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Taxes, Health Care and Veterans in Texas

How Rick Perry Spells Relief

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

— King James Bible, Matthew, 25:40 

It’s not that he doesn’t like veterans.  In fact in his remarks on Memorial Day when signing four bills passed by the Texas legislature he said: (invoking sober tones to deliver his message) “I don’t think there’s a deeper obligation that we have than to those who have sacrificed for our nation.”  And saying that, he signed a bill that gives a total property tax exemption to the surviving spouse of someone killed in action and a partial property tax exemption to a partially disabled veteran living in a house given to the veteran by a charitable organization.  (A third bill funds a “veteran entrepreneurship program” and a fourth gives World War II veterans with veteran license plates privileged parking benefits, a privilege with almost no fiscal impact given the ages of the benefits’ recipients.) Providing anyone relief from taxes is something every governor would enjoy doing and Governor Perry is no exception. And nothing is more important, as he makes clear in his Memorial Day remarks, than paying veterans the enormous debt we owe them. Of course the property tax relief only benefits those who own homes.  Those unable to afford homes are given no benefit from the legislation the governor so proudly promoted.

There is one thing the governor refuses to do that would benefit far more veterans than the bills he signed on Memorial Day.  That is something he is unwilling to do as he eloquently explained on April 1, 2013.  Addressing reporters at the state capitol the governor said:  “Seems to me April Fool’s day is the perfect day to discuss something as foolish as Medicaid expansion, and to remind everyone that Texas will not be held hostage by the Obama administration’s attempt to force us into the fool’s errand of adding more than a million Texans to a broken system.”

The governor has wonderful health insurance as part of the many benefits he receives being governor including a salary of $150,000 and a pension of $92,000 a year for the years he served in the state legislature.  If it were not for his philosophical objection to health care for the indigent he could, at very little cost to the state of Texas, permit Texas to participate in the Medicaid expansion.  Participation would mean that more than 1.5 million Texans who now have no health insurance protection would be covered and get health insurance just like people in Texas who are not living at the poverty level.   And not all of the 1.5 million are people who would simply be getting something that they, being poor, have no right to expect nor receive in this country where medical care is a privilege-not a right.

Among the 1.5 million Texans who would benefit are 49,000 veterans who “sacrificed for our nation” to whom, as Mr. Perry so eloquently stated on Memorial Day, we have a deep obligation.  He probably intended to say the obligation did not exist if it meant signing on to something as repugnant as health care for the poor.

By not signing on to Medicaid expansion for Texas residents, the governor is insuring that Texas will maintain its reputation that everything in Texas is bigger and better than everywhere else.  Texas will maintain its status as the state with the highest number of people without medical insurance of any state in the union. El Paso, Texas with a population of about 700,000 has more than 230,000 residents who have no health insurance.  The University Medical Center in El Paso estimates that that number would be reduced by more than one-half were Texas to participate in the expansion of Medicaid.

On June 2, 2013, it was reported that Texas U.S. Representative Pete Gallegos and ten of his democratic colleagues in Texas’s Congressional delegation signed a letter to the Governor in which they asked him to expand Medicaid assistance in Texas. Echoing the governor’s Memorial Day remarks they observed:  “Our servicemen and servicewomen put their lives on the line and sacrifice so much for our freedom.  They deserve much more than lofty rhetoric alone.”  The governor would almost certainly respond that giving relief from real estate taxes to some veterans who are lucky enough to own their own homes is the kind of relief that everyone can support.  Other would say that given a choice between not having to pay real estate taxes in Texas and being able to obtain the kind of medical care that is available in all civilized countries except the United States, veterans would opt for adequate medical care for themselves and their families.  So would the poor who did not serve in the armed forces but find themselves uninsured.  Rep. Joaquin Castro, another signer of the letter said:  “We know this can be done and hope Gov. Perry does the right thing.”

So do 1.455,000 uninsured poor.  They shouldn’t get their hopes up.  They are in the noble position of being held hostage to the governor’s dislike of anything supported by President Obama.