Phelan: Texas budget comes first

Published 6:00 pm Friday, January 11, 2019

Working on the state’s 2020-2011 budget is one of the most important topics for Texas State Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, as the 86th Legislative session begins Tuesday.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced Monday the state will have $119.1 billion for lawmakers to use to put together the upcoming biennial budget, according to the Texas Tribune.

Phelan, who has been on the appropriation committee for the last two cycles, said the budget would be a challenge with a smaller growth of economy coupled with a lowered price of oil and — issues related to Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey.

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“First and foremost, that’s the only bill we have to pass,” Phelan said.

He also wants to help out areas that receive the Harvey funding we “so rightly deserve.”

Phelan has also had a hand in a regional flood bill, House Bill 478, that deals with funding of flooding planning, litigation and infrastructure projects. In this, he is hoping to have a regional plan as opposed to individual municipalities and counties coming forward with individual plans in times of crisis.

“Floodwater does not stop at county or municipal lines,” he said. “We need to coordinate so that requests are based on a regional plan.”

The idea, he said, is to get local entities and counties together as a region and make it easier when applying for disaster funding.

Phelan would also like to see the area have a Level II trauma facility. Currently, two Port Arthur hospitals are classified for Level IV, which is a basic trauma facility. Beaumont has a Level III, which is an advanced trauma facility. He said there are grant opportunities for a Southeast Texas hospital to move up to Level II, which is a major trauma facility, with the state reimbursing some of the cost.

“There is no Level II trauma facility between Houston and Baton Rouge,” he said. “I’d like to see one in Southeast Texas.”

Phelan has also spent a lot of time in the interim between sessions finding information on health care transportation. One of the biggest issues in healthcare is access to and from appointments. Since Harvey, there are many who lost their vehicles so getting to chemotherapy and dialysis appointments present a problem. That problem is compounded when an appointment is missed and the doctor not paid. There is a ride share program with Uber and Lyft to transport Medicaid patients to and from appointments. A pilot program is in place currently, he said.

“There is $240 million a year allocated for Medicaid transportation that’s just not working in the rural areas,” he said. “They are the working-class poor and medical underserved. We want to see them make their appointment.”

The area has one of the highest mortality rates and many say they can’t make to their wellness checkups because they lack transportation.

The new session runs from Tuesday to May 27.