A document recently obtained by the Austin American-Statesman offers the first comprehensive glimpse of how COVID-19 could affect funding for state services over the long term. State spending could be cut by $1 billion, with 4,000 state employee positions frozen or eliminated.
Asher Price, who’s been reporting this story for the Statesman, told Texas Standard that the 370-page document describes in detail how state agencies expect to cut their budgets to address the revenue shortfall caused by COVID-19’s impact on the economy.
“The bulk of the state budget is spent at the Health and Human Services Commission, and on education, so that’s where we’re going to see a lot of the cuts,” Price said.
Programs that address neglect of children and other disadvantaged people, and those that provide advocacy services for children, are among those slated for cuts, Price said.
The cuts include $1.6 million from health and human services regulatory programs, and money from grants that support athletic programs for students with intellectual disabilities. The attorney general’s office program that apprehends fugitives and investigates sexual crimes would experience cuts, as would funding used to fight cybercrime.
Some state entities, including universities, will cut funds by delaying the purchase of equipment they had planned to buy, or by changing thermostats to reduce energy usage.
Price said agencies have been asked to cut their budgets by at least 5%, with more cuts expected when the Texas Legislature reconvenes in January. The cuts will last at least one year, possibly longer.