The Day the Budget Numbers Stood Still


Well Wednesday’s the day, folks—the day we see the first attempt at an appropriations bill. 

At the Texas Tribune’s TribLive event Thursday morning, House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts announced that he would introduce a new budget on Tuesday—a budget that assumes no Rainy Day Fund, new revenue or new taxes.

“A decision was made by the Speaker early on that we would write a bill that we would introduce this next week that would be within our available revenue, that would not anticipate any new revenue and would not use the Rainy Day Fund and no new taxes,” Pitts explained later in the day at the Texas Public Policy Foundation legislative orientation. (The man was all over town today!)

Pitts has been tight-lipped about specifics in the bill, but with any new revenue, the outlook can only be bleak. Pitts told the TPPF crowd that he worked side-by-side with the Legislative Budget Board to evaluate every agency and every request. Every part of the budget saw significant cuts. Agencies that have expanded beyond their initial mission should particularly watch out: “We made a decision in the House that we may not fund other than those core functions,” Pitts said this afternoon. At the Trib event, he specifically pointed to Medicaid payments for early C-sections as a potential cut.

Whatever the bill looks like, it’s only a starting point. Pitts will spend Wednesday answering questions about the bill and explaining it to his colleagues. From there, the Appropriations Committee will be appointed (or re-appointed as the case may be) and begin holding hearings on specific parts of the bill, like Health and Human Services (Article II) or Public Education (Article III).

With cuts coming to every part of the budget, activists will be descending on the Capitol in force to defend everything from Medicaid-supported nursing homes to basic public ed. At the TPPF event, lobbyists and activists lined the walls of a packed room, hearing Pitts, as well as state Rep. Craig Eiland and state Senators Kirk Watson and Tommy Williams, discuss the potentially drastic cuts. Eiland was particularly pessimistic on funding for higher ed. Not only will colleges see their funding cut and resort to tuition raises—students will likely be left without the grant programs that have provided tuition relief. 

Still, Pitts wasn’t particularly optimistic that the bodies would agree to use the Rainy Day Fund. “I think those votes will be hard to come by,” he said.

But when he has the floor on Wednesday, he’ll have ample opportunity to convince them.