Texas Gov. Greg Abbott instructs state agencies to trim budgets by 5% to prepare for “economic shock”

Gov. Greg Abbott announced a strike force in charge of laying steps to re-open the Texas economy at a press conference in the capitol on April 17, 2020.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced a strike force in charge of laying steps to re-open the Texas economy at a press conference in the capitol on April 17, 2020.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

Texas’ top Republican leaders on Wednesday asked state agencies and higher education institutions to “submit a plan identifying savings” to reduce their budgets by 5% for the current biennium — an attempt to tighten financial belts amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Those entities, according to a May 20 letter from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, have until June 15 to submit their plans to the Legislative Budget Board and the governor’s office.

The letter also identified a number of agencies that are exempted from the 5% reduction “given the importance of the state’s response to COVID-19 and the continuity of critical government functions.” Among those agencies: The Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Military Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The letter also says that funding for Child Protective Services and for behavioral health service programs is also exempted from the request for reductions.

“We are confident that Texas will get back to work and continue leading the nation in job growth, economic innovation, and business creation,” the letter from the three officials reads. “However, it will take months until we know the true extent of the economic ramifications of COVID-19, and how combating this virus will impact state finances. To prepare for this economic shock, we must take action today to ensure that the state can continue providing the essential government services that Texans expect.”

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