LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - State lawmakers are pinching pennies and finding ways to trim the budget -- one facing a shortfall in the tens of billions.
Tuesday, KTRE talked with State Senator Robert Nichols about what could be the state's toughest legislative session yet.
With a budget shortfall that could surpass 20 billion, lawmakers have their work cut out for them.
"The state has been through this before in 2003-- we had a ten billion dollar shortfall. A lot of the players who were there in 2003 are still in a lot of those key positions," said Nichols.
Changes are already being made. Leaders are now asking state agencies to slash their budgets by two and a half percent, before next month's new legislative session.
"We've already voted to reduce some, to merge some and actually just totally eliminate some so there's savings to be had," said Nichols.
Another priority, redistricting.
"The Districts, Senate and House have to be readjusted obviously to balance and make sure we have as close as reasonable population in each," said Nichols.
He estimates Texas will pick up three or four Congressional seats.
"Where those seats will go, who will have the opportunity to represent Texas in those new seats will be one of the big issues," said Nichols. "It will be contested quite a bit and probably challenged in court."
State legislators are already filing bills -- Nichols included. His would keep the government from taking private land for recreation projects.
"As important as parks and trails are, not to the extent that you should lose your property if you don't want to sell it."
Another bill would lower homestead appraisal caps from ten to five percent.
"People should have the ability to stay in their homes and not be taxed out of their homes."
Education, transportation and water are also expected to spark some heated debates at the State Capital in 20-11.
The 2011 Legislative Session convenes on January 11th.
Nichols urges East Texans to contact his office with questions or concerns about any bill.