Time is running out for Texas lawmakers to determine how to best deal with the budget deficit, estimated at between 15 and 27-billion dollars. Proposed cuts could mean the loss of 9-thousand state jobs, and strike a potentially devastating blow to public education and health care, affecting people with disabilities.
This is Shane Hetherington. Despite being born severely premature and blind, the 32 year old was blessed with an extraordinary gift. His mother Candace tells me how they discovered Shane was a musical savant at the age of two.
"We were giving his sister piano lessons. We were all sitting at the dinner table, eating, and his sister left the table and Shane left the table, and we heard 'When the Saints go Marching in' on the piano. His sister came running from the other end of the house and said 'Mom, that was Shane!' We've been having all this beautiful music in our home ever since."
She says he can play a song after hearing it once. She credits the Village Learning & Achievement Center in Kingwood for his social development, if not:
"He would probably be at home, with no social interaction, no learning, possibly in an institution, which would cost twice, three times, maybe four times as much as it does for him to live at home and have these home and community services that he has."
Kim Brusatori is the center's founder where they service over 200-clients.
"We've been in business for ten years, and we have about 110 HCS, Home and Community Service clients. Parents wait for about eight to ten years on a waiting list, in order to get services of any kind in this state."
She says she's been to Austin, trying to convince lawmakers to think hard about cutting funding for home and community based services like hers.
"They've cut us about ten percent in home and community services, so that's equated to about a 32-thousand dollar a month loss for us each month. They made additional cuts of two percent in February, and they're looking at taking another 10-40 percent this September, because of the budget cuts."
Brusatori says they've organized a rally featuring Shane Hetherington weekend after next at Discovery Green downtown. It is to tell state lawmakers to balance the budget without cutting critical services to the state's most vulnerable citizens. More information can be found at the Village's Harris County Families Unite Rally page.
Until then, Candace Hetherington says the music continues in their household.
"It's like always having a concert pianist in your house, and it's wonderful. It never gets old."
"Somewhere, over the rainbow."