News Release from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

July 3, 2007
Contact: Nick Almanza
(512) 463-0121

LCC joins statewide rally over governor's veto of community college funding

Laredo Community College is joining forces with community colleges across Texas to object to Gov. Rick Perry's veto of nearly $154 million in health benefits for community colleges.

A formal resolution addressing the college's objections to Perry vetoing the state appropriation for health insurance benefits for community colleges was on the agenda of a special meeting of the LCC Board of Trustees Thursday, June 28.

Additionally, LCC Board President Pete Saenz Jr. and LCC President-elect Dr. Juan L. Maldonado plan to send a letter to Perry to convey the college's "heartfelt disappointment in your (Gov. Perry's) devastating veto of half the state appropriation for next biennium's (2008-09) health insurance benefits for community colleges."

The $153,979,799 vetoed by Perry for two-year colleges will cut funding for LCC by $3,342,228.

"This dramatic loss in state funds strikes a devastating blow to the taxpaying citizens of our district and the employees of our college district," stated Saenz and Maldonado in their letter to Perry.

"Your veto will cripple our community college's ability to continue making strides in improving our citizens' level of education and ability to compete in the workforce for livable wages, not to mention the impact it will have on the health and well-being of our employees and their families. The impact on our students, who already struggle financially in their dream of achieving a higher education, will be equally devastating," they added.

Adding ire to the funding cut is a statement made by Perry alleging that the state's community colleges falsified reporting of benefits.

"The data submitted by Laredo Community College and our colleagues was carefully prepared under instructions and advice from the Texas Legislative Budget Board. Proportionality has been discussed fully by Texas' lawmakers, and a recommendation for funding was conscientiously made only after a thoughtful and thorough discussion. Furthermore, even your submitted budget to the 80th Legislature included a full group health insurance appropriation, which makes your veto action unexpected and your accusations unmerited," Saenz and Maldonado indicated in their letter to Perry.

The state appropriation for community colleges, approved during the 80th Legislative Session before Perry vetoed it, also is generating concerns from legislators.

"I share Laredo Community College's perspective regarding Governor Perry's unwarranted and unexpected action," Senator Judith Zaffirini said. "These vetoes will not only negatively affect our community colleges and efforts to achieve the goals of Closing the Gaps, but also severely strain community college resources."

"I am shocked and dismayed by the governor's veto message," she added. "As Chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee and Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I know that community college officials submitted full and accurate information in their budget requests. That the governor would accuse them of falsehood is beyond comprehension."

As LCC enters its 60th year of service to Laredo and South Texas, college officials are sending a plea to the governor that he reconsider his action and work with the state's community colleges to resolve this dilemma.

"Please don't require us to regress by creating new struggles just as we meet and overcome past challenges. The 80th Legislature intended to provide these health benefits to Texas community college employees, and lawmakers worked hard on this legislation," Saenz and Maldonado wrote in the letter.

They added, "Recognized our importance to the success of our state. Respect our employees and their dedication to their work. Review the facts. Reconsider your decision. Most importantly, restore the funding. The families of Laredo and the rest of Texas are counting on you."

Around the state, more and more lawmakers are pushing Gov. Perry to call a summer special session to address the community college funding cut.