Texas Budget Woes Worsen, As Needs for Families Rise - Tuesday, May 11, 2010
A Texas legislative committee responsible for passing the state budget met Tuesday to discuss options for a projected budget shortfall in the billions. Severe cuts to state services and programs were the proposal from House Speaker Joe Straus, according to an Austin American-Statesman report, who also reportedly sought to close the gap without raising revenue.
Several proposed targets for across-the-board cuts will go into effect this year, but the Dallas Morning News reports some exemptions. A program for pregnant and parenting teens, services in mental health hospitals, and some financial aid dollars reportedly have been spared once-proposed cuts for 2010, after advocates including Texans Care for Children members rallied to their defense.
Texas lawmakers are expected to have an estimated $15 billion-$18 billion below what they need to cover basic state expenses in the next budget cycle. With unemployment high and demand for critical assistance like food and health care climbing, the cruel truth is, just when the economic downturn has left the most families needing help, our state coffers fall short.
The Texas AFT released a statement calling Straus' approach an unbalanced approach:
[T]alking of "significant cuts, as the speaker did today, without even mentioning the availability of billions of dollars in the state's "Rainy Day reserve fund, sets the framework for a severely unbalanced approach to a projected budget shortfall. "Why would we talk about cutting vital services for Texans when the Rainy Day Fund alone stands to provide well over $9 billion for the 2012-2013 state budget? asked Texas AFT President Linda Bridges.
The current economic downturn, after all, is exactly the type of situation for which that fund was created. "Failure to make full use of the Rainy Day Fund to cushion the impact of this downturn would be budgetary malpractice, threatening needless, deep cuts in educational services and other vital programs that benefit the schoolchildren of Texas and their families, Bridges said.