Budget plan proposes millions in new fees

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A proposed Texas state budget that cuts a staggering $5 billion from public schools has been released as the state faces a $15 billion shortfall.

Public education would bear the brunt of nearly $14 billion in cuts. The draft generally eliminates financial aid for new college students and ends funding for four community colleges.

The proposal for 2012-13 would mean the loss of 9,600 state jobs over the next two years. The reduction is smaller than the shortfall because of $1.4 billion in savings requested by the state leaders from the current budget. Some analysts say the true shortfall could be closer to $27 billion.

The draft is just the beginning of a long process, which probably won't be finalized until summer.

Here's more on the proposed two-year state budget:

-- The plan would eliminate 9,600 jobs, including more than 1,500 in the prison system.

-- The plan would slash $772 million for colleges and universities. Two-year colleges that would close are Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Frank Phillips College in Borger, Odessa College and Ranger College.

-- Medicaid reimbursement would be reduced 10 percent for doctors, hospitals and nursing homes. -- Texas contributions to the state employee retirement fund would be reduced from 6.95 percent to 6 percent.

-- The attorney general would charge an annual child support service fee, a monthly child support processing fee and an electronic filing of documents fee.

A preliminary spending plan released Tuesday night proposes millions of dollars in new fees. State employees and retirees who smoke would pay a $30-a-month "tobacco user monthly premium surcharge," raising an estimated $42 million for the budget.

There are also several new fees, worth about $28 million, that would be imposed by the Texas Attorney General's office, among them an "annual child support service fee," a "monthly child support processing fee," an "electronic filing of documents fee," and a "comprehensive development agreement review fee."

What do you think? Are you willing to pay more in taxes in order to avoid budget cuts education, healthcare and other state agencies? Take our KTRE.com web poll.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)