No surprise here, but still: State leaders want state agencies to cut five percent from their current budgets "due to the uncertainty of the state's short-term economic future, as well as potentially substantial long-term costs associated with the passage of federal legislation currently being debated in Washington, D.C."
The first part of that — the economic stuff — is based largely on persistent weakness in the state's sales tax revenue. That's the largest single source of tax money for the state government, and it's been lagging behind prior year numbers by double digits for five months in a row. It'll be difficult to make up that shortfall even if the economy recovers over the weekend. Comptroller Susan Combs estimated sales tax revenues overall would grow during the two-year budget; the state's economic woes put that in doubt.
Nobody in state government can put a number on the second part — the bit about health care legislation — because the feds haven't put out a bill, and with it, the numbers. But state leaders — all Republicans — are worried about that Democratic initiative and it will, in any version that's been made public, cost the state government some money. How much? That's not knowable at this time.
Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus want the agencies to turn in their numbers by February 15, and the Legislative Budget Board, among others, will start making decisions on actual cuts. Some spending gets immunity in this exercise: Benefits and client levels in Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program, and foster care; public education funding, social security and retirement contributions, higher education funding, and debt service on the state's borrowing. Prisons and state police and the like aren't listed among the things excepted from the 5 percent cuts.