Texas faces $334M in cuts due to budget battle

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Associated Press

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 7:02 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas state budget will lose $334 million due to the budget battle in Washington, mostly in cuts to public education programs, according to an analysis presented to lawmakers Monday.

The Texas budget receives $34 billion from Washington every year, but a law instituting automatic budget cuts is expected to take effect Friday unless Democratic President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress can reach a deal.

The Texas Education Agency will lose $167.7 million and the four agencies under the Health and Human Services Commission will lose another $104.9 million, said Maria Hernandez, an expert on federal funds at the Legislative Budget Board. The Texas Workforce Commission will lose $33.7 million and six other state agencies will lose the remainder.

More than $67 million given to at least 285 schools under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will be cut, affecting more than 172,000 students and 1,300 staff, said Cory Green, the chief grants administrator for the Texas Education Agency. The Department of Education cuts will not take effect until July 1, so schools will not feel the impact until then, Green said.

In addition to the funding for regular classes, the automatic budget cuts would reduce spending on special education by $50 million, affecting 20,000 students and up to 900 staff members. Programs for English language learners also would be reduced by $5.2 million, and technical education courses will lose $4.5 million.

Nutrition programs, early child intervention for disabilities and family protective services also will see reductions in funding, said David Kinsey, an official with the Health and Human Services Commission. In particular, 82,500 people enrolled in the Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children program will lose services under a $31.8 million cut to that program.

Republican lawmakers pressed agency officials on whether the cuts would result in real reductions in the number of people served, or if the figures presented were intended to frighten lawmakers. Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, said he would be watching closely to make sure administrative costs are cut as much as services.

He said the federal government needs to reduce its spending and the cuts are not that significant.

"Out of $32 billion in federal funds, we're only talking about $334 million, so let's keep a frame of mind and a reference of what we're really talking about here," he said.

Hernandez added that while the impact of automatic budget cuts was limited on the state's budget, numerous other programs that fund Texas programs also will see cuts. Those include cuts to higher education grants from the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation, as well as cuts to locally administered programs such as Head Start, Community Development Block Grants and the Public Housing Capital Fund.

Cuts in defense programs and defense spending also will hurt the Texas economy, which relies heavily on those sectors, she said.

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