Politics
1:57 pm
Tue June 5, 2012

Legislative Leaders Spin Budget Instructions

Texas agencies have their marching orders as they put together budget requests for the 2013 Legislative Session.

Monday the Legislative Budget Board sent instructions to agency heads letting them know budget deliberations in 2013 would start at the same amount of money each agency was given in the current budget. Each agency is also required to turn in a separate budget request reflecting a 10 percent cut over the the two year budget.

Governor Rick PerryLt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus issued statements today on the new instructions.

Perry, who rolled out his no new taxes and limited spending "Texas Budget Compact" in April, said the instructions  allow agencies to take a "fresh look" at their budgets to make sure money is being spent as efficiently as possible – a process he says keeps the state's economy strong.

"Identifying potential savings early in the budget process reiterates our ongoing commitment to the responsible fiscal policies that have made Texas the epicenter of job creation in the U.S., including keeping our taxes low, spending in check and government running efficiently," Perry said.

Dewhurst, in an ugly race with former state solicitor Ted Cruz for the Republican Senate nomination, used his statement as an opportunity to highlight his campaign themes of out-of-control federal spending versus Texas' conservative restraint.

"Unlike Washington where spending increases are automatic, Texas has maintained a balanced budget by forcing government to look for savings first – ensuring taxpayers' hard-earned money is put to its highest and best use," Dewhurst said.

Straus' statement focused on how he says the guidelines will help protect agencies from a sudden economic downturn leading to severe cuts.

"While our revenue growth has been healthy this year, we must plan conservatively, which is why we have asked agencies to hold the line on spending," Straus said. "These instructions will also leave us prepared for a slowdown in revenues as the national economy struggles to recover."

The instructions included a few agencies exempt from the "no increase" rule:

  • the Foundation School Program
  • debt service requirements for bond authorizations
  • benefits and eligibility in Medicaid entitlement programs, the Children's Health Insurance Program and other healthcare programs
  • employer contribution requirements for state pension systems and employee group benefits