State Lawmakers Faced With $15 Billion Shortfall

AUSTIN (AP) – Texas lawmakers will have $72.2 billion for general purpose spending over the next two years, a $7.8 billion drop from the last state budget, according to figures released Monday by state Comptroller Susan Combs.

But when lawmakers take into account some $7 billion in federal stimulus money that will not be available to them this year, the shortfall is at least $15 billion.

The deficit also does not include expected increases in people on Medicaid rolls and demand for education, issues the Texas Legislature will begin to deal with when the session opens on Tuesday. The numbers released Monday cover the 2012-2013 budget, and do include a $4.3 billion deficit in the current state budget.

“The recent recession has had its impact on the state revenue outlook as major revenue sources such as the sales tax generated less money in the last couple of years,” Combs told reporters. “While we have turned the corner to an economic recovery, the revenue estimate I’m releasing today is for moderate growth.”

Dick Lavine, an analyst for the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities, said the true shortfall is closer to $28 billion if lawmakers intend to maintain spending at current levels and taking into account enrollment growth, cost increases and other variables that would be required to keep services at their current levels.

The estimate, which gives the Legislature a roadmap as they embark on the budget-writing process, has for months been the topic of election-year rhetoric with Republican incumbents trying to downplay the severity of the budget mess.

The Texas constitution requires that the budget be balanced and the new supermajority of conservative legislators elected in November have vowed not to raise taxes.

Because of the recession, state tax receipts for the 2010 budget year fell behind projections by about $2 billion and are expected to be down even more at the end of the current fiscal year. The state is also on the hook to fill a hole of about $11 billion left by federal stimulus money and other state savings that were used last year but are no longer available. Added cost pressures from increased enrollment in public schools and health care programs for the poor and disabled, and spikes in health care costs will compound the massive hole.

The shortfall will be the driving force behind almost every decision the Legislature makes when it convenes in Tuesday. From state parks and highways to health care programs for the poor and disabled, state agencies are bracing for the hatchet to fall. But with more than half of the state budget dedicated to education and health care services, those areas are likely to sustain the most severe cuts.

Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, who is in the middle of a fight to retain his post, has raised the specter of unpaid furloughs for state employees.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Tiffany Higgins Barnes

    Cutbacks start at the top, Rick Perry!! If you aren’t convinced about home educating your children, perhaps this will help. These schools ARE overwhelmed and not funded properly. Those poor teachers are spending money out of their own personal finances to provide snacks, supplies, and even clothing and shoes for their students who are so desperately in need. I hope the people in my generation step up their voices and votes. Where has all the money gone?? It’s time we find it and used it for the good of the citizens, NOT the politicians.

  • Jimmy Graham

    Let the people vote on slots at the racetracks in the state to keep our state money IN our state. The millons that is going to all the states around Texas.

  • Hootex

    I see Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown is proposing $12.5 billion in cuts in California. Has anyone ever heard of cutting spending? Everything has a price, and we’ve only so much money. You ain’t got it, don’t spend it!

  • Russell

    Now is the time to bring in casino gambling and slots at racetracks…the tax revenue, jobs, infrastructure, resteraunts, hotels…etc..etc..that will be created will generate billions of dollars over just a few years…stop letting millions of Texas dollars cross the borders to New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana…keeps those millions here

  • Mark

    I thought Gov. Perry said he had balanced the budget? Wow! What a difference a few months can make. Yes, gambling would help. But we need to cut out excessive spending. Welfare programs need to be cut and we need to fund basic state services only. I’m tired of paying to feed, provide housing & health care for so many people and their kids. I take care of my family – you should do the same. When I have been short of money I would work 2 jobs. Many Texans need to try working and get off welfare.

  • BB

    first things first we need to consider ways to drastically reduce our government waste in spending and then propose to every American a onetime cash payroll deduction from everyone to pay our way out of this mess so we can make the U.S dollar be more stronger and our money to have more bang for our buck.we all need to think out of the box to make this country stand out ahead of the rest.ALL STATES INCLUDED!!!!!!! WERE ALL WASTE FULL AND AT FAULT FOR THIS COUNTRY’S MESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gloria -parent

    I thought that Gov.Perry said he had a balanced budget ?How this happen in short time, that things need too be cut I don’t understand how someone can be so unthoughtful and say any thing to get back in.But you do,well Gov.Perry and dose that follow you don’t have to worry about your jobs. But our teachers do they won’t have a job!. Why is education the one to take the betting of all this don’t you know that by doing this is a awful thing to do too our children education ; you’re children don’t worry they don’t attend public schools like ours.

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