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Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2010
By Juan Castillo
Representative Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, is joining critics accusing Gov. Rick Perry of failing to do enough to support the 2010 census.
Villarreal, the vice chair of the legislature’s House Redistricting Committee, said this morning he is renewing his call for Perry to direct state agencies to support participation in the census, a request he said he first made in a letter to Perry in October 2009.
Villarreal provided a copy of the letter. In it, he encourages the governor to form a state complete count committee. Villarreal said the governor never responded.
According to the Census Bureau, Texas is not among the 37 states which have formed complete count committees to spread the word that filling out the census questionnaire is important, easy and safe.
“Governor Perry has failed to seize this opportunity to bring more of our tax dollars back home to our public schools, job training programs, hospitals, transportation projects and senior centers,” Villarreal said.
Earlier this month the Latino civil rights organization MALDEF said it had convened a Texas Latino Complete Count Committee in response to the governor’s inaction on the census.
A spokeswoman for the governor said then that Perry supports efforts to get an accurate and complete count of Texas residents.
“We believe it’s in the best interest of our state in terms of representation and our tax dollars flowing back to Texas for every Texan to be counted in the census and we will look at ways to help ensure that happens,” spokeswoman Allison Castle said.
MALDEF — the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund — said it is working with more than a dozen statewide organizations and institutions, including the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project to mobilize Latinos to be fully counted in the 2010 census.
MALDEF said the 2000 Census left an estimated 373,567 people in Texas uncounted, and the state missed out on more than $1 billion in federal funds over the last decade. It said that Latinos, particularly immigrants, students and the working poor, are among the most difficult to count communities.
The census is used to determine how $400 billion in federal funds flow back to local communities each year — for education, public works, transportation, hospitals and other services. The census totals are also used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. The fastest growing state in the nation, Texas is expected to gain at least three congressional seats. States also use the totals to redraw their legislative districts.
The Census Bureau says Americans can expect to receive census forms in the mail beginning March 15.