EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Despite the bickering between parties and houses at the state Capitol, members of the El Paso delegation are proud of the achievements made in the 2021 session.
“I think the budget was the biggest highlight for our region,” said State Sen. Cesar J. Blanco.
“It fully funds education, maintains the current health insurance premiums and benefits for all retired teachers and makes greater investments in higher education for UTEP, Texas Tech and El Paso Community College,” he added.
Many budget-approved items will go to stimulating the Borderland’s economy.
“We got $5 million for the Wyler Aerial Tramway, we’re bringing more investments into our community with Hueco Tanks, the mission in Socorro and I’m really excited about the work we did on the budget,” said Blanco.
The freshman senator worked with State Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez, also of the El Paso delegation, on economic relief opportunities for small businesses.
“We created a micro business recovery loan program. I added an amendment to create new access to capital programs to assist small businesses, which will allow Texas to utilize up to $287 million from the American Rescue Plan to help small businesses across Texas who are hit hardest by COVID-19,” said Blanco.
Blanco and Ordaz Perez’s efforts correspond with programs the Biden Administration says are top of mind.
“Unemployment is still elevated in Texas,” Jared Bernstein, member of the White House Economic Council of Advisors, told KTSM 9 News. “Jobs are still down well over 400,000. There’s still much work to do, but we’re working steadily in the right direction to get the crisis behind us.”
The Biden Administration’s priorities are twofold: stimulate the economy and improve equity for communities of color. Strategic spending is expected to achieve both goals symbiotically.
“We’re making deep investments in care, in advanced manufacturing, in good jobs for middle-class people, in clean energy to make sure that this next economic expansion is more resilient and reaches folks that, heretofore, have been left behind for far too long,” said Bernstein.
The Texas legislature adjourned sine die on Monday, meaning members will be reconvened at an as-of-yet undetermined date for a special session.
Gov. Greg Abbott has already assured a special session will take place and threatened to revoke the pay of legislators who are not in attendance, in the wake of House Democrats’ Sunday night walkout.
State lawmakers quarreled all session over issues Blanco said had to do more with political strategy than protecting the people.
“It’s unfortunate that these are the priorities that we’re focusing on when we had a winter storm, when we had a pandemic, when we have issues that we need to focus on like getting our economy back to work,” said Blanco. “We spend a lot of time on things that get people re-elected or elected, rather than focusing on things that Texans want us to focus on.”