"We are all in this together," Judy Lugo, president of the Texas State Employees Union, told the raucous, cheering crowd on the south steps of the Capitol. "Every Texan, now and for years to come, will suffer the consequences if the Texas Legislature does not change course."
"We must not pack our kids into overcrowded classrooms or dismantle our parents' and grandparents' nursing homes" or allow legislators to "paper over their mismanagement with pink slips for teachers and public servants," he said.
After gathering at Waterloo Park, the line of marchers stretched for five blocks on the route to the Capitol. Popular chants included "They say cut back, we say fight back" and "It's raining, it's pouring, Rick Perry is snoring."
The Texas State Employees Union, a lead organizer of the "Save Our State Rally," estimated that 6,000 to 7,000 people attended.
At the Capitol, Lugo pushed for spending more of the rainy day fund and asked legislators to find additional revenue to repair a budget shortfall caused by "decades of bad public policy" and a recession brought on by financiers, speculators and corporate leaders.
Workers, she said, "did not cause this problem, and we are not going to pick up the tab for it."
Senators have been looking for $5 billion in non-tax revenue to help pay for as much as $10 billion in additional education and health care spending that has been added to the Senate's version of the budget. The first phase of their findings will be laid out at a hearing today.
The groups also called for lawmakers to leave untouched the remainder of the state's rainy day fund. That money will be needed two years from now for the additional Medicaid costs that stem from federal health care reform, said Talmadge Heflin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a limited-government think tank.
A ZGraphix/Indymedia production.
Produced for Austin Indymedia by Jeff Zavala.
Videography by Jeff Zavala and Matt Gossage.
Photography by Rene Renteria.