AUSTIN — Countering Republicans' portrayal of Texas as a land of opportunity, Democratic lawmakers released a compendium of statistics Tuesday showing that the state lags behind much of the nation in providing needed services to its residents.
Entitled "Texas on the Brink," the pamphlet-sized report -- also available on the Internet -- countered Gov. Rick Perry's upbeat depiction of Texas as one of the nation's leading success stories by showing that the state performs poorly in categories such as education, health care, per capita income and quality of life.
In some cases, Texas ranks at or near the bottom: 50th in the percentage of the population 25 and older with a high school diploma, for example (76.9 percent). In other categories, it ranked at the top: first in the percentage of the population (28 percent) that is uninsured. And fourth in the percentage of Texans living below the poverty level (17.3 percent)
"We're not in the bottom in every category," said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. "We're first in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions and first in carcinogens released in the air. If we don't do something to reverse course, the health of Texans will be jeopardized by merely breathing our state's air."
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit free market research institute, charged that the grim assessment missed a big part of the story -- the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
"This report makes for some interesting trivia, but if Texas is such a horrible place, why have 4.5 million people moved here in the last decade?" said Arlene Wohlgemuth, a former Burleson legislator who is now the foundation's executive director. "How is Texas adding four new congressional seats when California is not gaining congressional seats for the first time ever? Because what people care most about are jobs," she said. "And, on that measurement, Texas ranks first."
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