Thousands of Elderly Texans Rally at Texas Capitol - Stark Contrast Between Message Outside Capitol and Governor Perry's Address.
Thousands of elderly Texans rallied outside the state capitol Tuesday, calling for Governor Perry and state lawmakers to stop the proposed state budget cuts. "Our message from senior Texans is simple. We oppose all budget cuts this legislative session," said David Thomason, Chair of the Texas Senior Advocacy Coalition, the advocacy group organizing today's event. While Governor Perry addressed lawmakers inside the Texas Capitol, outside the Texas Capitol concerned citizens called for Governor Perry and state lawmakers to use the state's rainy day fund and possibly raise state taxes to address the state's overall budget woes. The rally is in response to plans announced by Governor Perry and state lawmakers to slash the state budget by $27 billion. The budget cuts will hit especially hard on those programs designed to care for frail elderly Texans. The proposals call for over 33 percent cuts in state funding for nursing home residents, hospice care, and other senior programs. "It is time to use the state's Rainy Day fund and find other revenue sources to protect our state's future. Governor Perry is talking about the state's sunny road to economic prosperity. But we are seeing a gloomy future for Texas with these proposed budget cuts. It is raining in Texas," said Thomason.
Those attending the rally expressed strong opposition to the proposed state budget cuts. "It is shameful for the state to be considering this," said Susan Moore from Snook. "We drove here because we wanted to express our concerns and let lawmakers know that we will not support these cuts," said Moore. According to Thomason, this is the message he is hearing from concerned citizens around the state. "Texans around the state are scared to death about these cuts. Lawmakers have a responsibility to balance the state's budget, but that must not be on the backs of seniors, children, and other disadvantaged groups. Find the revenue sources, use the Texas Rainy Day Fund, and look at the possibility of raising the various state tax programs," said Thomason.
Texas is currently near the lowest in the country for funding senior services. "Texas remains at the bottom of the nation's reimbursement for elderly services," stated Bruce Davis, a member of the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature attending the rally from Abilene. According to Davis, "Any erosion to funding for senior services would be especially destructive to rural areas of the state. I am fearful for the future of seniors in rural areas." The Texas Silver-Haired Legislature is a member of the coalition organizing the event.
Walter Graham, Speaker of the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature, echoed Davis' concerns. "Seniors in Texas expect our legislature to be responsible with the state budget. But responsibility does not mean cutting programs that are designed for the poorest, sickest, and most frail Texans," said Graham. "We have to be the voice of those frail elderly Texans that cannot be at the Capitol today. The thousands that are here today represent themselves and the people that cannot be here. Today, we are telling our legislature and our Governor to stop the budget cuts and focus on a responsible state budget." Graham pointed out that stopping these budget cuts remains a top priority for the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature. "Events like this rally, getting the public to hold our lawmakers accountable, are just beginning around the state," said Thomason. "The public is waking up to the fact that Texas lawmakers are putting elderly Texans on a dangerous path with these cuts."
The Texas Senior Advocacy Coalition is a membership organization comprised of Texas senior organizations. A copy of remarks from the event are at www.txsac.org
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