In 2009, Texas counties spent a total of $186,307,540 on indigent defense, more than a 109% increase from 2001 when counties spent $91,426,518, according to public data on the website of the Task Force on Indigent Defense. According to the Inflation Calculator, overall inflation increased just 21% over the same period, meaning the costs in many jurisdictions are soaring compared to other expenses. Here are the data for a few selected counties:
El Paso: 111.09%
Fort Bend: 333.84%
Val Verde: 303.88%
The state regulations were installed in response to federal courts' determinations that Texas' indigent defense systems were inadequate and aren't likely to change any time soon. But there are things counties can do to rein in these expenses, specifically establishing public defender offices and simply prosecuting fewer people. For example, Dallas is the only large county on this list that has had a public defender office for all of the last decade, and their costs grew at a dramatically lower rate than other large jurisdictions.
The Lege could help with this by downgrading certain Class B misdemeanors to Class Cs - marijuana arrests in particular are a big one, but they could also consider downgrading some of the other offenses for which police have been authorized to give a summons instead of making arrests. Courts must supply indigent defendants with lawyers for Class B misdemeanors on up, but Class Cs carry only fines as punishments and don't trigger counties' indigent defense responsibilities.