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The Brief: Sept. 20, 2010

The state's finances aren't looking so hot, you might have heard.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

The state's finances aren't looking so hot, you might have heard. 

That looming $18 billion budget shortfall figure just ballooned to $21 billion. Sales tax collection fell $1.5 billion short of forecasts. Cities are bracing for tax increases while looking for any area that could withstand a cut in funding.

But a new number — 9,800 — puts more of a human face on a subject that has long been dominated by big dollar amounts and vague discussions of cuts and consequences.

That's how many jobs state agencies have offered to eliminate in response to cuts that state officials have called for in preparation for the 2012-13 state budget, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Some of those positions are vacant, the Statesman notes, and some will ultimately be saved, but most are filled, and employers are likely to face mounting pressure to lay off workers as legislators do everything in their power to avoid raising taxes.

State leaders have said crucial state services will be spared, but some are doubtful. "If the Legislature is going to balance this budget primarily through budget cuts, nothing can be off the table," Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, tells the Statesman.

As Ben Philpott of the Tribune and KUT News reports today, the Texas Education Agency faces cuts that could directly affect classroom learning.

All told, the Department of Criminal Justice looks to be the biggest loser, with 7,353 jobs on the chopping block. The Texas Youth Commission faces 460 losses, and the comptroller's office could see 315 eliminations.

CULLED:

  • In the first major-newspaper nod of the general election, the Houston Chronicle endorsed Bill White on Saturday: "As he did in Houston, White can bring innovative financial solutions, a passion for environmental protection, and a strong bipartisan and ethical commitment to a governor's office tarnished by charges of cronyism, partisanship and catering to contributors at the expense of constituents."
  • Tea Party conventions and gay pride parades might make strange bedfellows, but the Metroplex played host to both this weekend, with the Tea Partiers hearing from the likes of Debra Medina and Ann Coulter in Fort Worth and the pride festivities in Dallas bringing out Annise Parker and Bill White.
  • In perhaps the cheeriest pronouncement of death in recent memory, the government on Sunday declared the plugged BP oil well "effectively dead."
  • Ciudad Juárez's largest newspaper published a front-page editorial Sunday pleading for a truce with drug cartels after last week's killing of a journalist from the paper.
  • Don't forget about our GovTracker, where you'll find that both Rick Perry and Bill White are making the rounds in Houston today.

"If [Bill White] wants to be the budget forecaster for the state of Texas, that's a different job. It's called the comptroller. He obviously ran for the wrong job. He needs to run for comptroller, not governor." — Gov. Rick Perry on criticism White has lobbed at him over the state's budget shortfall

MUST-READ:

Lakeway judge reverses cowboy boot ban, Austin American-Statesman

Election signs serious business, San Antonio Express-News

A decade later, thousands of black farmers who suffered discrimination still await payment, Houston Chronicle

Texas attorney general race donations raise conflict questions, The Dallas Morning News

Fort Hood soldier suicides at record level, San Antonio Express-News

Forensic Commissioners Push Back Against Bradley, The Texas Tribune

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