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Speaker Straus Calls for Responsible Approach to Budget Shortfall

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus authored a guest column in the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday that called for legislators to take a responsible approach to balancing the state budget, as opposed to only making deep spending cuts that would decimate higher education and leave retired teachers paying significantly more for health care.

Speaker Straus wrote: "Over the last two years, state sales tax collections have come in weaker than expected. Meanwhile, Texas has continued to grow as fast as almost any other state, key facilities are in disrepair, and we have committed to spending hundreds of millions of dollars more to protect children from abuse. Add it all up and the state of Texas faces a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall.

"The Texas House Appropriations Committee is working diligently to close this shortfall. To be clear, tax increases are not on the table. The committee is making meaningful spending reductions in health care, education, government contracts and economic incentive programs. . . But should we balance the budget with spending reductions alone?

"If we pursue a cuts-only approach, there will be no new per-student resources for public education. The burden for funding education will shift further to local property taxes. The Legislature will also make deep cuts in higher education, research and student financial aid. . . And perhaps nobody should watch this debate closer than the retired teachers who put so many of us on the path to success. There is a $1 billion shortfall in the health care program for retired school employees. Without an injection of hundreds of millions of dollars to address that shortfall, retired teachers could face massive increases in their health insurance deductibles and very sizable increases in monthly premiums."

You can read the full guest column on the Houston Chronicle website.