State Representative Susan L. King held a Public Town Hall Meeting on Monday morning, April 30, 2012 at the Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce.
She represents Nolan and Taylor County residents in District 71 and is currently serving her third term in the Texas House of Representatives.
The meeting opened with a welcome from Rep. King on the past legislative session along with a forecast for the upcoming 83rd Legislative Session to begin on January 13.
One of the major concerns at the state level has and will continue to be the budget, along with Medicaid and financing in education. Currently, several lawsuits have been filed in regards to education finance.
The debate on whether to raise taxes is an ongoing matter as well, in addition to the use of the "rainy day fund". The money is to be used during a downturn economy, and $3.1 billion was recently spent.
Looking ahead to the next legislative session, the federal health care law is sure to make an state-wide impact following the Supreme Court's decision that is expected this June. Rep. King also said that she plans to meet with school district superintendents within the region in order for open and up-to-date communication to occur regarding education finance.
The rest of the meeting allowed for an open dialogue between constituents and Rep. King on a variety of issues within state government, such as education finance, taxes, wasteful government spending, and water concerns, among others.
Rep. King discussed that the "Rainy Day Fund", when utilized, is typically used for education and health care, both of which make up between 80 to 85% of the entire state budget. However, on two occasions, money was used for business and energy technology in non-economic downturn instances.
She also noted that she has not seen the budget compact from Texas Governor Rick Perry, but stated that she has no intent to sign the document. Pledges similar to this are not good policy, stated Rep. King, due in part to political measures that are typically tied together.
In addition, Rep. King noted that a strong focus should go toward eliminating government waste, which could impact balancing the state budget. While a majority of people in the area are against raising taxes, she said she has met several people who would be in favor of higher taxes. She also stated that the federal stimulus package made a strong impact financially, but too many people became accustomed to the brief funding.
Standardized testing was another issue brought up, in which Rep. King noted that while around 800 political refugees--representing 85 languages--are in Taylor County, these students are required to take the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) test.
Annually, around $800 million is spent toward the testing. While communication on the issue has lacked in the past, dialogue is now taking place to alleviate the testing situation.
Regarding water woes within the state, Rep. King noted that the issue cannot be ignored and pro-active steps must be taken. Rep. King also hit on the topic of illegal immigration, noting that regulations at the federal level must change before any impact can be made at the state and local level.
And while other states have recently required drug testing for government assistance, Rep. King pointed that Texas has previously considered the idea but the bill brought about much debate and did not pass. Concerns with fraud have been raised, but she stated that numerous arguments against the testing have been presented.
She closed the meeting by stressing the fact that while there are a number of issues at hand within the state, several of them tend to be linked together. Rep. King urged attendees to bring their concerns--on any issue--forward and be direct in presenting their message.