The baseline budget for the coming biennium would cost $6.096 billion in general revenue (GR) funds, $6.252 billion total. But there are several items - from pay hikes for staff to prisoner healthcare, With the exceptional items added in, including raises, the GR total would rise to $6.643 billion, and the all-funds total sums up to $6.799 billion. Here' the list of exceptional items, totaling $546.6 million, from the summary:
- Ten percent pay raise: $235 million
- Private prison per diems: $7.7 million
- 250 halfway house beds: 8.8 million
- 500 DWI treatment slots: $2.9 million
- Repair and renovation of facilities: $60 million
- Probation, basic supervision and treatment: $28.1 million
- Probation, employer portion of health insurance: $11.3 million
- Offender health care: $174.8 million
- Reentry initiatives/transitional coordinators: $4 million
- Mental health initiatives: $6 million
- Treatment for remaining ISFs: $5.2 million
- Office of Inspector General: $2.8 million
But there are other options available to the Lege besides watching TDCJ's budget spiral ever-upward session after session. Just a few, modest updates to the sentencing structure for nonviolent crimes - adjusting property crime levels for inflation and notching low-level drug crimes down by one penalty category - would allow the Legislature to close several more prisons and use the savings to fund staff raises and offender healthcare. TDCJ will never propose that, but it's really what ought to happen.
When you have the chance to make government smaller and cost less, why not take it?