Budget

UPDATE #2: 
Tuesday, February 15th through Friday, February 18th brought more public testimony in House Approprations Subcommittee on Article II. Hundreds of individuals representing providers, parents of disabled children, advocacy organizations, and the faith community testified against the budget, demanding that their services remain funded and asking the committee to consider using the Rainy Day Fund.

On January 31, 2011 the Senate Finance Committee began the long process of analyzing the state budget (SB 1). Throughout the 82nd Legislative Session, the committee will hear testimony from the Legislative Budget Board, the Comptroller's Office, the heads of state agencies, and-- most importantly-- from the public at large. 

Public testimony on Article III of the budget-- relating to public and higher education-- begins today, Feb. 7th and continues until Tuesday, Feb. 15th. The committee will hear public and invited testimony on everything from the School for the Deaf to the University of Texas and everything in between. 

People of all faiths are increasingly concerned about what will happen across Texas as a result of proposed budget cuts at the state level. Of special concern are proposed cuts in programs such as health care and education that will especially affect low-income and other disadvantaged populations. The Texas Tribune's recent story, "Faith-Based Groups Brace for Brutal Budget Cuts," highlights some concerns that Texas faith groups share.

The Legislative Budget Board released the first draft of the 2012-2013 Biennial Budget late on January 19, 2011. This document is just a draft-- over the next few months, the budget will be debated in committee meetings and hearings-- but it lays out a starting point for discussion. Right now, it seems that the discussion will be pretty grim.

Texas Impact was one of many organizations calling for "a balanced approach" to balancing the state budget at a press conference on January 5 announcing the new Texas Forward coalition. Texas Impact board president Reverend T. Randall Smith reminded lawmakers that the state budget is a moral document and that faith communities oppose balancing the budget at the expense of the most vulnerable Texans.

The anticipated budget shortfall looms over the 2011 session like a giant raincloud, and those in its shadow have been waiting for months to discover what the forecast will be once predictions become concrete numbers later this winter. As agencies laid out their Legislative Appropriation Requests (LARs) in hearings before the State earlier last summer, stark numbers characterized almost every request.

State leaders announced today that state agencies, courts and universities should be prepared to cut an additional 2.5 percent from their budgets in FY 2011. This comes on top of cuts ordered in January 2010, bringing total budget cuts for the 2010-2011 biennium to 7.5 percent.

In a letter to agencies, Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov Dewhurst and Speaker Straus said that while state sales tax revenue is up, total revenue for the biennium is about $2 billion less than expected. A 2.5 percent cut is expected save around $500 million.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the projected $25 billion budget shortfall in the 2012-2013 biennial state budget, but it turns out that the state's economy isn't doing well in the current fiscal year either.

The Texas budget is a mess.

This story is old, but new, disturbing facts about the state of the State's budget have slowly been leaking out through the summer and early fall. With no certified, official numbers yet released from the Comptroller's office, policy wonks and pundits alike cannot help but grasp at each new piece of budgetary news, as if reaching for jigsaw pieces that will combine to form a gloomy, if nebulous, puzzle representing Texas' fiscal situation.

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