Thursday, August 05, 2010

Senate Passes Aid to States (Even to Texas)

Today the Senate passed HR 1586, a no-brainer bill to improve and upgrade aviation safety, but containing within it two unrelated but key hot button issues that appropriated $26 billion in federal aid to the states. These two issues that were introduced into the bill in Amendment 4575 by Patty Murray (D - WA)

The real test came yesterday when the bill came up for a motion to end debate, cloture in other words, and it passed by 61 to 49, with the two Republican votes from Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voting with the majority.

Why this is important should be obvious: the states are really hurting right about now.

The Recession of 2008-09 is now taking its toll on the states which are facing budgetary shortfalls, like the one here in Texas. States will have to make draconian cuts in their expenditures; cuts are most likely in the two areas that states are usually responsible for: health care and education.

$16 billion of the $26 billion will be distributed to the states so they can make their Medicaid payments, that is, upping the federal government’s percent coverage of state Medicaid programs.

The remaining $10 billion will be distributed to the states to prevent an estimated layoff of 300,000 state workers, mostly teachers, but also police and firemen.

The most populous states, obviously, will receive the larger proportions of these funds. Texas, it is projected by the US Department of Education could avoid laying off 10,000 teachers. That is, of course if Texas' governor, Rick Perry, doesn't try to play 'find the pea' as he did earlier when the feds gave him $3 billion to do pretty much the same thing.

And for the most part, these layoffs have already taken place. We are just a few weeks away from the start of the school year, some areas are closer than others, and hirings and firings have already taken place. These funds will allow districts either to recall teachers that have been laid off, or in other cases, to restore days to the school calendar that have been chopped off as a result of budgetary cutbacks.

The Senate heavily amended the house bill, so it will need to be re-voted on in the House before President Obama can sign it. With the House currently in recess until September it would normally look like this is a case of closing the barn door after the horses have bolted.

Normally, except it looks like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will call the House back into session to get this matter taken care of before the opening of schools.

Oh well, guess they’ll have to put off for another day those August Town Hall meetings that we have all come to hate.

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