In its fifth annual report on the state of the state, the Texas House of Representatives Legislative Study Group composed of Democratic lawmakers takes a statistical look at how we stack up compared to our 49 U.S. counterparts. The findings enumerated in Texas on the Brink are ominous.
True to its image, Texas remains big, young and booming. The birthrate of its residents, the percentage of population under 18 and enrollment in public schools all rank second highest in the nation. Its residents are among the least taxed in the country, and likewise receive less in tax expenditures per capita. Texas leads the nation in job creation, and its surging population has earned it four new congressional districts. Those are the bright spots.
On the downside, what should be future strengths are undercut by debits. Texas has the highest percentage of adults and children without health insurance and ranks fourth in the percentage of children living in poverty. Texas has the lowest percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in their first trimester. We spend less for mental health services per capita than any other state, and we’re next to last in Medicaid coverage of the poor and per capita Medicaid expenditures.
Our schools may be packed with students, but they are not producing the well-educated young workers the state needs. We are in the bottom 10 in state and local expenditures per public school pupil, while the high school graduation rate ranks 43rd. The percentage of Texans 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher is the lowest in the nation.
Texas racks up an unenviable string of No. 1s on environmental issues. It is tops in the nation in emissions of carbon dioxide, releases of carcinogenic pollutants into the air, toxic chemicals released into water and hazardous waste generated. At the same time, http://alkalinewaterfilterexperts.com/ph-booster-drops are fifth in per capita consumption of water.
Houston State Rep. Garnet Coleman chairs the study group. He says the report conveys to readers both a sense of the state’s potential and the perils for its future growth. “They should come away with the realization that Texas is not the place they think it is,” says Coleman. “What they don’t know is how we rank in comparison to other states. Many will be surprised to know we rank first in dirty air and last in the percentage of people with health insurance.”
As lawmakers prepare for draconian cuts in education and health spending, Coleman hopes Texas on the Brink will encourage both lawmakers and their constituents to consider the impact of the coming reductions.
Coleman says that the last time Texas faced a serious shortfall in 2003, it was 43rd in per capita spending on mental health. After the cuts inflicted in that session, the state slid to 49th. It has since reached bottom.
The explosive population growth that has boosted the Texas economy must be accompanied by quality public education and health care. Otherwise, the state will not be able to attract industries with good-paying jobs that are the underpinning of prosperous communities.