Gov. Greg Abbott instructs state agencies, higher education institutions to cut budgets 5%

Gov. Greg Abbott instructs state agencies, higher education institutions to cut budgets 5%

Gov. Greg Abbott is directing state agencies and higher education institutions to cut their budgets by 5% for the 2020-21 biennium. 

Future reductions also might be necessary, a letter warns.

The request comes as the state grapples with the economic uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen sent a letter Wednesday requesting that the entities “submit a plan identifying savings that will reduce your general and general revenue-related appropriations by five percent for the 2020-2021 biennium.”

Those plans are due to the Legislative Budget Board and the governor’s office by June 15. 

“We are confident that Texas will get back to work and continue leading the nation in job growth, economic innovation, and business creation,” the letter states. “However, it will take months until we know the true extent of the economic ramifications of COVID-19, and how combating this virus will impact state finances. To prepare for this economic shock, we must take action today to ensure that the state can continue providing the essential government services that Texans expect.” 

Gov. Greg Abbott instructs state agencies, higher education institutions to cut budgets 5% 1
The state Capitol in Austin. (Photo: Harry Cabluck/The Associated Press)

When looking for ways to cut costs, agencies should examine methods that don’t impact COVID-19 response, such as forgoing capital expenditures that can be deferred, reducing travel and administrative expenses, the letter states. 

The letter identifies a number of agencies and services excluded from the reduction “given the importance of the state’s response to COVID-19 and the continuity of critical government functions.”

Those agencies include: the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of State Health Services, the Workforce Commission, the  Military Department and the Department of Public Safety. 

Funding for Child Protective Services, behavioral health service programs and appropriations to health-related institutions and community colleges also are among the exceptions noted in the letter. 

Employer contributions to the Teacher Retirement System and Employees Retirement System funds and to Social Security also should be excluded from cuts, the letter states. 

Budgets also could be reduced for the 2022-23 biennium, according to the letter. Final instructions still are being determined, but “every state agency and institution should prepare to submit reduced budget requests as well as strategies to achieve further savings,” the letter states.

“Furthermore, when the state revenue picture becomes clearer in the coming months, it may become necessary to make additional budget adjustments,” it continues. “Though state leaders will make difficult decisions in the future, please know that we will not impede your agency’s response to the coronavirus threat or take actions that will harm the public health of this state.”

The letter doesn’t mention calling a special session of the Texas Legislature nor does it call for tapping into the state’s $10 billion dollar Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly called the “Rainy Day Fund.”

Originally posted by Eleanor Dearman, El Paso Times.

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