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While we’ve been critical in the past of State Rep. Jim Pitts, his do-over term as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is looking good for taxpayers. The committee this morning approved the House version of the budget, coming in about $4 billion smaller than the Senate version — and 2.5 percent lower than the last biennium. It also makes important changes to the state’s business tax for small businesses.

The budget will probably go to the House floor late next week.

The House Appropriations Committee does several things very right. Most notably is increasing the threshold for having to pay the Gross Margins Tax — helping Texas’ beleaguered small businesses.

But the budget now only keeps overall state government growth low, it actually reduces the general-revenue overall budget by 2.5 percent!

Further, it doesn’t touch the rainy day fund and includes protections from federal mandates related to the stimulus dollars.

With that said, there are going to be significant battles in the coming days about money “left on the table” — the state dollars essentially freed-up by those federal monies.

But taken in all, the Texas House budget sets a strong, fiscally conservative and responsible framework for Texas.