7/19/2010 4:16 PM
When is money in the budget not exactly money in the budget? When it's dedicated.
Some moneys that are included in the revenue estimate calculation for the state can only be spent for certain purposes, possibly adding another hurdle to Texas' upcoming budget challenge, based on discussions earlier today in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, chaired by Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton).
The subcommittee met to discuss general revenue-dedicated funds and the Constitutional Debt Limit.
There are currently 265 dedicated account balances which total just under $3.7 billion, Legislative Budget Board analyst Stewart Shallow told the committee. The largest is the System Benefit Fund at $671 million, and the Emissions Reduction Plan with $515 million.
"Since they're still reserved for the dedicated purpose, but they're still used for balancing the budget, essentially all you could do is borrow temporarily from those funds and then have to pay it back," Otto said.
In essence: "there's revenue there, but it's really not there," Otto said, "from the standpoint of it's dedicated because you've not appropriated it for any other purpose other than what it was collected for."
"The legislature has the power to change the dedications of the accounts … but it would require legislation," Shallow said.
"Maybe one of the recommendations this committee and this subcommittee ought to look at is in the future when we dedicate funds we dedicate a dollar amount up to a limit and then let the rest of it pour over into GR. I mean that's really where we need [funds] especially going into this next session," Otto said.
Further, if voters constitutionally approved a bond whose revenues the Legislature now wanted to use for another project, "there are steps that can be done to redirect it, but you would have to go back to the voters." And that's only if the state is still under the constitutional debt limit.