Houston Chronicle - July 1, 2016
By Mike Ward and Andrea Zelinski
AUSTIN – In what has become a biennial rite of summer, Texas' top three officials on Friday directed state agencies to plan on spending 4 percent less in the next two years, even though legislative leaders already are predicting the next budget will be at least that much larger than the current one.
The directive from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus comes as the state is expected to start next year's budget process with $10 billion less to spend because of lagging oil and gas revenues.
Between that and the ongoing pressure from many Republican leaders to reduce taxes again, the tension between cutting and growing spending already has lawmakers and interest groups in Austin calculating their next moves, even as some of the state's biggest costs – including border security, child protective services, health care and mandatory school funding – are exempt from cuts under Friday's directive.
"It's a positive sign that state leaders recognize the need for more smart investments in (Child Protective Services), education and mental health. But if we want Texas kids to be healthy and on track to succeed, the state should not reduce funding for the health, early childhood development, and other effective interventions critical to children's success," said Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children. "We hope the governor and legislators make investments in our children and families the priority next session."
While the target cut for agencies' proposed budgets is 4 percent, Texas' leadership trio made it clear they want spending plans to be scrubbed.