Lawmakers will find themselves in a multibillion-dollar ditch when they return to Austin in January 2011. Constitutionally, they can't write a deficit budget, so they're expected to use a mixture of cuts and revenue raisers to keep the books in balance. Experienced budget writers say it'll take a mix of cuts on one hand and taxes or fees on the other to make things work.
At this early stage, one thing getting attention from lawmakers is the long list of items currently exempted from state sales taxes. Exemptions on health care, groceries and education are likely to remain no matter how big the budget shortfall grows. Which means lobbyists for elective items — snack foods, tattooing, tanning, body piercing and the like — could face a tough session.