Friday, December 26, 2008

LBB: Texas' 2010-11 budget won't be completely strapped

With several big-ticket criminal justice items on the table during the 81st Texas Legislature - most prominently a half-billion in raises for prison staff and another 8-9 figure expense for new programs to combat contraband smuggling in prisons - many have been openly wondering whether the state will have enough money to pay for it all.

What's more, TYC requires investments in smaller facilities, special education, and expanded mental health services, while the Legislature has underinvested in free-world mental health services, in particular, in ways that direly impact the justice system. And that doesn't even begin to address problems at state mental hospitals, state schools for the mentally retarded, nor poor quality public schools which consciously channel their failures into the justice system.

The Legislature's $200 million investment in prison diversion programs in 2007, which staved off the state's short-term need for new prison construction, is a prime example how, for many dilemmas facing Texas justice, functional solutions require short-term investments to prevent even greater future costs. But when there's just no money for those investments, that can be hard to accomplish.

So how will the tanking economy affect Texas' overall budget revenue for the 81st session (which begins January 13)? As at least an iniitial answer to that question, I was pleased to notice this Nov. 14, 2008 budget certification (pdf) from the Legislative Budget Board which reads:
(1) the estimated rate of growth of the Texas economy from the 2008-09 biennium to the 201 0-1 1 biennium is 9.14 percent;

(2) the level of appropriations for the 2008-09 biennium from state tax revenue not dedicated by the Constitution is $72,992,740,945 subject to adjustments resulting from revenue forecast revisions or subsequent appropriations certified by the Comptroller of Public Accounts; and therefore,

(3) the amount of appropriations that can be made for the 2010-11 biennium from state tax revenue not dedicated by the Constitution without special concurrent resolution is $79,664,277,468 subject to adjustments to 2008-09 biennial appropriations referenced in (2) above.
While the Comptroller could still adjust those numbers downward, particularly if oil prices continue to decline, if the LBB's projections hold (and they were made post-credit crash, fwiw), the Lege will still have quite a bit of leeway - up to $6.7 billion - for either new spending or tax reduction. (That estimate assumes a robust 9.14% growth rate over the next two years, however, that may be overly optimistic.)

To the extent LBB's estimate is accurate, the Lege should set aside at least a billion of that extra capital to deal with immediate crises in the justice system: Pay hikes for prison staff and state troopers, making crime labs accountable and independent, investing to create local public defenders, expanding drug courts, treatment and re-entry programs (plus measuring their effectiveness), not to mention implementing critical innocence reforms.

These aren't the sexiest issues, but they're inarguably critical to the welfare of the state. If LBB is right and the Lege does have extra money to spend next spring, these are the public safety programs they need to prioritize.


Anonymous said...

Juvenile Justice Programs Cut in Cash-Strapped States

State budget cuts are forcing some of the nation's youngest criminals out of counseling programs and group homes and into juvenile prisons in what critics contend is a shortsighted move that will eventually lead to more crime and higher costs.

Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia are among states that have slashed juvenile justice spending -- in some cases more than 20 percent -- because of slumping tax collections.

Youth advocates say they expect the recession will bring more cuts next year in other states, hitting programs that try to rehabilitate children rather than simply locking them up.

"If you raise a child in prison, you're going to raise a convict," said South Carolina Juvenile Justice Director Bill Byars, credited with turning around a system once better known for warehousing children than counseling them and teaching them life skills.

Now, he's been asked to draw up plans to trim an additional 15 percent from a juvenile justice budget already cut $23 million, or 20 percent, since June as part of the state's effort to pare $1 billion from its $7 billion budget.

All five of the system's group homes -- which generally house less-violent offenders and give them more individual attention -- have been shuttered. Also gone are some intensive youth reform and after-school programs in detention facilities.

Mike Katz said...

Texas needs to increase funding and provide additional programs for Children’s Mental Health

Texas over the last ten years has seen a trend away from funding for kids, and with both the population growth and inflation we indeed are going backwards.

In FY06, under the level of funding appropriated to DSHS for ongoing community based mental health services, 109,231 adults and 27,666 children received treatment in our public mental health system.

How does that compare to the numbers who are in need of mental health services?

In 2006 of the 16,978,401 adults in Texas, it was estimated that 916,832 or 5.4% had a serious mental illness. Of the 6,185,517 children in Texas (under 18), it was estimated that 680,407 or 11% had a mental illness.

With the funding, the Texas Public Mental Health system served 11.9% of adults and 4.1% of children who were ill.

Children Served 2004 2007
37,000 27,666

This does not paint a good picture for Texas Kids with Mental Illness and Emotional Disturbances.

The 80th Texas Legislative session funded crisis redesign in the amount of 82 million dollars, a needed fix to the system. The initial numbers indicate a good result in enhanced abilities that react to crisis and diversion in the community. Less visits to emergency rooms, reduction in law enforcement and court services and hospitalizations.

However, we need to address the bigger picture of the revolving door that comprises limited community treatment, relapse, crisis services, possible diversion or incarceration, hospitalization and back to community treatment.

This can only be accomplished with more meaningful community mental health abilities that not only stabilize persons that live with mental illnesses but also offer treatment that leads to recovery.

The case for Children’s Mental Health

Our Children’s Mental Health system cover age 3 through 18 and then they enter the adult system that covers then through age 64.

When we do not provide kids with comprehensive treatment with the goal of recovery while they are kids, they enter adult life with poor prospects for a good productive life, but one that additionally carries a tremendous cost to taxpayers.

Some of what is needed in funding and programs:


Early intervention.

Wrap around services in the community that follow the kids and include the family dynamic.

More programs that address substance abuse and co-existing mental illness.

Increased and improved training for teachers, administrators and school support employees in recognizing and accommodating special needs.

Inclusion of curricula for student education regarding mental health and substance abuse.

We need to build in a rigid data gathering mechanism that measures outcomes. The ROI/ return on investment is unlimited and worthy of what Texas needs to do for kids.

Michael Katz

Anonymous said...

Micheal Katz: Interesting comments lack of children health services. I'd be interested in reading more about this. Do you have a link or citation for your source for your numbers? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Anyone up to talking/whining about Crockett?

Anonymous said...

Or how about we stick to the topic?

Anonymous said...

For more information on children with mental health issues go to

Anonymous said...

Youth programs need not be jeopardized if TDCJ were to start releasing even some of the thousands of inmates that are now so physically debilitated that they would immediately qualify for nursing home residency upon release. The elderly survivors of strokes, heart attacks and disease comprise vast crowds of old, quiet, shuffling men at prisons such as Boyd, Sky View, Hodge, and many others. The Texas public needs to ask their legislators why the state flirts with financial ruin in order to warehouse men over 55 who need assistance to walk more than a few hundred feet. Every inmate over 55 who has suffered a stroke or heart attack and now can't walk a few hundred feet without rest or assistance needs to be re-evaluated by the parole board. By all means keep those who are a danger to society but show some common sense, for a change, TDCJ, and take the over 55 limpers off the back of the Texas taxpayer and reassign them to federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. If the Texas public were to ever learn how many TDCJ prisons are nothing but holding tanks for invalids that need to be in nursing homes more than a few of the disingenuous "law and order" members of the state legislature would be looking for new jobs!