East Texas leaders say nothing is safe from possible state budget cuts

By Morgan Thomas - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – State representatives and senators are gearing up to conquer the biggest hurdle facing the State of Texas: the multi-billion dollar budget shortfall.

The 2011 legislative session starts January 11th, and local government officials are discussing concerns with how balancing the budget could impact East Texas.

"We're all in the right spirit. We're trying to do what's good for the state and what's good for our cities," said Roger Van Horn, Mayor of Nacogdoches.

Van horn says there's never been a more important time for east Texans to rally around local lawmakers.

"If we're not real careful to support our representatives and senators from the rural parts of the state and be sure our voice is heard, then we can get lost in the noise," said Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt.

It'll take unified voice for East Texans to be heard all the way in Austin. Hunt says stakes are high with billions less in state funding.

"I think it's important that everyone understands the significant role the legislation plays in all our lives," said Hunt.

Nothing is safe from budget cuts: education, economic development, and natural resources. They're the lifeblood of the region, and that's why the Sabine River Authority and DETCOG are both watching what happens in the state capitol.

"Staying involved with our local legislators, seeing what bills are moving when, where, how they're making their way through the system," said Donnie Henson, Sabine River Authority & DETCOG.

The smaller government entities like cities and counties say they're growing fearful of unfunded mandates, as legislators try to overcome the state budget shortfall.

"When they stop a program or cut back on a program at the state level, sometimes it just forces local government to pick up some of that slack," said Hunt.

For example, if money for juvenile probation is slashed it has to be made up somewhere.

"Juveniles aren't going to just quit getting in trouble, so the less the state provides towards that - the more we have to pick up on the local end," said Hunt.

If the state arbitrarily makes cuts to save money it could force local government into its own financial crisis.

©2010 KTRE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.