By Erika Ramirez
On January 11, 2021, ahead of the 87th Legislative Session, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Glenn Hegar, released the Biennial Review Estimate (BRE), which projects how much revenue is available to spend on programs during the 2022-2023 biennium.
Announcement highlights include:
$112.5 billion in revenue for the 2022-2023 biennium.
- This is a 0.4 percent decrease from the previous biennium.
- This amount does not include any savings resulting from last summer’s 5 percent
budget cuts mandated by state leadership to all state agencies.
- Nor does it include any federal relief the legislature could use.
The budget is projected to end the current 2020-2021 biennium with approximately a $1 billion deficit.
- This is an improvement compared to the outlook announced in July 2020, which
estimated a $4.5 billion deficit.
The Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), or rainy-day fund, contains $10.5 billion and is projected to increase to $11.6 billion by the end of Fiscal Year 2023, if legislators do not choose to take advantage of the available money to support 2022-2023 budget planning.
In his public address, Hegar noted that this budget cycle is in much better shape than what we saw in 2003 and 2011, which were tight budget years. However, he did caution that the Legislature should be prepared to make some tough decisions. He also noted that utilizing the ESF is on the table and at the Legislature’s discretion.
As we know, the 2011 82nd Legislative Session resulted in devastating budget cuts to the family planning programs, which resulted in higher costs to the state in the long run. Lawmakers should resist repeating the same mistake, as it’s taken many years to stitch the safety net back together and ensure more women have access to services.
Now is the time to strengthen access to women’s preventive healthcare, including contraception, across the state, which means bolstering the women’s health programs.
Though the Family Planning Program (FPP), Breast and Cervical Cancer Services (BCCS) program, and Healthy Texas Women (HTW), are not comprehensive insurance programs, they do provide essential preventive healthcare services for people without access to other forms of healthcare coverage.
There are over 1.9 million women across Texas that need publicly supported contraceptive services and supplies. In FY2019, HTW and FPP served about 15 percent, or 291,056 clients. Data and anecdotal information from providers show there are more potential clients in the state than are being served by these programs. That means more women are going without necessary well-woman exams, cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection testing, and more.
We know the need exists, and funding for all three women’s health programs is critical. Uninsured and underinsured Texans must have access to care. Given that the budget outlook is more positive than anticipated and that there’s a healthy balance in the ESF, TWHC urges lawmakers to pursue a path forward that maintains funding for all healthcare services, including the women’s health programs, as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 public health emergency.