Josue Rodriguez sat in his motorized wheelchair on the south steps of the Capitol today and urged an audience of hundreds of disability advocates to continue fighting for their freedom. "What we need are vital services that keep us independent," the El Pasoan said.
The group called on lawmakers to use the Rainy Day Fund, to raise new revenue and, above all else, to not cut community-based services for the disabled. Over and over again the crowd chanted, "No cuts! No cuts!"
Lawmakers trying to fill a budget hole estimated between $15 billion and $27 billion are considering a nearly 25-percent reduction to health and human services spending, which would mean major cuts to community-based services that help Texans who are disabled. Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican leaders have promised to deal with the budget shortfall through cuts, without raising taxes and without dipping into the state's emergency savings account, called the Rainy Day Fund.
State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, told the group to remind other lawmakers that cutting services to the disabled that keep them out of hospitals and institutions and in their communities will save more money in the long term. "Cuts to community services are penny-wise and pound-foolish," he said. And cutting those services, he said, hurts not only the disabled consumers but also the family members and other loved ones who provide in-home care.
State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said cutting funds for disabled Texans is a price the state cannot afford to pay. "We are doing harm to one of our most vulnerable sectors of our society," he said.