UPDATE: House Appropriations Begins Looking at the Budget

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.

The subcommittee heard testimony related to the Health and Human Services Commission on February 15th, with Commissioner Tom Suehs testifying. He spoke primarily about the exceptional items requested by the Health and Human Services Commission. Exceptional items are priorities outside of the budget written by the Legislative Budget Board, but that the agency considers of great importance. HHSC's exceptional items include restoring part of the provider cuts to CHIP and Medicaid, providing for caseload growth in CHIP and Medicaid, and maintaining support for the Physician Loan Repayment Program. You can see all of the exceptional items here: http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/news/presentations/2011/hac-hb1-021511.pdf

To see testimony from the hearing, visit legetv.org:

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II-- Feb. 16, 2011
ouse Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II-- Feb. 16, 2011, Pt. 2

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II-- Feb. 17, 2011
ouse Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II-- Feb. 17, 2011, Pt. 2

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II--Feb. 18, 2011


Chairman Pitts has kept his promise to make up for lost time in House Appropriations hearings. Over the weekend, Chairman Pitts made subcommittee assignments, which have scheduled meetings every morning at 7:00am during the week of February 14 through February 17. Subcommittee assignments are as follows:

Subcommittee on Article II (Health): Chairman John Zerwas
Subcommittee on Article III (Education): Chairman Scott Hochberg
Subcommittee on I, IV and V: Chairman John Otto
Subcommittee on VI, VII, and VIII: Chairman Drew Darby

It has been a busy week in the Article II subcommittee. On Monday, February 14, the representatives heard testimony related to the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), which works with Texans with disabilities and children with developmental delays. Services that fall under the DARS umbrella include early childhood intervention for children with developmental delays; education and vocational training for the blind; autism services; independent living services; and more.

During the testimony, parents testified that these services had helped their children tremendously and in many cases had been life saving. One mother with three autistic triplets testified that the state’s autism program had helped her daughters thrive. Her family’s insurance did not cover the treatment and she couldn’t afford the $5,000 per child per month out of pocket cost. In HB 1 (the House’s version of the budget bill), funding for the program is totally slashed, so the mother isn’t sure what she will do for her daughters.

Another parent testified about the Early Childhood Intervention program, which had helped her child. The program treats children under the age of three with physical or developmental disabilities and is much cheaper than treating the child in schools. The mother, however, said that while she realized the cost-savings benefits, her “son is not a dollar amount. He is a child first.” You can watch that video here.

Representatives Eiland, King and Dukes expressed concern about what would happen to these families if the funding for these programs was cut or reduced. 

All videos from House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee on February 14, 2011 can be found on LegeTV.org.


Speaker Straus released  the highly anticipated House committee assignments early Wednesday February 9th. Jim Pitts began with an apology for starting five minutes late. He promised that the committee would make make up for it over the course of the session.

The Appropriations Committee is charged with the daunting task of writing the state budget in the face of a $27 billion revenue shortfall. Chief Revenue Estimator John Heleman kicked off the invited testimony by giving a briefing on the state of the Texas economy. Though Mr. Heleman's prognosis for the next two years was somewhat grim, he stated that Texas has exited the recession and is slowly improving. 

John O'Brien, Director of the Legislative Budget Board, laid out the bill for the legislators. He summarized the fiscal back-drop of Texas economy, how the LBB developed their budget recommendations, and next steps for the legislature.

Beginning tomorrow morning, the Approprations Committee will meet to hear testimony related to prisons, Medicaid, and the Foundation School Program. They will then divide into subcommittees and reconvene to hear recommendations on February 21.

The following representatives are members of the House Appropriations Committee.

  • Rep. Jim Pitts, Chair
  • Rep. Sylvester Turner, Vice-Chair
  • Rep. Warren Chisum
  • Rep. Myra Crownover
  • Rep. Dawnna Dukes
  • Rep. Craig Eiland
  • Rep. Helen Giddings
  • Rep. Scott Hochberg
  • Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon
  • Rep. John Otto
  • Rep. Debbie Riddle 
  • Rep. Mike Villarreal
  • Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock
  • Rep. Angie Chen Button
  • Rep. Drew Darby
  • Rep. Lance Gooden
  • Rep. Eric Johnson
  • Rep. Susan King
  • Rep. Dee Margo
  • Rep. Armando Martinez
  • Rep. Doug Miller
  • Rep. Diane Patrick
  • Rep. Charles Schwertner
  • Rep. Mark Shelton
  • Rep. Raul Torres
  • Rep. John Zerwas

UPDATE: Senate Begins Dissecting the Budget

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. 

If you are not able to make it to Austin to testify, you can call the members of the Senate Finance Committee to tell them how important health services are to you and to ask them to take a balanced approach when balancing the budget.

