This week will probably be one of the most difficult of the 82nd Legislature. Two issues are being considered which pose a huge challenge to the future of Texas.
First, the House redistricting map that will be the “Base Plan” will probably be made public this week. Once presented in the Redistricting Committee, members will begin the task of negotiating what their Districts will look like. It is a complicated process involving Federal law, the Texas Constitution, Texas case law, the census, and a lot of strain on relationships among the House members. What is good for one member or perhaps an entire region is often bad for others. I’ve never been through this process before, but I’m already glad it only happens every ten years.
Second, and more important, are several bills relating to the State budget.
H.B.4 – This bill enumerates cuts to be made in the 2011 budget which ends August 31, 2011. The bill proposes about $1.8 billion in cuts this year. It is likely that amendments will be offered to make even deeper cuts including furloughs of state agency employees.
H.B.275 – This bill authorizes the use of about $3.2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to pay bills incurred in the present budget.
These bills are interrelated. The revenue for the present year was about $4.3 billion short of the amount budgeted. Unless the Legislature finds a means of paying the present year bills, the Comptroller must plan on paying those bills from 2012-2013 revenue.
The present strategy for paying these bills is a combination of a small revenue estimate change by the Comptroller, the cuts of H.B.4 and the Rainy Day money provided by H.B.275. H.B.4 and H.B. 275 have already passed out of the Appropriations Committee and will come to the House for action on Thursday.
Once the present bills are dealt with, the next item will be the budget for 2012-2013 (H.B.1). This is the real newsmaker. The budget reduces spending sharply in nearly all areas of Texas government. Since the two largest areas of state government spending are Education (Article III) and Health and Human Services (Article II), these areas bear significant cuts.
The hard reality is that we already know we will need some cushion from the Rainy Day Fund for the end of the 2012-2013 budget, so using all or most of these funds create a problem down the road. The election last November sent a strong message not to increase taxes. The only option, therefore, is to cut the programs to match the estimated revenue.
I understand the anxiety the proposed cuts have caused. I believe the reductions in H.B.1, while substantial, will not be as great as presently proposed. As the budget process moves along there will probably be modifications. The difficult task before the Legislature is to find the proper balance between available revenue and the cuts expected by taxpayers. The budget process will continue until the end of the Session – hopefully not beyond.
Thank you for your time and interest. If I may be of any assistance, please contact me or my staff at either our Capitol or District office. Our District Phone is (254)690-1752. Our Capitol office is located in the extension: E2.710 Mailing address: P. O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768. Phone (512) 463-0684. You can also email me at District54.Aycock@house.state.tx.us
God Bless Texas!