Monday, November 28, 2005

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Attorney General Abbott Calls On Texas Congressional Delegation To Reject Child Support Funding Cuts

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today voiced his strong opposition to proposed federal legislation that dramatically slashes funding for child support enforcement. In a letter to members of the Texas congressional delegation, Attorney General Abbott expressed his alarm that the budget reconciliation bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives contains provisions that will result in a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to run the Texas child support program. Reduced funding will lead to a nearly $3 billion drop in child support collections and will hurt a million Texas children who receive child support.

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Attorney General Greg Abbott's letter

“Many Texas children and families who depend on child support to furnish the basic necessities of life will suffer if these drastic measures make it into law,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Texas children don’t need a lump of coal from Congress this Christmas. This bill will seriously undermine the Texas child support program and Washington lawmakers need to fully understand the harm this legislation, if passed, will cause Texas children and families.”

The House-passed budget reconciliation bill, otherwise known as H.R. 4241, reduces federal financial participation in child support programs from 66 percent to 50 percent by 2010, and precludes the use of performance incentive payments as a match to obtain additional federal funds. On the other hand, the Senate’s budget reconciliation bill does not make financial changes to child support programs. A conference committee consisting of House and Senate members will reconcile differences between the two versions of the bill.

The proposed cuts for child support mean that Texas will lose more than $400 million for enforcement between 2007 and 2010. At a minimum, the cut in federal funds will require the Attorney General’s office to reduce child support enforcement staff over a four-year period by more than half, which will lead to the nearly $3 billion drop in child support collections during that time.

Attorney General Abbott added: “Most Texans agree that it is important for the federal government to trim its budget deficit, but Texas children should not be the target of budget cuts. The proposed cuts would take food off the tables of children and clothes off their backs.”

Abbott pointed out that the child support cuts will not achieve the House’s goal of saving taxpayer dollars. In the state fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, the Office of the Attorney General collected more than $1.8 billion in child support that benefited Texas children. Proposed funding cuts to child support enforcement programs will increase government spending because the loss of child support will force many needy families to seek public assistance.

The Attorney General’s Division for Families and Children is directed by state and federal law to assist families who currently receive or have received public assistance and families who request child support services. Approved services include locating absent parents; establishing paternity for children born to unmarried parents; establishing, enforcing, and modifying child and medical support orders; and collecting and distributing child support payments.