East Texas Concerns for 78th Legislative Session - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

01/10/03 - East Texas

East Texas Concerns for 78th Legislative Session

by Alex Carias

Texas citizens are focusing their attention on the legislative session in Austin beginning Tuesday, January 14, and for the next 140 days, especially on Governor Perry's promise of no new taxes.

Angelina County Judge Joe Berry says "no new taxes" does not mean you won't be paying more for some government services.

"In the past, we've often seen this "no new taxes." But we've seen our fee bills increase in our Clerk's office and other areas and we wind up being the collection agency for the state of Texas," explained Berry.

Since Texas is facing a $5 billion budget shortfall, Governor Perry says there are no areas safe from potential budget cutbacks, including funding for public education, a statement many superintendents of smaller school districts are concerned about.

"School finances: a critical issue, especially for school districts that depend on state revenue to keep their doors open with the big push by the Chapter 41 schools against Robin Hood," said Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD Superintendent. "It's going to be an issue that we will follow very, very closely."

The medical community is also keeping a close eye on the session. As costs for insurance and services increase, state funding or tax breaks are not.

"Our emergency rooms are full of people every day and every weekend who don't have physicians who are not insured and so they utilize an emergency room as a clinic," explained Memorial Health System CEO, Bryant Krenek. "So hospitals and specifically these in Angelina County are going to struggle with the same issues we've always struggled with and that is the high number of uninsured people that utilize to the tune of millions a year that we provide in uncompensated care."

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