One well known political scientist once defined his field as the study of "who gets what, where, when, and how?" The political struggle over who gets what from the state budget is just as contentious as the struggle over who pays what in the form of taxes, licenses and fees. Fights over budget allocations might be even more contentious, since tax related debates are rarely initiated, and those that are don't go very far. People naturally don't like taxes. But, everybody likes to get a slice of the budgetary pie. This chapter's feature on the budget process provides a more detailed examination.
By any standard, the State of Texas spends a lot of money - $74.5 billion in 2007. Interestingly, only a small portion of this huge sum is dedicated to running the general functions of the three branches of government. Together, the executive, legislative, and judicial departments consumed only $2.3 billion. This seems like a lot of money in absolute terms, but only about 3 percent of total expenditures.
The largest of the three branches, the executive, accounted for a very large portion of the general government expenditures. Over $1.76 billion (or 86 percent) of the $2.04 billion general government expenditures was budgeted for the general functioning of the executive branch.
The budget for general government is exceeded by five specific state programs, listed below in descending order of magnitude:
health and human services
public safety and corrections
In 2007 education program expenditures were $26.3 billion and health and human services expenditures were $27.8 billion. Their magnitude reflects the extensive reach of these programs, which directly touch the lives of large numbers of Texans across the entire state. In general, education and healthcare require massive infrastructure, large numbers of service providers, and a substantial bureaucracy to monitor these complex and highly structured services.