AL GORE: Slams Bush’s Record in Lone Star State
GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush took a beating yesterday from Democratic rival Vice President Al Gore, in his home state of Texas, where Gore slammed the governor's health care record and accused him of "grossly mismanaging" the state's budget. At a San Antonio meeting yesterday with three single mothers whose children lack health coverage, Gore said Bush had "squander[ed]" Texas' large budget surplus with $1.6 billion in tax breaks, rather than helping the state's uninsured residents. Pointing out that Texas ranks number one in the nation for families without health insurance, Gore said, "Gov. Bush chose a different set of priorities. Instead of addressing the serious problems we are hearing about today, the governor made his top priority a large tax cut for special interests." Roughly 600,000 Texas children are eligible for state coverage, yet remain uninsured. With an expected Medicaid shortfall this year of up to $633 million, critics say there will be few resources to enroll them (Neal/Edsall, Washington Post, 7/21). In total, 1.4 million of the nation's 11 million uninsured children reside in Texas. In San Antonio, childhood immunization rates are among the lowest for any big city, as only 70% of toddlers receive needed inoculations (Glover, AP/Greensboro News & Record, 7/20).
Back in Black?
State Rep. Garnett Coleman (D) said, "We have taken away our flexibility to fund future needs by doing a very, very large tax cut. What it says is, instead of investing in the future ... [t]he priority was a political priority." Although Texas budget officials recently announced that the state had underestimated Medicaid and prison expenditures by about $610 million -- a figure that critics say is much higher -- Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander, a Bush supporter, said at a news conference yesterday that the state was $1.4 billion in the black, enough to cover the unexpected Medicaid and prison costs and "still have plenty of money left over for other priorities." Launching an immediate counteroffensive to Gore's attack, the Bush camp argued that "there is no deficit in Texas." Bush said, "I am proud that under my leadership, working with Republicans and Democrats, Texas has increased spending for education, increased spending for health care, built and funded prisons, cut taxes by record amounts -- and we still have a large surplus" (Washington Post, 7/21).