Thursday, April 7, 2011

50 facts about the House’s proposed state budget

The following is for your information and distribution to your members.

Legislative Liaison
Texas Coalition of Veterans Organizations

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50 facts about the House's proposed state budget

By Jason Embry | Friday, April 1, 2011, 06:27 AM

House is in at 8:30. Senate is back Monday.

Thursday was a big day in the House, with members voting to approve cuts and rainy-day-fund use to close the $4 billion shortfall in the current budget. You can read all about it here.

I'd venture to say today is even more important. Today, House members will vote on the state budget for the next two years, and based on the state's revenue situation, they will make sizable cuts across state government. Make no mistake: This is a budget that reduces spending and shrinks government.

This is not the final product. The Senate will pass a budget next - likely one that spends more money - and then the two sides will see if they can agree on something. There's a pretty good chance the final budget will spend more and cut less than this one. Still, today's is a critical vote. Not only will this be the bill that the House is working from in the conference committee, and not only does it represent months' of work on the part of House budget-writers, but it is a clear statement of the House's priorities and the result of the body's decision to combat the budget shortfall over the next two years without new taxes and without tapping the rainy day fund.

So, this morning, we will put the usual First Reading bells and whistles aside and highlight, in no particular order, 50 of the most important decisions made in the House budget. Hopefully this list will help you follow the debate today, or at least, better understand what's at stake.

One other thing: Many of the comparisons made here are comparison between estimated spending in the current biennium and what the House proposes to spend in the next biennium. But this is a growing state, and such a comparison often doesn't take growth into account.

Here we go:

1) The proposed House budget costs $164.5 billion, a 12.3 percent spending reduction as compared to 2010-11.

2) It does not raise taxes.

3) It is $7.8 billion short of the money that current law says Texas will owe its school districts over the next two years, and it reduces public education funding by 9 percent, or $5 billion, from 2010-11 levels.

4) It could cause about 96,000 school employees across Texas to lose their jobs, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

5) It is short $3.3 billion in state funds and $8 billion of all funds of the money that state agencies say they will need to pay for Medicaid, an entitlement program that the state is legally obligated to provide.

6) It would reduce funding for state-supported living centers so much that, as a spokeswoman for the Department of Aging and Disability Services told the Texas Observer this week, the state would default on a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. During the Bush administration, the Justice Department found the conditions in the homes for Texans with mental disabilities were so bad that the constitutional rights of the residents were violated.

7) It reduces the number of students receiving Texas Grant scholarships from 86,830 in 2011 to 27,135 in 2013.

8) It eliminates $223 million in funding for pre-kindergarten grants and Early Childhood School Readiness programs.

9) It reduces funding for the governor's office by 17 percent.

10) It reduces the state contribution rate for state employees' retirement from 6.95 percent to 6 percent.

11) It reduces the state contribution rate for a state employee's health insurance from 100 percent to 90 percent, shifting some of the cost to employees. That's for employees who only cover themselves with state insurance. It makes additional cuts to those who cover family members.

12) It maintains funding for a broad range of victims' services, including domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, hotlines and victim advocacy.

13) It eliminates $4 million in underage tobacco enforcement grants, which go to local law enforcement to reduce the sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors. But it provides $10 million to implement obesity prevention and intervention programs.

14) It virtually eliminates $27 million in grants for the renovation and rehabilitation of historic courthouses.

15) It maintains 2010-11 funding levels for the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Texas School for the Deaf.

16) It zeroes out $6.7 million from a program that provides services to children with autism.

17) It reduces rehabilitation services to individuals who have general disabilities or are deaf or hard of hearing by 13.5 percent.

18) It restores hundreds of Child Protective Services jobs that would have been eliminated under the base budget proposed in January.

19) It cuts $4 million — 6 percent — from the agency that enforces minimum standards and investigates reports of abuse at child day care centers, residential child care and maternity homes.

20) It cuts funding for a program that aims to combat the state's shortage of nurses from $47 million to $15 million.

21) It cuts Medicaid rates to nursing homes by 10 percent, even though Texas already ranks 49th nationally in Medicaid rates for nursing homes. Many nursing-home operators say the cuts will force them to close.

22) It cuts funding for community mental health services by $162 million, and it cuts $34 million from state and community mental health hospital funding.

23) It cuts $153 million in spending on the state's Teacher Retirement System pension fund.

24) It decreases the state's contribution rate to teachers' retirement from 6.4 percent to 6 percent, assuming companion legislation is passed.

25) It reduces the state's contribution for retired teachers' health care.

26) It reduces the technology allotment for public schools from $271 million to zero.

27) It eliminates the Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Program.

28) It eliminates funding of life-skills classes for teen parents.

29) It eliminates funding for background checks of school employees.

30) It eliminates funding for initiatives that aim to boost student interest and performance in math and science.

31) It does not give schools money to pay for the growth of the state's student population by 170,000 over the next two years.

32) The reductions to state spending on education would require an estimated 24-cent increase in local property taxes in order to make up lost revenue. But state law prevents local school districts from raising their tax rates that much.

33) It reduces funding for textbooks and instructional materials by 30 percent, delaying the purchase of some textbooks and materials meant to help prepare students for the state's new standardized tests.

34) It cuts by 56 percent funding for a program that gives low-income Texans a discount on their electric bills. The state will continue to collect the fee that was created to provide that discount, but that money will primarily be used to help balance the rest of the budget.

35) It reduces general revenue and general revenue-dedicated spending on higher education overall by 12 percent, and it does not fund enrollment growth at colleges and universities.

36) It cuts funding for Texas State Technical College by $28.4 million, or 16 percent.

37) It would increase tuition by as much as $1,000 per year for a full-time student if colleges and universities tried to make up all of their cuts through tuition hikes, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

38) In addition to cuts made during the interim, it reduces reimbursement rates for health-care providers that see patients on Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program by 10 percent.

39) It increases certification fees for firefighters.

40) It reduces the number of state parks in operation from 92 to 86.

41) It reduces the amount of nitrogen oxide emissions reduced through the Texas Emission Reduction Plan from 17,425 tons to 5,308 tons.

42) It reduces funding for the Texas Emission Reduction Plan by $139 million, or 61 percent.

43) It eliminates the $3.1 million renewable energy program, which provides grants to help rural communities use renewable energy to cut energy costs and develop new sources of drinking water through desalination.

44) It cuts funding for automobile theft prevention by $29.2 million — 93 percent.

45) It zeroes out a $7.4 million program that provided grants for improvements to public facilities and infrastructure in rural communities.

46) It virtually eliminates all funding — $20 million — for housing placement and retention services for homeless families and individuals.

47) It cuts $25 million — almost 16 percent — in funding for operations, minor repairs and program support at state parks.

48) It cuts $46.7 million — more than 90 percent — in grants for local parks, boating access and trails.

49) It does not fully meet the cost of the state's projected prison population over the next two years, which the Legislative Budget Board projects will leave the prison system above capacity by 4,700 beds by the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

50) It reduces funding for the operation of the Legislature by $37 million — 10 percent.

Sources: Legislative Budget Board, House Research Organization, Center for Public Policy Priorities, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, CSHB 1.

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