Crisis could force overhaul of Texas budget

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With federal cuts looming ahead of Friday's sequestration date, Texas lawmakers are facing the very real possibility of re-tooling the work they have already put into the state budget.

Texas would lose more than $320 million in fiscal year 2013 because of Washington’s across-the-board budget reductions, according to the Legislative Budget Board. That might force lawmakers to find money for certain programs that would be going without federal funding.

“Some of the money stops, but the strings stay,” Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Budget Transparency and Reform.

On Monday, Crownover and her team heard testimony from the LBB and also a handful of state agencies that will face the worst of the potential cuts: the Texas Education Agency, State Health Services and the Texas Workforce Commission.

But the impact to some programs losing federal money would not be felt, because rules and regulations mandate their funding – even if it has to come from another source.

One example is money for special education and students with disabilities. The Texas Education Agency said the program receives approximately $50-51 million, which impacts 20,000 students and up to 900 staff members.

“Kids with disabilities are required to receive the appropriate services,” TEA’s Cory Green told the panel.

Members were concerned with this “fine print,” as it likely meant the state would have to come up with money for the program – possibly through more tax revenue or diverting funds from another program.

“We’re going to ask the local and state taxpayers to pay for it, because the federal government is still going to be requiring it, correct?” Rep. Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell, questioned.

Green said the federal rules are in place but left the idea that Congress could change that at some point. Crownover said that conversation is worth having, as some of the federal funds and their mandates might not be necessary in their current roles.

“I have a dear friend whose daughter goes under those (special education regulations), and she knows they’re ridiculous and they’re a waste of money and she would not spend the money that way,” she added.

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Republican Rick Perry is Governor of Texas. Two Republicans represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, and Texas has 32 representatives in the U.S. House: 20 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
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