| Wondering how Rick Perry is going to find over $30 million to fund the women's health program, now that he's ended our state's $9-to-$1 federal match to fund it? Easy: he'll take the money away from other needy Texans by playing a shell game with Health and Human Services funding.
Rick Perry told Empower Texans, a right-wing conservative organization, that he will divert money from other health and human services programs to fund the Women's Health Program. On a statewide conference call with the group, Perry stated:
"There's absolutely no reason to go into the Rainy Day Fund. There's no reason to raise taxes. What we'll do is we'll go back into the programs that are at Health & Human Services. We'll make prioritizations about what is important... we'll find savings in the programs that are there."
Rick Perry is just playing a shell game with the health and well-being of all Texans. There isn't any Health and Human Services money to divert!
Last session, the legislature cut $73 million from the state's family planning budget. Those cuts caused women's health clinics across the state to lay off workers, decrease services, or shut down entirely. The sneaky Republicans didn't merely eliminate the $73 million -- they diverted $61 million into other programs that serve the disabled, children, and the elderly, thus trying to force Democrats to vote against amendments to fund these programs at the expense of family planning programs. Now, HHS will have to look for any money that hasn't been spent yet, or bills that aren't due until later in the biennium, and divert the money back to the women's health program. Meanwhile, Rick Perry refuses to raise revenue, refuses to use the Rainy Day fund. He'll just let the people of Texas suffer for his own fiscal mismanagement.
Texas will have to take money away from children, the disabled, and the elderly to fund women's health simply because Rick Perry is determined to shut down Planned Parenthood.
The Legislature underfunded Medicaid last session by $4.8 billion dollars. That means the state expects Medicaid costs to be $4.8B higher than what they've budgeted to pay for it all. By law, the state must pay for services to Medicaid-eligible patients, so our state will be running up a multi-billion-dollar debt before the next session due to Republicans' refusal to fully fund the program. Most recently, Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs in February told a legislative committee that Medicaid faces a $15-$17 billion shortfall.
Rick Perry could have continued the successful Medicaid WHP Program that provides Texas with $9 in Federal funds for every $1 in state funds we spend on women's health and family planning. Instead, he's so determined to shut down Planned Parenthood -- which Federal law says Perry cannot shut out from the women's health program -- that he'll take funding for seniors, children, and the disabled down with him if he has to.
The Texas Democratic Party released a strong statement excoriating this move by Rick Perry:
""It's unconscionable that Rick Perry make seniors and other vulnerable Texans pay for his assault on women's health. Rick Perry has already endangered the well-being of thousands of Texas women. It was both cruel and fiscally irresponsible of Perry to turn down federal funding for women's healthcare. Now he's promising to inflict harm on more Texans by slashing essential state services again."
Rick Perry is playing politics with women's health, and kicking the budgetary can down the road to the next session with his refusal to fully fund health and human services programs here in Texas.
And don't forget -- Planned Parenthood is one of the most efficient providers of women's healthcare in Texas. So by shutting them out of the program, Perry is going to have to find a lot more than $35 million to make up for all of the services their network of 65 clinics provide. Most of the other family planning clinics are already in peril due to the original budget cuts to HHS. So while he's talking a good game about funding women's health, in reality Perry is just playing a shell game with our insufficient state funding, a game that the people of Texas are going to lose.