Texas Budget Gap: The Estimate Comes In, and It's Huge

Maybe we could use less lighting on the capitol building
Let's harken back to the blissful days of autumn 2010, when Governor Rick Perry was able to deflect any talk of a looming budget gap by blithely noting no official estimate for it had been made.

Democrats' talk that it might be as high as $25 billion was silly, he said; for all we know it might be in the single digits.

The eagerly anticipated number has come in this morning from state comptroller Susan Combs, and it is in the single digits --- but there are two of them: a two and a seven, as in $27 billion.

Meaning the Tea Party legislature that's just been elected to Austin will need to fill a $27 billion gap without raising any taxes, because God knows raising a tax would bring about an apocalypse of sorts.

Combs doesn't project the actual gap in her estimate; she just estimates what revenues the state will be getting, and pundits compare that with current spending.

Combs estimates Texas will receive $72.2 billion in taxes, fees and all the other pernicious methods in which it takes people's hard-earned cash. That's down from the $87 billion received by the state in its current budget.

"The recent recession has had its impact on the state revenue outlook as major revenue sources such as the sales tax generated less money in the last couple of years," Combs said. "While we have turned the corner to an economic recovery, the revenue estimate I'm releasing today is for moderate growth."

The state currently spends $99 billion, resulting in the gap. Conservative pundits are already saying there's only a gap if you assume spending should remain at the $99 billion level.

Which is just another way of saying massive cuts are coming. Get the popcorn and try to enjoy the show.

Update: Perry has issued a statement:

Comptroller Combs delivered a revenue estimate today that shows the Texas economy continuing to grow steadily ahead of the nation, yet, as expected, is also reflective of the national recession's lingering impact on state revenue. To ensure Texas continues to lead the nation's economic recovery, state leaders must remain good stewards of taxpayer dollars, continue strategic investments and stand by the proven fiscal principles that have helped us balance our state's budget when facing similar challenges in the past. As families and employers are doing all across this state and nation, we will separate the wants from needs, and then cut spending.

I am confident we will meet our state's needs within this revenue estimate by prioritizing spending without raising taxes, laying the foundation for our state's future prosperity.

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Paul Krugman wrote an interesting piece last week about the bogus "Texas miracle" that some conservatives like to tout.

Sad that we have to cut spending where we can ill-afford those cuts (education), as opposed to raising taxes on the wealthiest among us.

Dino Yancey
Dino Yancey

HP says: $27 Billion deficit.Chron says: $15 Bilion deficit.

Which is correct?

"Which is just another way of saying massive cuts are coming. Get the popcorn and try to enjoy the show."

Isn't that the way it's supposed to work? "We don't have as much money this year, so we're not gonna spend as much as we originally thought. Sorry!"

Let them eat cake, then.

Adam Torres
Adam Torres

So, after a decade of working Texas down to at or near the bottom of every ranking list you do not want to be at the bottom of, Republicans also demonstrate how not to do budget planning.

Erik Vidor
Erik Vidor

It depends on how you figure what the overall spending over the next biennium will be. If you keep up with the rate of growth and need for state services you get a total expenditure of around $100billion thus the $27 billion figure. Its all in the eye of the beholder. Either way in a state the size of Texas $100 billion is a very lean budget to begin with. There isn't a whole lot of room for cuts outside of Health and Human Services and Public/higher Ed (which accounts for nearly 60% of the entire budget)


And guess where these cuts will be coming from. If you guessed Health and Human Services and/or Public/Higher Education then you are correct! Ding ding!

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