  • Chairman Steve Ogden (512) 463-0105
  • Vice-Chairman Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (512) 463-0120
  • Senator Bob Deuell (512) 463-0102
  • Senator Robert Duncan (512) 463-0128
  • Senator Kevin Eltife (512) 463-0101
  • Senator Craig Estes (512) 463-0130
  • Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (512) 463-0127
  • Senator Jane Nelson (512) 463-0112
  • Senator Dan Patrick (512) 463-0107
  • Senator Kel Seliger (512) 463-0131
  • Senator Florence Shapiro (512) 463-0108
  • Senator Royce West (512) 463-0123
  • Senator John Whitmire (512) 463-0115
  • Senator Tommy Williams (512) 463-0104
  • Senator Judith Zaffirini (512) 463-0121

Vice-Chair Hinojosa kicked off testimony on January 31st by reminding the committee that the state faces a monumental task in writing the 2012-2013 budget. The state must find a way to write the budget in the face of a $27 billion revenue shortfall. Sen. Hinojosa urged Senators to take a balanced approach to balancing the budget, which could include using the Rainy Day Fund and finding ways to increase revenue. The video can be found here.

The theme of the day on the first two days of the hearing was "cuts," with the agencies laying out exactly which programs they would have to cut and how many people would be affected with the limited funding in the budget bill. Cuts will be drastic and wide-ranging-- from cutting home-and-community based services to disabled children to reducing Medicaid reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals that treat those patients. You can read about the cuts in detail below:

Throughout the week, the senators were obviously concerned with making sure they heard everything that was brought forth in testimony. They remained attentive and asked lots of questions, most notably about how they should raise revenue to pay for programs and how many people would be affected by the cuts. Senator Whitmire was particularly vocal in this regard. Over and over, he demanded that the agency heads put a face on the budget cuts and asked why they weren't more adamant about needing more money. Senator Zaffirini also expressed her concerns, going so far as to say that if she had to take a vote today, she would vote 'no' on the budget.

On Wednesday, Feb 2nd and Thursday, Feb 3rd the Senate Finance Committee began hearing public testimony on the part of the budget related to health and human services, including the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and mental health services. More than 200 people including parents of children with disabilities, providers, advocacy organizations and the faith community came to the hearing to speak about their concerns. Texas Impact members Rev. John Elford, Bobbie Sanders and Mary Beth Maher also testified. A video clip of their testimony is below. 

Below are some highlights from the first week of testimony:


January 31, 2011
Sen. Whitmire and Chief Estimator John Heleman talking about the structural deficit in the budget.
en. Nelson inquiring about how Texas can get more Medicaid funds back from the federal government.
en. Patrick asking Commissioner Tom Suehs about whether the cuts are being made efficiently.
en. Whitmire telling the agency that he wants to know the 'human impact' of the cuts. 
en. Eltife talking about the unintended effects of cutting mental health services. 

February 1, 2011
DFPS Commissioner Anne Heiligenstein testifies on cutting preventative services.
enator Zaffirini on how "excpetional items" are no longer exceptional.

February 2, 2011
Texans Testify: "If it means raising taxes, raise mine first!"
aura LaVigne (The ARC of Fort Bend County): "Your budget got our attention."
ens. Lucio and Ogden: "Should we raise fees? Taxes? What is it that we should do?"
Sen. West: "We can't balance the budget... and fund the increases in services!"
Sen. Whitmire: "It can't be just those on this panel that hear your words and your position."

February 3, 2011
Pastor John Elford (University United Methodist Church): "Is slicing and dicing the budget really the best we can do?"
Bobbie Sanders: "One way to honor God is to look after his children."
Mary Beth Maher: "It takes the coordinated efforts of state programs and the nonprofit community working to get a family... back on their feet."

See them all at Texas Impact's Lege TV!

Texas Impact will be updating this story as the hearing continues. Please check back for more information!




Bill Authors Last Name: 
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Passed 2nd Chamber

Relating to appropriations for the 2012-2013 biennium.

Texas Faith Communities Concerned about Budget Shortfall

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.

Texas Impact will provide information and updates throughout the legislative session about the budget and other issues of importance to faith communities, as well as opportunities for engagement.

Taking An Axe To It: LBB Releases First Draft of Budget

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.

Here are some of the things we'll be talking about: Almost 10,000 state jobs will be cut. More than 60,000 students won't receive scholarships for college. Doctors and hospitals who provide services to Medicaid patients will get reimbursed at lower rates. Schools won't get $9.8 billion that they need to cover enrollment growth. And that's just the beginning. 

The 2012-2013 budget allocates $156.4 billion, which is about $58 billion less than what state agencies requested and $31.1 billion less than what the state is spending in the current budget cycle. As part of the $156.4 billion, the state only has direct control over the $79.3 billion in general revenue (the rest is federal money or dedicated to specific funds).  

