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Texas economy leaves many behind

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 30, 2012 at 11:06 am •  Published: December 30, 2012
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"Being on drugs makes it much harder to begin the journey to independence, which only assures individuals remain stuck in the terrible cycle of drug abuse, desperation and poverty," Perry said last month. "Extending taxpayer-funded benefits while ignoring a behavior that could make it virtually impossible for someone to enter the workforce or finish school, sends them down the road to a much bleaker future."

Democrats are pushing for state government to provide services they believe will help people move out of poverty, including restoring $5.4 billion cut from the public school budget and nearly $1 billion cut from higher education. Democrats also want the state to expand Medicaid to provide 1.5 million Texans with health insurance at a minimal cost to the state through 2020.

Most Democrats fiercely oppose the drug testing proposal.

"To automatically assume that a single mother, a recently unemployed veteran, or a teacher who lost his or her job because of Governor Perry's budget cuts is a drug user is shameful," state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said. "When a family is in crisis, we have a moral obligation to provide assistance as soon as possible."

The drug test bill, SB-11, serves as a useful analogy for the differences in approach going into the session, with Republicans placing the emphasis on personal responsibility, and Democrats belief that government plays a role in helping Texans escape poverty.

Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have called the incoming Republican-controlled Legislature one of the most conservative in the Texas history, but parents across the state are angry about education cuts and many of the state's most powerful health care lobby groups would like to see Medicaid expanded. The outcome of the debate how to best to fight poverty is far from decided.

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On the Web:

Senate Bill 11: http://bit.ly/RUObL1