First Draft of State Budget Due January 18—A Cuts-Only Plan?

Leaders of the Texas House and Senate tell us the first draft of the state’s 2012-2013 budget will be released next Tuesday. By some accounts the proposal will cut state funding overall by as much as 25 percent, with education funding suffering a large share of the losses.

The budget writers have been instructed to assume not one penny of the $9.4 billion in the state’s economic-stabilization reserve (the so-called Rainy Day Fund) will be tapped to make up for the recession-induced collapse of state revenue. Nor will budget writers take into account any other potential new revenue sources, such as closing tax loopholes or claiming available federal funding. (For instance, more than $800 million in federal aid remains reserved for public schools in Texas; it’s there for the asking, if only the state will promise not to respond with disproportionate cuts in state school funding.)

Texas AFT firmly opposes a cuts-alone approach to the state’s revenue collapse.  We need a balanced approach that includes new revenue. For starters that means using the Rainy Day Fund exactly as it was intended—to counteract the steep, temporary decline in state revenue resulting from an economic downturn. We’ll have more to say on this theme in upcoming Hotlines.

We anticipate one positive by-product of legislative leaders’ insistence on a cuts-only budget plan. It will show just how damaging such an unbalanced, wrongheaded approach would be to the people of our state. The public doesn’t want any cuts at all in public education and health-care services, according to the latest opinion polls, but both are likely to be targeted for meat-ax cuts in the first draft of the 2012-2013 budget. Just having the full extent of these specific cuts out in the open will help make the case against a cuts-only budget.