1/18/2011 10:27 AM
The Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute today released a general proposal outlining cuts it says the state can make to close its considerable projected shortfall – without raising taxes. Among their suggestions: cutting public employees.
The release comes just hours before House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts is expected to release his budget, which TCCRI president and budget task force co-chair Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) said will contain about $15 billion in reductions.
The report focuses entirely on cost containment opportunities. It does not contain proposals to reform any of the state’s sales, property or other tax laws
“After months of careful review and hard work, we can confidently claim that, even if the shortfall is as high as some estimate, the budget can be balanced without increasing the burden on Texas families and businesses,” Chisum said. The left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities on Jan. 10 estimated the revenue shortfall at $26.8 billion. “Our budget report provides legislators with a principled blueprint to overcome the defining challenge of the 82nd Texas Legislature: balancing the budget without raising taxes.”
The report calls for: a broad range of possible General Revenue reductions, totaling nearly $18 billion, plus additional policy reforms which total an estimated $3.5 billion; a “broad range of recommendations to reform and reduce bureaucracy.”
Chisum cited high costs in the state’s public sector workforce “at all levels of government, especially when compared to other states.” “Reducing and reforming our public sector workforce is our first priority in addressing the revenue shortfall,” he said.
Currently the state has 238,404 full-time employees – up 10 percent since 2006. During that period some 12,000 employees were added to health and human services in the state.
Chisum said the proposal suggests making lasting cuts and using the Rainy Day Fund only for one-time expenses. (Rep. John Otto’s (R-Dayton) fiscal stability committee concluded over the interim that the state gotten into the shortfall partly by spending one-time revenue for not-one-time expenses.)
Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), who chaired the budget task force with Chisum, said that cuts to health and human services will be limited and on the margin because there are so many federal mandates, particularly with the new Obamacare law. That has focused the group of conservative lawmakers to focus disproportionately on education, he said. The proposal focuses, then, on cutting education bureaucracy and preserving teacher salaries and most teaching positions, Williams said.
”Focused spending helps to ensure that state government is succeeding at a limited number of constitutional core missions without taking on extraneous tasks and goals that can better be accomplished by the private sector, or individuals and families,” Williams said. “Budget reforms and reductions will help us keep our fiscal house in order, to the benefit of taxpayers and the state’s economy.”