As the Texas Legislature gavels into its 88th session, decreasing property taxes and finding ways to spend the state’s $32.7 billion surplus dominates the conversation. I am a solid supporter of lowering property taxes. However, if we just use the surplus to “buy down” homeowners’ property taxes, we are not helping businesses and renters and the thousands of Texans who do not own their homes. We are also simply putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.
If I pay your house payment for the next two months, I am your best friend for the next 60 days. However, in month three you still have to resume making your monthly mortgage payments because my generosity has ceased. Similarly, if the Texas legislature pays a portion of homeowners’ property taxes for the next couple of years, that is great for those homeowners in the short term, but they will be stuck paying their full, very high property taxes after the state spends its surplus. We need to find more permanent solutions to reduce property taxes.
An obvious solution has been staring us in the face for years. The Texas Legislature is literally squandering billions of our tax dollars each year by not expanding Medicaid. If you work and receive a paycheck, federal taxes are deducted from your paycheck, matched by your employer and sent to the federal government, who then sends a huge portion of these funds back to the states to fund health care needs. However, the Texas Legislature stubbornly refuses to expand Medicaid and, according to The Texas Tribune, this costs us taxpayers as much as $8 billion a year. That $8 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars is going to other states which have sensibly voted to expand Medicaid.
Additionally, our property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation, fund our public schools but also pay for the cost of uninsured and underinsured emergency services incurred by sick or injured indigent individuals in Texas. If our legislature expanded Medicaid, The Texas Tribune reports that we could save $2 billion a year because Medicaid would fund our indigent health care instead of those funds coming from homeowner’s property taxes.
Remarkably, Texans also pay up to 10.5% higher health insurance premiums because Texas has not expanded Medicaid and set up its own state run exchange for health insurance. The Texas Tribune estimates that this costs Texans $54.3 billion a year.
According to Texas House of Representatives Speaker Dade Phelan, 60% of rural Texas hospitals no longer deliver babies. This is shameful, especially in light of the fact that abortion is no longer legal in Texas and the number of births will obviously increase. Our state representative, Charles “Doc”’ Anderson, suggested in a recent interview with the Waco Trib that the opioid crisis was a leading cause of rural hospitals closing. Businesses do not close because they have too many customers. Businesses close because they don’t have enough funding to enable them to serve their customers.
Several bills proposing to expand Medicaid have been introduced in the Texas House. All three of the health centers in McLennan County — Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest, Ascension Providence and Waco Family Medicine — strongly support the expansion of Medicaid. I would hope that our elected leaders would stop literally squandering our tax dollars, listen to their constituents and local hospitals, and expand Medicaid. It is time for Texas to join the majority of the states by expanding Medicaid.
Published in the Waco Tribune-Herald on 1/27/2023