Poll Shows Texans Dissatisfied With Legislature's Performance

Texas lawmakers are getting low marks from voters for the latest legislative session. In a recent Scripps Howard poll, 53 % of Texans said they are dissatisfied with the 78th Legislature's job performance, the lowest approval rating since 1980.

Heading into the current legislative session, lawmakers were already battling a budget deficit and an insurance crises. Now, they're facing distrust from voters. More than half of those surveyed in the latest poll said lawmakers are doing a fair to poor job when it comes to providing services for the needy and quality education.

The poll comes out just as lawmakers announce they might raise university tuition as much as $23  per credit next fall. They say the increase in tuition is needed to balance the new state budget and soften spending cuts in higher education. East Texans already dissatisfied with the state of education had different opinions on the issue. Teacher Heather Connor remembers legislatures using certain issues, like education, to get into office. Now Connor is facing a possible benefit loss.

"In education, we quite possibly will either lose our insurance or have it cut in half," says Connor. "Being in education, they pay us less -- and being state employees, they don't provide insurance for us like other employees of the state."

Some East Texans are holding back judgement. Smith County resident Michael Dempsey says, "They don't want to do anything that would really hurt education. It's more they're making sure we utilize the money in a good way to where there's no waste."

For many, the thought of a failing legislature didn't surface until some legislators decided to flee.

"I don't know really what's going on, but that's going to change. Local government is just as important, if not more, than national government," says Whitehouse resident Doris Hayhurst.

The poll was completed four days before about 50 democrats walked out and headed for Oklahoma. The same poll shows Governor Rick Perry's approval rating remains the same at 50 percent; however, his disapproval rating has jumped about four percent since the last poll.

   Kerri Panchuk, reporting.