About 35 Texans in wheelchairs, denouncing proposed state budget cuts, staged a sit-in outside Gov. Rick Perry’s Capitol office late Tuesday.
Protesters with the disability rights group Adapt of Texas vowed to stay until they were removed or arrested.
Chief organizers Bob Kafka and David Wittie said the group also would disperse if Perry agreed in writing to its demand that Texas use all its rainy-day money and raise other revenue to avoid cuts to community-based long-term-care services. The Republican governor has urged lawmakers not to use any rainy-day money and opposes tax increases.
Some of them wound up getting ticketed, though it’s not clear what for. Perry naturally snuck out the back like the coward he is, leaving his spokesperson to complain about how you’re not supposed to use “disruptive” tactics to get a meeting with him. Oh, and now they’ve erected a barricade to keep those pesky wheelchair warriors out. Way to hide, Governor!
For their part, the protesters said they’d been trying to speak with the Governor since August. Don’t they understand that if they don’t have a large campaign contribution to being him they’re wasting everybody’s time? I mean, clearly the Governor has more important things to do than speak to ordinary people.
Earlier in the day, these folks were joined by some high profile supporters.
TV star and native Texan Eva Longoria stopped by the Capitol today to stand with a couple hundred advocates for continued funding of state programs for people with developmental disabilities.
Longoria said her 43-year-old sister is a special needs resident of a group home in Texas, which could close due to funding cuts in the state budget proposals under consideration.
“We’re not here to ask for more money,” she said “We want to keep what we have fought for for the last 30 years.”
The shuttering of group homes is just one potential consequence of Senate and House budget proposals that make millions of dollars in cuts to programs that serve the state’s developmentally disabled population. According to the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, at least 23 programs across five different state departments will see budget reductions that will affect those with special needs.
Longoria was joined in the shade of the Capitol’s north steps by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.
“You have to translate these budget numbers to real human lives,” he instructed the crowd, who visited with legislators following the rally.
The Express News has more extensive coverage of this.
Longoria, whose intellectually disabled sister, Liza, joined her on the stage in the parking lot of the special needs-focused park, wore the same red T-shirt as those in the audience, emblazoned with the words: My Future Is In Your Hands.
After the rally, she boarded one of four buses that squired the throng to Austin, where they were to spend an afternoon rallying on the Capitol steps and meeting with legislators to emphasize their opposition to the cuts.
Alice McIntire, 48, who lives in residential center for those with mental retardation, knew exactly what she planned to tell lawmakers in Austin.
“You’re trying to take my home away from me,” she said. “If you do that I’ll be crying, I’ll be hurt. I don’t want to leave my home.”
Cynthia Benjamin came to the rally with her son Charles, 22, who clutched a plastic dinosaur.
“I can’t tell you how important support agencies are to parents,” she said. “Here’s a perfect example: The other day my son had to be sedated to see the dentist and I couldn’t carry him afterwards. What would I do without help?”
Ana Aponte said she would have to institutionalize her son Luis, who is 33 and has severe autism, if it weren’t for funding that provides services that allows her to keep him at home.
“We want him to be surrounded by his family,” she said.
Tina Chang wonders how she will be able to afford doctor visits and medicine for her two profoundly autistic foster daughters, Linda and Esmeralda, if proposed Medicaid cuts go through.
“If we can’t get services, it hurts our purpose that was given to us by God,” she said.
Someone should mention that to Sen. Patrick. I recommend bringing a sonogram with you when you visit him. To be slightly more serious, the point here is that the overall burden on the state for helping these people is quite small in the context of the budget, but the burden on the families in the absence of the state would be crushing. And the cost to the state and to local governments when families fall apart as a result of that burden will likely be greater than the cost of helping them deal with it in the first place would have been. Oh, and finding savings that don’t hurt people is easier said than done.