I have been absent from my blog for a few weeks because the TSLAC staff and I have been working hard on the preparation of our 2018-2019 Legislative Appropriation Request (LAR). The LAR is a massive undertaking that requires many long hours of number crunching, data entry, and soul searching. Most of this work is done by our division directors and our Chief Operations and Financial Officer, Donna Osborne.
Why do I say soul searching? Because this year’s budget instructions issued by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) with a cover policy letter from the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker of the House, instruct agencies to prepare their base budget requests at a 4% overall reduction. The instructions also require–as has been the practice in previous LARs–a contingency plan to reduce funding by a further 10% on top of the 4% reduction, or 14% overall. These instructions require our staff and Commission to make hard choices, not the least of which because TSLAC is still recovering from the 65% cut in state funding that our agency took in 2011. Despite generous appropriations by the Legislature in the 2013 and 2015 sessions, our state general revenue funding is still 22% below the agency’s funding in 2010-2011.
In considering the reduction, we will weigh whether to reduce our very popular and heavily used TexShare and TexQuest online information services, reduce the work on our new Texas Digital Archive, funded in the last session, to collect, protect, and make available, archival resources of the state in digital format, or to reduce funding for projects such as the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, or the Talking Book Program, a lifeline to books and information for persons in all parts of the state who cannot read standard print due to visual impairments or physical disabilities.
Our reductions are being formulated now and Commission will meet on August 2 to consider and approve the LAR. We are committed to following the spirit of the instructions from our state leadership in making the most sound and sensible reductions that we can. It will not be our goal to impact popular programs in order to create controversy. To the contrary, our goal will be to make reductions that have the least impact possible on the information resources that Texans need to live informed and productive lives.
I look forward to reporting in the next blog in more detail on our LAR after it is finalized and submitted on August 5.