Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Approaching the 83rd Legislative Session

Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Approaching the 83rd Legislative Session

Article excerpt

Summary of the 82nd Legislative Session

The state faced a massive budget shortfall in 2011 and made unprecedented cuts to statewide programs. Elected officiais voted to cut about $4 billion in funding for schools along with significant cuts to higher education, healthcare, and almost all areas of the state's budget. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), which manages statewide library programs, sustained a significant cut in funding. This sum represents a loss of about $30 million in support for library programs over the 2012-13 biennium.

These drastic state cuts have an additional devastating impact: the potential loss of almost $9 million more in federal funds in 2015 since the state can no longer meet federal requirements for eligibility for all matching federal funds for library services.

These cuts affected just about every community, school, and institution of higher education in the state.

Other Legislation

The 82nd Legislature also passed legislation to extend the state's telecommunications program for libraries, schools, institutions of higher education, and hospitals through January 1, 2016.

Texline 282 (www.txla.org/texline) contains a full summary of the session and library initiatives.

Preview of the 83rd Legislative Session

The State Comptroller recently noted an improvement in the Texas economy with sales tax receipts and the Rainy Day Fund exceeding budgeted expectations. Despite the improved financial outlook for the state and higher revenue available for the 20 ?? 5 biennium than for the 2012-13 biennium, the state budget may remain stagnant, as the Governor reiterated his pledge to support legislation that shrinks government spending and oppose legislation that raises taxes or raids the Rainy Day Fund. All state agencies have been required to submit proposed budgets that reduce current funding by up to 10% (in 5% increments). The state must also make payments in the 2014-15 biennium that were delayed from the 20 1 213 biennium (i.e., Medicaid and the Foundation School Program). Additionally, the anticipated lawsuit by several school districts against the state for failing to adequately fund public schools is about to begin this fall in a district court, but without a Texas Supreme Court decision, we will not likely see any legitimate legislative proposals to remedy the situation.

State funding for library services is at a critically low level. With only $2.5 million appropriated last session for TexShare, TSLAC requires an infusion of state general revenue funding to maintain the TexShare program, provide statewide resources for K- 12 campuses, and assist libraries in providing workforce training, literacy programming, and educational services to the people of Texas. It is also critical to note that, without additional state funds directed to library programming, the State Library may not be able to make the case to the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services for a continuation - even at a smaller level - of federal matching funds for library services. Federal funds currently help support interlibrary loan, TexShare, and other critical statewide library services.

The 83rd State Legislature will include a large number of freshmen legislators. Although these newly minted elected officiais will face a steep learning curve, this change represents an opportunity for all library supporters. It is critical that all the members of the 83rd Legislature hear from constituents about the potential loss of federal matching funding, the list of reduced or eliminated programs and services, and the importance of libraries to the people in their home districts. Many lawmakers are campaigning on promises of fiscal conservatism. All elected official must be made aware that statewide library services represent a cost-effective and highly beneficial deployment of state dollars. Funding of library services yields support for under-employed or unemployed individuals seeking to build their skills and résumés in the sluggish economy; small business use of resources to help grow and market their enterprises; and millions of library users (i. …

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