AUSTIN (KXAN) – Facing the prospect of budget cuts, hundreds of state employees rallied outside the State Capitol on Friday.
They say they’re fighting back against a plan to cut four percent of the budgets from most state agencies. Debra Sullivent is among the group protesting. She’s a juvenile correctional officer at the Giddings State School and says they’re already hurting. “You don’t have the supplies. The equipment — everything you need to be able to run a facility.”
The bigger problem for Sullivent is that there are not enough correctional officers. They need about 30 more. “Safety is the concern. When you’re short-staffed and you have several people working 12 hour shifts to be able to make the facility run.”
The current budget was the largest ever in state history at $209 billion over two years. State leaders thought oil would cost $49 a barrel — bringing in billions in taxes, but that hasn’t happened.
Judy Lugo, the president of the Texas State Employees Union, representing 11,000 workers, says lawmakers need to hear them.
She retired in August from the Health and Human Services Department and says when she was a state worker her family struggled. “It made it harder and harder to meet our budget and debts — at one point I did have three jobs,” she explained.
There’s a wide variety of employees working for the state, and their pay varies: A janitor makes about $18,000, a parole officer $30,000 and a CPS caseworker makes $36,000.
Lugo wants to know why lawmakers won’t tap into the Rainy Day Fund which is about to reach $11 billion. State leaders insist that money is for emergencies only and usually reserved for one-time expenses.
Sullivent and Lugo argue they are just doing more with much less and it’s time for change. Sullivent said, “We need this money. We need to be able to make a living. We need more staff and the proper supplies and… with this budget cut we are not able to get that.”