This budget was written using a cuts-only approach, which will hurt Texas families. Texas Impact is part of the Texas Forward coalition, which calls on the Legislature to use a balanced approach when they write the budget. To mitigate the impact of these cuts, the Legislature could vote to use the Rainy Day Fund, which was set up to bridge the gap between needs and services when revenue is falling short. Texas will have about $9.4 billion in the Rainy Day Fund at the end of 2013.

The Legislature could also find ways to increase state revenue. The Legislative Budget Board has laid out 76 proposals including canceling the back-to-school sales tax holiday, allowing liquor stores to remain open on Sundays, and lowering tax breaks for energy companies working on certain projects. [Note: Texas Impact does not necessarily endorse any of these proposals].

To read the draft budget bill, you can click here

Below are a few articles that lay out the budget cuts in more detail: 





A Balanced Approach to a Balanced Budget

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.

A Close Look at the Cuts

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.

Eva DeLuna Castro, from the Center for Public Policy Priorities, has compiled an analysis of what some of the proposed cuts would do to Texas' social service agencies and their ability to provide for needy Texans. The cuts do not stop there, however. Higher Education and professional education programs, like nursing, are also in danger of seeing cuts. Read the policy page here.


Health and Human Services

Cuts to Community-based, Long-term Services

Cuts to Comprehensive Rehabilitative Services

Cuts to Early Childhood Intervention

Cuts to Mental Health Services

Cuts to Health Promotion and Nutrition Programs

Cuts to Programs that Prevent Child Abuse, Neglect, and Delinquency

Higher Education

Cuts to Financial Aid

Cuts to Medical Residency Programs and Nurse Training 

UPDATED: Texas Faces More Budget Cuts

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.

Health and Human Services Commission announced that it would cut provider reimbursement rates for doctors serving Medicaid and CHIP patients by 1 to 2 pecent, depending upon the program. Provider reimursement rates were also cut earlier in the year. HHSC expects to save $42 million from this reduction, but the state will lose $83.5 million in federal matching funds as a result.

It is now being reported that HHSC is actually planning to cut current spending by $85 million. $42 million will come from provider reimbursement cuts, but an additional $43 million will be cut from other agencies with the HHSC system. These cuts mean that Texas will not receive $121.7 million in federal matching funds. The total impact of HHSC cuts is $206.7 million.

State leaders say that every dollar saved in the 2010-2011 biennium will alleviate the level of reductions necessary in the 2012-2013 budget, which lawmakers will write when they convene in January. Current projections indiciate that the state will be facing a $12 to $25 billion revenue shortfall. Gov. Perry asked agencies to prepare a 10 percent budget reduction schedule for the upcoming biennium.

Texas' Budget Woes Increase

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 Legislative Budget Board (LBB), chaired by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, announced yesterday that tax revenue for the current biennium is down about $4 billion. In May, the LBB told state agencies to cut 5 percent from their current budgets to cover some of this deficit, but because large areas of the budget-- including CHIP, Medicaid eligibility, and the Foundation School Program-- were exempt from this, the cuts only brought in about $1.2 billion in savings.

Now the LBB is telling agencies to cut their budgets by an additional 2 to 3 percent. Some of the programs that were exempt from the 5 percent cuts may not be exempt this time, but it is unclear how much these new cuts would bring in.

Texas has a constitutional amendment that requires the state budget to be balanced, so any deficit incurred during the 2010-2011 biennium would have to be filled with money from the Rainy Day Fund. This could hit doubly hard, as many lawmakers are hoping to use part or all of the Rainy Day Fund to help make up for the revenue shortfall in the 2012-2013 biennium.

More Money, More Problems

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.

Numbers and analysis revealed late last week show the budget gap reaching as high as $25 billion. So far, it seems that major cuts will be inevitable, putting hundreds of large and small programs and thousands of state employee jobs at risk.

In the religious and advocacy communities, we often focus on the negative effects that system cuts would bring the most vulnerable Texans, seeing behind each budget line item a real human face in need of services or assistance. If the budget gap is indeed looming in upwards of $24-$25 billion however, eligibility and social service programs won't be the only place that lawmakers will seek to trim, no, slash budgetary expenditures. Now, programs long since regarded as untouchable, like education, are nearing the chopping block as well.

For the first time, Public and Higher Education are being seriously mentioned as sources for potential cuts by lawmakers, experts, and analysts. In presentations to various denominational groups earlier this summer, Texas Impact Executive Director Bee Moorhead led audiences in a polling exercise, asking them where they would be most willing to see cuts if Health, Education, and Criminal Justice were on the table. The groups struggled to find a place in the budget where cuts could be made without severe negative ramifications for other parts of the budget...and gave up, baffled. The exercise merely reinforced the difficult realities that will exist in the 82nd Legislative Session, which gets underway in under 90 days.

The Dallas Morning News published a well-researched article on Sunday, with a thorough and informative breakdown of how the State takes in and spends its revenue, as well as analysis and prediction for the upcoming legislative session and biennium. To read the article, click here.

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