This Week in Texas: January 19, 2011

Posted January 19, 2011 in The Mignon Memo

The “base-line budget”, prepared by the Legislative Budget Board, was released yesterday. The draft budget which serves as the starting point for determining spending over the next two years would reduce spending by 16 percent and cut 9,610 positions from state government. The recommendations showed reductions in every category, including a 24.6 percent drop in health and human services and 13.1 percent in public education, which form the bulk of state spending. The plan calls for a 10 percent rate cut for providers of Medicaid, the fast-growing program providing insurance coverage to indigent children, elderly and disabled people. The budget also called for a 23.8 percent reduction in general government and a 12.7 percent reduction in public safety and criminal justice operations, including the state prison system. Higher education would face a 7.6 percent cut. The base-line budget calls for a total of $156.4 billion for spending from federal and state revenue, a reduction of $31.1 billion, or 16.6 percent. The state funds come from dedicated and discretionary general revenue totaling $79.3 billion, a decrease of $9.2 billion, or 10.4 percent, according to the summary report. The draft budget does not tap the “Rainy Day” fund.

Last Thursday, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced that she would not seek another term in the U.S. Senate. Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams is expected to resign his position to run for the U.S. Senate seat. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has also expressed his interest in running. Other candidates include Republicans Ted Cruz and former Secretary of State Roger Williams who was endorsed yesterday by Former President George H.W. Bush. Previously, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones and Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) as well as Democrats Bill White and John Sharp have expressed interest in running for the seat. Current Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is also said to be considering the race.

Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst were honored at the 2011 Texas Inaugural festivities yesterday. After the ceremony, a free barbeque lunch was served on the grounds of the Texas Capitol.