State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, on Thursday lost a bid to add $650,ooo in funding for help centers in Texas colonias over the next two years.
In forcing the fight, she lost the opportunity to add the funding when the state budget goes to a House-Senate conference committee for final negotiations.
As the House debated the budget for the next two years, Gonzalez proposed to add the money to benefit poor neighborhoods, 263 of which are in her Lower Valley district.She said diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis are present because colonias are not properly built and don't have adequate infrastructure.
The help centers lend tools and teach construction techniques to bring homes up to code. They also teach literacy.
"There is so much with so little that these centers do," Gonzalez said.
She proposed to take the funds from $2 million earmarked for the Texas Officice of State and Federal Relations, which lobbies the federal government on the state's behalf.
"Isn't that what our senators and congressmen are supposed to do?" Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, asked, later adding, "I'll take the people of the colonias over lobbyists any day."
It's common for government at one level to hire a lobbyist to promote its agenda at the next. The El Paso County Commissioners Court, for example, has warm relationships with the county's state legislative delegation. Even so, it pays a lobbyist to follow action of interest to the county and try to advocate its agenda.
State Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso, supported Gonzalez' motion as did every other member of the El Paso House delegation. She noted that the Appropritions Committee, on which she sits, appropriated $1 million in new money for colonias, but said it's inadequate.
State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that handles funding for the colonias. He said that if Gonzalez lost a motion to table her motion she would also lose a chance to win the funding in comnference committee.
The House voted 98-43 to table Gonzalez' amendment.