Saturday, April 02, 2011

Present, Not Voting

Texas House Democrats are “white lighting” on votes to amend the state budget. This curious term means that the tote board that displays how Members vote is color-coded with white being the code for “present, not voting.”

Hopelessly outnumbered, because Texas Democrats forgot to go to the polls last November, Democrats, instead of watching their amendments go down to defeat at every turn, have turned to the more symbolic protest vote. A vote to protest the fact that the 3rd option is not even being considered.

As I read here, in amendment after amendment, money is taken from one area of high need and given to another area of high need. Like taking money away from family planning services and giving it instead to mental health services for children and programs for autistic children. Every bit as worthy as family planning, but even though abortion services are not part of family planning, the politics of doing harm to something labeled “family planning” a Republican red meat issue, is too tempting for conservatives.

But Democrats are having nothing to do with this, labeling votes like these a “Sophie’s Choice” decision.

Because in reality, there are not two options to vote on here. There are three, but as I wrote above, that option is not even on the table: the option to raise revenue. Republicans have cut Texas’s ability to raise revenue to fund basic needs like health and education for 6 years now. And they refuse to fix the problem. Here is what State Rep. Mike Villarreal said:
“Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, said he and other Democrats were white-lighting because the House leadership had refused to consider ways to bring more money into the budget by closing certain tax loopholes, reforming the state business tax or using more money from the state’s multibillion-dollar rainy day fund.”

“‘I’m taking a position, and my position is: This is a false choice,’ Villarreal said. ‘I’m not going to pick one over the other when I know there is a third option.’”
So as the process continues we all get to witness Texas take its place at the bottom rung, last in the nation to educate its children. Last to provide basic health and human services. A state whose unemployment rate is poised to rise by 2.9% in two years.

In other words, Tea Party Paradise.

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