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March on Capitol: State Budget Cuts Too Expensive

April 6, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - Thousands of Texans are expected to converge on the state Capitol today, hoping to talk lawmakers out of plans to balance the state budget mostly with sweeping program cuts instead of new revenues.

Organizers of the "Save Our State" rally say many Texans are under the mistaken impression that deep cuts to education, health care, public safety and the environment are unavoidable sacrifices. Leah Pinney, business manager and Fair Defense Project director for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, says the short-term savings are shortsighted - and that even Texans who don't think they benefit from services on the chopping block will eventually wind up paying more without them.

"And not a little bit, a lot more. Really, we're not taking a fiscally responsible approach to this. We really do need to look at a balanced approach to solving these problems."

Lawmakers need to close tax loopholes and tap the state's "rainy-day fund" to avoid expensive, unintended consequences, Pinney says. For example, she says, with fewer education dollars, larger class sizes could lead to more youths falling through the cracks - and into the school-to-prison pipeline. Eliminating successful mental-illness, substance-abuse and probationer-rehabilitation programs could mean a greater reliance on costlier parts of the system, she adds.

"We're creating this vicious cycle, where the criminal-justice system becomes the only place left - a warehouse with a revolving door."

Critics also point to a recent report by the Legislative Budget Board which says current plans would cost Texas 335,000 public- and private-sector jobs, slowing the state's overall economy.

A schedule for Save Our State rally activities is online at april62011.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX