As we in state government prepare to begin the 78th Legislative Session, we are bracing ourselves for the Herculean task that lies ahead. This year’s e-Texas report, Limited Government, Unlimited Opportunity, is designed to help our state meet that challenge.
Two years ago, the legislature began their work with a surplus and managed to spend it all and more. I warned then that the state faced a $5.1 billion shortfall with the convening of this year’s legislature. An anemic economy has only made that worse. Budget writers now face an even more significant shortfall when they pick up their pencils and calculators to begin working on the budget for the next biennium.
What that means, in simple terms, is that the government either needs more of your hard-earned dollars, or it must find a way to conduct its business more efficiently.
Government is going to be seen as bigger, dumber and slower than ever before if we don’t become smaller, smarter and faster right now.
Some have said cutting the bureaucracy cannot be done and that new funding sources must be discovered. That’s another way of calling for higher taxes or a state income tax. Those are two things I believe Texas families and businesses can ill afford in these sluggish economic times; and those are two things I will vigorously oppose.
While hard-working Texans all over the state are cinching their belts tighter to make ends meet, I refuse to believe that the state government cannot be made to work better. There’s probably not a family or small business in the state that hasn’t had to make these sorts of adjustments before. I say the state bureaucracy not only should be able to do the same thing—it must.
I am not suggesting it will be easy. It will take a great deal of soul-searching and insightful consideration of state services to find well-reasoned and logical spending reductions. That’s what Limited Government, Unlimited Opportunity is all about—making the state government leaner, but not meaner.
As you will see in this report, my office has identified savings and additional revenue of $1.7 billion in general revenue funds for the next biennium. We’ve also identified another $2 billion in savings and revenue gains for other funds in the state budget for a total of nearly $3.65 billion. These recommendations to the 78th Legislature include everything from bringing agency staff and management ratios in line with those found in the private sector, to completely wiping some agencies as they exist today from the bureaucratic books.
On the eve of the Battle of San Jacinto, Sam Houston said, “We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the contest and must conquer or perish.”
Just as those hardy Texans, 166 years ago, were able to rise up and meet the challenge before them, I know we are up to the task that lies ahead.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn