The first outline of a spending plan from the Texas Legislative Budget Board calls for deep cuts in public education, programs for the needy, and criminal justice, while preserving a $9.4 billion rainy-day fund.
The proposal calls for spending of $156.4 billion from all revenue sources, which is $31 billion, or nearly 17%, below the current budget. State general revenue outlays of $79.3 billion represent a decrease of $9.2 billion or 10.4% from the 2010-11 budget.
Total revenue available for the 2011 legislative session that began this month falls about $27 billion below the amount state agencies have said they need to maintain current operations.
House Appropriations chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, presented the bare-bones budget to lawmakers, pointing out that it calls for no tax increase.
The LBB budget proposal serves as a starting point for the House. The Senate will get its own version later.
“When we pass the final budget it will be reminiscent of 2003, when people said there was a $10-$16 billion shortfall because some wanted $10-$16 billion in new spending,” said Lieut. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate. “We balanced that budget, increased funding for public education, covered our obligations under Medicaid, and still cut the budget by $2 billion.”
State aid to school districts would drop by $953 million in the proposed budget. Districts would also lose $9.8 billion due under current school finance laws, such as money to cover growth in student enrollment.
With higher education facing a 4.7% cut to $21 billion, the budget calls for closing four community colleges to save $145 million. The institutions affected would be Odessa, Brazosport, Frank Phillips College and Ranger College.
Odessa College board president Walter Smith said he was surprised to be included in the cuts because the college has growing enrollment and passed a $68.5 million bond issue last November with 63% support from Ector County voters.
Ranger College reported 66% enrollment growth during the 2009-2010 academic year.
The proposed budget would increase debt service 6.3%, or $96.9 million, due to more appropriations for highway and general obligation bonds.
It forecasts a 92.5% increase in federal funds, or $66.2 million, for debt service on $3.7 billion of Build America Bonds issued last year.
For all funds, debt service for the Texas Department of Transportation would see an increase of 480% for its state highway fund and 43% for the Texas Mobility Fund.
Debt service for the Texas Public Finance Authority, which issues general obligation bonds, would rise 13% to $706 million.
The House budget calls for lowering public safety and criminal justice spending from general revenue by $1.2 billion or 13.5%.
Its plan cuts psychiatric and pharmacy care 14% and limits payments to health care providers for hospital care to Medicaid rates. The House budget also calls for the closure of one state jail and three Texas Youth Commission facilities.
In his inaugural speech Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry did not specifically mention the budget crisis but boasted about the Texas economy.
After winning an unprecedented third term as governor, the Republican has made a crackdown on illegal aliens his top priority.
Perry called for emergency legislation outlawing “sanctuary cities” in Texas. However, he has made no reference to the reduced spending on border enforcement in the LBB budget proposal.
Democrats, a minority in the House, are not expected to have much impact on the legislative session. They deplored the proposed cuts, which they likened to “asking an anorexic person to lose more weight.”