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The Dirty Little Secret about the Texas Budget

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Remember last session when every special interest group in the state went around criticizing the legislature for “slashing” the budget? Well it turns out that all that hewing and hawing was for naught because when the dust for the current two-year budget cycle settles, Texas government spending will have increased to its highest level ever.

 

Included in the introduced versions of the House and Senate budgets is a revelation by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) that Texas’ current 2012-13 budget, originally weighing in at $173.5 billion (All Funds), will really spend a total of $189.9 billion. The $16.4 billion difference between the amount appropriated and the amount actually spent stems from an expectedly large supplemental appropriations bill (much of which is needed to undo a whole host of budget gimmicks) and “budget creep.”

 

The LBB explains budget creep this way:

 

“In each biennium, there are circumstances resulting in state agency actual expenditures varying from the amount they were originally appropriated. This happens for a variety of reasons: some appropriations are estimated; appropriations may lapse; interim legislative direction may yield an increase or reduction to appropriations; federal appropriations or formulas change; and other spending demands shift. Some changes to appropriation authority are automatic and do not require legislative action. Others require action via a supplemental appropriations bill, which makes appropriations adjustments to the current biennial budget. Overall, the change from appropriated amounts to estimated/budgeted amounts, known as ‘budget creep,’ generally reflects both increases and decreases in spending relative to appropriations.”

 

The gap between what the budget says the state will spend and what the state actually spends isn’t limited to just the state’s All Funds, or total, budget. It’s also extends to discretionary spending. 

Source: Legislative Budget Board

The state’s 2012-13 budget appropriated $81.3 billion; yet the LBB estimates that actual state spending will total $87.4 billion for the current budget cycle, a difference of over $6 billion.

Source: Legislative Budget Board

 

So the next time that you hear a big government group bemoan the state for spending so little, remember the dirty little secret about the Texas budget: we’re spending more than ever.