In a joint letter today, Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen requested state agencies to submit a plan to reduce their budget by five percent for the 2020-2021 biennium.
“[I]t will take months until we know the true extent of the economic ramifications of COVID-19, and how combating this virus will impact state finances,” reads the letter. “To prepare for this economic shock, we must take action today to ensure that the state can continue providing the essential government services that Texans expect.”
The reduction will not apply to all state agencies and institutions of higher education. The following are excluded:
- Appropriations to the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Military Department; and the Texas Department of Public Safety;
- Funding for debt service requirements and bond authorizations;
- Current law requirements for the Foundation School Program and school safety;
- Funding for Child Protective Services;
- Benefits and eligibility levels in Medicaid programs, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the foster care program, the adoption subsidies program, the permanency care assistance program, and services for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities;
- Funding for behavioral health service programs;
- Appropriations for Correctional Security Operations and Correctional Managed Health Care at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
- Appropriations to Health Related Institutions and Community Colleges; and
- Employer Contributions to the Teacher Retirement System and Employees Retirement System funds and to Social Security
The agencies and universities not excluded from the request were asked to submit a plan to the Legislative Budget Board by June 15 identifying five percent savings from the general and general revenue-related appropriations in the two year period.
Suggested cuts include “forgoing capital expenditures that can be deferred, any avoidable travel expenditures, any administrative expenses that are not mission-critical, and keeping unfilled any open positions that are not essential to Texas’ COVID-19 response.”
The letter notes that “when the state revenue picture becomes clearer in the coming months, it may become necessary to make additional budget adjustments.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.