Some people in the political arena say Texas officials should run the state budget like people run their household budgets. When times are tough, they say, real people tighten their belts.
Let’s see how much that helps.
Say your household budget for the past two years was almost $108 billion. You have thousands of people that you pay out of that budget (you have a pretty big house).
Moreover, almost 30 million people rely on you to do things for them, very important things.
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You made the $108 billion stretch to cover what you needed for the past two years, even tucking money away in savings like you usually do. You had $1.53 billion left over when it was all done.
You know you have to cut back for the next two years, because some of the smart people who work for you say you’re only going to have $105 billion to spend, not the $108 billion you had last time.
You’d have another $7.8 billion, except that you have committed to devoting it to some necessary special projects (highways and other transportation needs).
Plus, you want to keep tucking away some of that $7.8 billion as savings for a day when times really go bad.
Now there’s a complication. You didn’t really do as good a job of setting a budget two years as you thought. You have to come up with $3 billion to make that budget balance.
And you haven’t kept the house up as well as you thought. You need to spend another $2 billion or so on repairs.
You can find some expenses to cut. And you can do what you did two years ago and put some things off (they’ll come back to bite you in two years).
But you still need to pay for the kids’ clothes and school and for your mama’s nursing home. You still have to pay the bills and for a lot of things those 30 million people want you to do.
Now here’s the tough part: You’ve got $10.2 billion in that savings you’ve tucked away for a rainy day. Smart people tell you in two years it will be $12 billion.
Do you, Mr. and Mrs. Regular People, dip into that savings a little bit to balance your budget?
That’s the tough question legislative leaders are trying to answer in Austin. House leaders propose taking $2.4 billion from savings. Senate budget writers aren’t sure.