Deal to tap reserves won't do much to avoid cuts
POSTED: Thursday, March 17, 2011 - 5:49pm
UPDATED: Friday, March 18, 2011 - 4:47am
AUSTIN — Texas lawmakers this week freed up $4 billion to spend over the next two years, but it won't do much to save teachers, nursing homes or the hundreds of other state programs coming under the budget knife.
The plan, now being considered by a House budget committee, would put $2 billion back into public schools and add almost $2 billion to pay for Medicaid caseload growth. The money was made available after leaders agreed to tap the Rainy Day Fund to knock out a deficit in the 2011 budget. The proposal is expected to get a committee vote next week.
By some estimates, that leaves the state only $23 billion short of what it needs to maintain current services for the next two years. The Rainy Day Fund would still have a projected $6.3 billion in it by 2013, though Gov. Rick Perry has said he won't sign a budget that takes any more money from the state savings account.
Under the new budget proposal, schools would still be underfunded by almost $8 billion — or about $800 per student. Lawmakers would cut full-day pre-kindergarten, teacher incentive pay, arts education and numerous other school programs.
"If this is all they're willing to do, to spend a tiny part of the Rainy Day Fund, they're just going to make a tiny improvement in a big problem," said Eva DeLuna Castro, a budget analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for needy Texans. "They need to use the rest of it."