The Budget Puzzle–Part Five

We wind down our series on the budget and state spending needs by looking at state employee/retiree benefits and prisons.

The Employees Retirement System budget proposal for 2014-15 requires

  • a $262 million General Revenue increase to preserve pension, health care, and insurance benefits for more than 547,000 Texans, including state workers’ dependents.
  • Beyond that “current services” increase, ERS is also requesting $188 million GR to rebuild a reserve fund for group health insurance, and
  • $314 million GR to reduce the unfunded liability of various pension programs.

Rising health care costs are also continuing to put pressure on the state prison budget.  The Department of Criminal Justice runs the state’s prison, probation, and parole systems, which receive about 7 percent of General Revenue dollars.

Prison worker

Much of what TDCJ spends is for prisons: an average 141,000 adults are incarcerated in state correctional facilities, at a per-capita rate that is 1.5 times the U.S. average. For 2014-15,

  • the “exceptional items” in TDCJ’s budget, if funded, would mean a 4 percent GR increase to cover more inmates and rising costs.
  • Managed health care items totaling $141 million account for more than half of the increase requested by TDCJ.

Look for our last post of this series Friday before the Comptroller’s revenue estimate release, likely happening next week.

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