State agencies are being asked by the state’s top elected officials to cut spending requests heading into the next legislative session.
In a letter signed Thursday by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Joe Straus, the three leaders are requiring agencies to strongly scrutinize their spending habits and come back with budget cuts.
“It is imperative that every state agency engage in a thorough review of each program and budget strategy and determine the value of each dollar spent,” they wrote. “As the starting point for budget deliberations, we are requiring each agency to trim four percent from their base appropriation levels.”
The letter exempts a few expenditures such as Child Protective Services, border security, and a few other programs from the cuts as well as informs agencies that “zero-based budget information will also be requested from them during the development of the state’s 2018-2019 budget.”
The inclusion of zero-based budgeting comes as a reinforcement to Patrick and Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) who began investigating the issue in April. If adopted, the policy could result in major savings. Savings that may be needed.
Many predicted 2017 as a particularly precarious year for the state budget given the plummeting price of oil combined along with three lawsuits, any of which could potentially drag the state into a deficit.
Texas has so far avoided the projected pitfalls, prevailing in both the school finance and Southwest Royalties cases. Nevertheless, another lawsuit with a hefty price tag still looms overhead and oil has so far refused to rebound as much as many hoped.
Though the Texas Legislature will not return for another six months and much about the state’s budget remains unknown, the fact that lawmakers are already calling for government to tighten its belt instead of eyeing taxpayers’ wallets is a welcome sign.