Senator César Blanco: A strong economy means a stronger Texas

In the greatest state in the greatest nation in the world, our families should have economic security. But with lingering inflation and stagnant wages, Texas families are feeling the pinch. Even before the financial strains caused by the pandemic, many hardworking Texans were living paycheck to paycheck with minimal savings. Today, many more families are facing poverty, standing in line at food banks, and relying on savings and credit cards to get by. 

Owning a home is part of the American Dream, but skyrocketing property taxes and valuations have made that dream unattainable. Texans deserve property tax relief, and the Texas Legislature has the power to provide that relief. Currently, local taxpayers foot 64% of school funding across the state. By leveling the share between taxpayers and the state to 50-50, property taxpayers would feel a serious relief in their wallets. Moreover, Texas needs to finally expand Medicaid. Doing so would not only provide critical health coverage to millions of Texans but lower property taxes needed to cover indigent and uncompensated care while bringing billions of our tax dollars back to our state to strengthen our economy. 

While rising rent costs and grocery prices take up a large chunk of Texans’ paychecks, many are left with no option but to turn to their food banks to feed their families. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) makes it possible for many struggling Texans to buy food to feed themselves and their families despite low wages. Yet a growing number of families are being denied much-needed aid because Texas is one of the few states where owning a vehicle valued over a certain threshold can disqualify you from receiving food assistance. We need to stop punishing thousands of eligible hard-working Texans for having the vehicles they need to lift themselves out of poverty and welfare. I will be refiling a bill this session to adjust the outdated vehicle limits to reflect today’s inflation and distorted used vehicle market.  

The strength of our economy increases as the number of educated workers grows. But for many Texans, a college education is not within reach. Rising tuition is continually pricing out middle-class families and burdening students with crippling debt. Despite age, socioeconomic status, or location, ALL Texans deserve a college education that is affordable and accessible. During the 88th Legislative Session, I plan on refiling the “Tuition Freeze Bill,” to freeze tuition and tie future increases to the rate of inflation. By doing so, we give individuals an opportunity to get higher-paying jobs. Access to higher education is a worthwhile investment with profound benefits to our economy. 

A huge factor in determining economic success is giving opportunities for parents to join the workforce, however, for many families, finding quality, affordable childcare is hard to come by. According to the treasury secretary, childcare is unaffordable for over 60% of the families who need it nationwide. The pandemic did not aid this issue but instead exacerbated it as many childcare facilities were forced to close and have had issues retaining staff. If we fail to deliver quality, affordable childcare options, parents will not be able to get back into the workforce and acquire a stable income to support their families. As we approach the 88th Legislative Session, I am committed to delivering the childcare services that Texans deserve and continuing to support initiatives such as the Child Care Relief Funding of 2022 by the Texas Workforce Commission.  

With Texans facing significantly higher than normal utility bills and increased demand for electricity and gas, it is time that the Texas Legislature acts. Texas needs a diverse energy portfolio to ensure the state has access to sustainable, cost-effective energy production. Given West Texas’ intense sun and vast tracts of empty land, we are primed to expand our solar and wind capabilities. Energy, technology, and our economy’s strength go hand-in-hand. So, while navigating the changing landscape, we need to provide job training for new technologies, opening the door for more high-paying jobs in our region. Our economic health and well-being depend on it.    

Struggling to make ends meet should never be the norm in our great state of Texas. All Texans deserve the opportunity to engage in meaningful work that will help people support themselves and advance economically. With the $27 billion surplus in the Texas Legislature’s 2023 budget, we have the opportunity to make big and bold investments that will have long-term benefits for Texans. I look forward to delivering economic security, good paying jobs, and investing in our greatest asset – our people.