TribBlog: Budget Cuts Due [Updated]

State agencies are expected to submit their budget cuts today.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs  Comptroller's Office

State agencies are expected to submit to the Legislative Budget Board plans to trim their current biennial budgets today.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus asked department heads last month to reduce current spending in light of a multi-billion shortfall expected to greet lawmakers when the 82nd Legislative Session convenes next January. Conservative estimates place the shortfall near $10 billion and still others predict a hole closer to $20 billion.

Tuesday’s deadline comes on the heels of last week’s report by Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs that indicated sales tax collections in January 2010 slid by more than 14 percent compared to January 2009. Combs predicted future months would reflect similar shortfalls before the economy is expected to level out.

Agencies have until the end of the day to submit their reports, which can be found here. We will continue to update this post as more agencies submit their proposals.

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UPDATED:

At least one major state agency has asked Texas leaders to consider backing away from the 5 percent budget cuts requested of all departments. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said cutting the budgets of more than seven of its 25 departments, including academic training, treatment and offender services, would increase recidivism, explode the prison population and potentially cut loose 3,100 TDCJ employees.

TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston conceded cuts could be made to the department’s correctional industries revenue fund, commissary fund balance, administrative operating costs, unspent treatment diversion funding and three other departments. But, he added, those trimmings would eliminate “all fiscal and operational flexibility” to manage the 2010-2011 budget. The approved cuts amount to more than $50 million over the next two years, but dipping into the other departments — which total about $294.3 million in operating expenses — is close to impossible.

The overtime budget for the Texas Department of Public Safety’s border security initiatives could face a $10 million hit this fiscal year. That is the largest portion of the agencies proposed $14.6 million in budget reductions over the current biennium.

The University of Texas System identified $175.3 million in cuts; with UT Austin absorbing most of the shock with a $26.6 million cut in general revenue spending (money from state taxes) and about $29.2 million in total appropriations. A more detailed breakdown of how UT and other schools in the system are managing the state’s lean times can be found here. And Texas A&M University is looking at a $28 million hit, details which can be found here.

Legislative Budget Board spokesman John Barton said the agency will continue to update its Web site as agencies continue to submit their budget proposals.

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