We’ve looked at what’s needed in 2014-15 to cover student or client growth and cost increases in some key state services – public and higher education, health and human services, state worker benefits, and prisons. Now it’s time to see what the “bare bones” big picture adds up to, plus get a sense of what it would take to get the state budget back on track and better able to provide all Texans with access to basic health care and educational opportunities.
First, there’s the starting point of 2012-13 spending. In addition to the $81.3 billion General Revenue appropriations authorized to date, the legislature will approve $4.7 billion in supplemental Medicaid/CHIP spending, plus several hundred million dollars for correctional managed health care, brushfire expenses, and other outstanding bills. This results in a 2012-13 spending level of $86 billion, not counting the $2 billion payment for schools that was postponed to September 2013.
Add to that the $10 billion outlined in parts two through five of this series, and you get $96 billion as the amount of General Revenue needed to keep the current, recession-driven budget cuts in effect through 2014 and 2015. Any less than that, and even more cuts would be required.
Finally, $108 billion is what’s needed to undo the 2011 cuts and restore funding for education, health care, and other basic state services not even covered in this series – such as parks and environmental clean-up, state courts, and workforce development. That may sound like a lot of money, but it turns out to be what Texas was doing a decade ago, in the 2002-03 budget, adjusting only for population and inflation growth. If Monday’s revenue estimate confirms that state taxes are indeed recovering to pre-recession levels, isn’t it time to see some recovery in what we invest in our future?