSEU Legislative Organizer) to report the response you received.

North Texas
Chair- Sen. Jane Nelson- 512-463-0112
Senator Kelly Hancock- 512-463-0109
Senator Royce West- 512-463-0123

South Texas
Vice Chair- Sen. Chuy Hinojosa- 512-463-0120
Senator Carlos Uresti- 512-463-0119

East Texas
Senator Kevin Eltife- 512-463-0101
Senator Robert Nichols- 512-463-0103

Central Texas
Senator Charles Schwertner- 512-463-0105
Senator Kirk Watson- 512-463-0114

West Texas
Senator Kel Seliger- 512-463-0131

Southeast Texas
Senator Paul Bettencourt- 512-463-0107
Senator Joan Huffman- 512-463-0117
Senator Lois Kolkhorst- 512-463-0118
Senator Larry Taylor- 512-463-0111
Senator John Whitmire- 512-463-0115