Center for Public Policy Priorities
Sarah and Matt Campsey of Austin recently faced some tough economic times. Sarah had to quit her job as a nurse to care for their son, who was born with a disability, while Matt was working hard to earn a promotion to become a full-time truck driver. Money was so tight after they had used up their small savings that Sarah said they had to choose between paying for food or rent. If they had the money, they never would have been forced to make impossible choices about equally important priorities.
When it comes to funding priorities for Texas children, legislators appear to be facing similar tough choices as they work to finalize the state budget. The Senate and House have proposed 2014-15 budgets that, at first glance, seem to highlight different priorities for Texas kids. For example, the House proposes more state money, about $1 billion more, for public education. And the Senate wants approximately $840 million more state dollars for Medicaid, the primary source of children’s public health insurance in Texas.
Traditionally, the House and Senate budget conference committee would start from this point, focusing on how much each side wins or loses, resulting in each chamber having only some, but not all, of their priorities funded — impossible choices about equally important priorities.
Fortunately, that does not have to be the starting point. Successful negotiation begins not by focusing on differences but rather on finding commonalities in the goals of each side.
Given the funding priorities they’ve identified, the two chambers would appear to have the same underlying priority — to improve the overall well-being of Texas’ children. The content of the conference committee’s negotiations should focus on this shared goal, not fighting over the differences.
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