In response to a letter I wrote asking Representative Michael Burgess, TX 26th, to support H.R. 1586, Representative Burgess asserts that these funds are essentially a bailout for the states for acting irresponsibly, and that Democrats don't care about deficits nor the burden it places on future generations.
Burgess is typical of today's Republican, representing the extreme on every issue. He votes party line 99% of the time. Although I have written and called frequently, it is an exercise in futility. His assertions consist of Republican talking points each and every letter.
This year Burgess has a viable contender, Neil Durrance, an attorney from Denton County.
I would love to see Burgess retired, so if you are inclined, please donate.
Here is a copy of the letter Representative Burgess sent me and my response:
On Aug 10, 2010, at 4:56 PM, Congressman Michael Burgess wrote:
Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 1586, the State Bailout Bill. I appreciate hearing from you on this subject.
This legislation contains a total of $26.1 billion in temporary state bailouts paid for with permanent tax increases, spending reductions (mainly from the "stimulus" bill), and rescissions. Of the $26.1 billion in spending, $10 billion will go towards a teacher bailout of state and local governments for irresponsible spending practices over the previous decade. One of the most troubling parts of this money, however, was that it included extra requirements for the state of Texas. In order for Texas to be eligible to receive their portion of the $10 billion bailout, the state will have to go above and beyond what every other state has to. While I am very much against this bailout, it is appalling that the Democrats want to make it harder for Texas to receive their fair portion.
For this reason, on August 6, 2010, myself and 19 members of the Texas GOP Congressional Delegation wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking her to remove the provision in the state aid bill that mandates special requirements of Texas. This provision forcesTexas to certify the maintenance of fiscal year 2011 funding levels for two additional fiscal years, above and beyond the one-year requirement imposed on all other 49 States. This provision would have Texas violate her own State Constitution. The Texas Legislature has sole authority to determine State appropriations. Moreover, one Legislature cannot bind a future Legislature. Requiring the State to assure that a future Texas Legislature would commit to spend funds in accordance with these provisions would violate the Texas Constitution. Texas is constitutionally prohibited from meeting these severe restrictions, and no other state in the nation is subject to these additional requirements.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the State's share of the $10 billion is estimated to be over $830 million. By adding the additional two-year requirement, the House language only punishes Texas students and teachers and while I am against the stimulus in general, if the money is to be spent, Texas students and teachers certainly deserve the same rights and privileges the rest of the nation receive.
H.R. 1586 also provides an extended increased federal Medicaid matching rate of 6.2 percent through 2010 at a cost of $16.1 billion and begins to phase out the increased rate by June, 2011. As you may know, the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) are the rates used to determine the level of matching federal funds that are allocated annually by the Department of Health and Human Services to states to aid in the funding of each state's Medicaid program. FMAP eligible programs are joint federal-state partnerships which are administered by the states.
In anticipation of increased Medicaid participation and the resulting budgetary constraints on states due to the economic downturn, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1) provided a temporary increase in federal assistance to states to help them fund their Medicaid programs above the normal FMAP level. This temporary increase in funding is set to expire on December 31, 2010. While the legislation would still allow the 6.2% increase to expire, it would phase down the FMAP increase to 3.2 percent for the first three months of 2011 and 1.2 percent from April through June 2011.
The Senate passed H.R. 1586 on Thursday August 5, 2010. At that time, however, the House of Representatives had already left Washington, D.C. for a district work period and were recalled for an emergency session on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 where the House of Representatives voted on H.R. 1586.
As you may know, I voted against H.R. 1586 when it was presented to the House of Representatives, although it passed the full Houseby a vote of 247-161. I don't know why the Democrat's continue to pass stimulus bills when their previous stimulus packages have not helped spur our economy but rather have placed our country further in debt. Congress should focus on reducing spending and creating a stable business environment so the private sector will start hiring again. Unfortunately, the Democrat's just don't care about what the American people want or need and with President Obama signing this bill into law; the Democrat's have continued to place financial hardships on future generations.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate having the opportunity to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives. Please feel free to visit my website (www.house.gov/burgess) or contact me with any future concerns.
Michael C. Burgess, M.D.
Member of Congress
Here is my response:
Dear Representative Burgess:
Thank you for addressing my concerns.
However, I am disappointed that you voted against H.R. 1586, which will help Texas and other states fund jobs for our teachers, police officers, fire men/women, and offset losses in Medicaid services for needy Texans. That you would admit that states have been irresponsible for the spending practices is surprising, since Republicans have been in control of the legislature and governor's office in Texas for the past several years. Also, I find this assessment disingenuous because Texas and other states had accumulated sizable rainy day funds which have still been insufficient to mitigate the effects of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression---not the fault of individual states. And how did this recession come about? Through failed policies of your party, not Democrats. Historically, it is a fact that Republican economic "supply side" "trickle down" policies have shown to be a failure. When you cut taxes for the wealthy which adds to the national debt, it does not stimulate the economy. Jobs stimulate the economy. When people have jobs, they spend immediately in their communities. This helps businesses which then can hire more people. Demand is what works, not tax cuts. It is also hypocritical for you to support extending tax breaks for millionaires which would add billions to the deficit-- while not supporting this legislation which adds zero to the deficit.
Your assertion that this bill requires Texas to violate its constitution is also wrong headed. The provision to which you refer does not impose a burden to the state. It simply requires that Texas can't take the federal aid and use it to make disproportionate cuts in state education aid to school districts relative to other components of the state budget that might also be faced with a shortfall in the next budget cycle. The required compliance is no more onerous than what Governor Perry has had to comply with previously in order to receive billions in stimulus funds from the federal government. In fact, this requirement was put into the bill at the insistence of Representative Lloyd Doggett and others in the Texas delegation who saw Governor Perry and the Republicans misuse the $3.2 billion in stimulus aid last year as a substitute for, not in addition to state aid to school districts. One has to wonder why you would allow the possibility of education aid to be subjected to disproportionate cuts in the coming legislative session. All the more reason to ensure the provision that would block the use of federal funds that would allow such budget misappropriation.
I am also disappointed in your attacks on Democrats asserting that we Democrats "don't care" what the American people want, or that we don't care about the burden deficits will place on our children and grandchildren. As your constituent, I realize realistically you, as a Republican, don't represent me and thousands of Democrats who reside in your District-- as your votes clearly demonstrate. It is obvious that you vote party line virtually 99% of the time. We may not agree on the issues, but to impune the integrity of Democrats is frankly insulting coming from a U.S. Representative. It is becoming quite clear that the Republican party, and respectfully, you included, have drifted to the extreme. You may be surprised to learn that we Democrats care passionately about our country and the challenges we face, or we wouldn't be spending our time and energy writing our Congressmen/women and being politically active in our communities.
Where were your objections to the trillions in deficit spending when your party was cutting taxes on the wealthy during a time of war-- the first time in history? Your party's tax cuts added trillions to the national debt. Most leading economists all agree that deficit spending which invests in jobs which actually help people and small businesses is exactly what is called for during a time of severe recession. It helps the economy in the short and long term.
I am gratified that this bill passed and would hope that you would support our teachers, police officers, fire personnel and the needy in Texas by working with the federal government to facilitate these funds rather than wasting taxpayer dollars to score political points.