As the close of the legislative session approaches, it appears a deal is nearly done on a 2012-2013 state budget that reflects more closely the conservative principles taxpayers have been demanding from lawmakers.
While no firm details have yet been released, it appears the new state budget will use a minimal number of gimmicks, contain no new taxes, and won’t use any of the rainy day fund.
In a strongly worded statement this evening, House Speaker Joe Straus said his chamber “has gone more than halfway to meet the Senate, and it is now time for the Senate to do its part by making additional spending cuts.”
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst reportedly told reporters “The House and Senate share the same priorities and are both moving forward in good faith.”
As we have said for some time, the House budget is certainly the stronger of the two by adopting the right bottomline. The Senate, meanwhile, did a good job focusing on priorities.
If a good budget does indeed emerge, it will be the result in large part thanks to the strong conservative bloc in the legislature holding firm – fortified by constant calls from taxpayers demanding a conservative budget.
Those calls and emails are needed now and through the end of the session – there is still much ground to cover!
The Senate earlier this week passed their version of HB 275, to draw down dollars from the RDF to cover the current budget shortfall. But they took out $800 million more than the House – ostensibly so those dollars would roll over into the new fiscal year. (The state constitution sets a higher vote threshold for withdrawing dollars for future spending than to cover current spending; the Senate gambit was a move around the constitutional prohibition.)
House Appropriations Committee chairman Jim Pitts said tonight he would not accept the senate version, forcing a conference committee to resolve the differences. He received loud applause at the announcement.
In recent days, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs upped her revenue forecast for the new biennium by a billion dollars, citing the rebounding strength of the state economy.
Again from the Speaker: “The additional revenue from the Comptroller and the improving economy have allowed House budget negotiators to find an additional $2 billion to fund public schools and another $1 billion for border security, nursing homes, transportation, and higher education, for a total of $3 billion. We are prepared to enact legislation that will allow us to pay for these priorities within a balanced budget and without raising taxes or further using the Rainy Day Fund.”
I applaud Speaker Straus and Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts for following the will of the conservatives in the Texas House and standing firm with taxpayers and Gov. Rick Perry in demanding a fiscally responsible budget. The conservative lawmakers deserve great credit for keeping the legislature’s focus on the principles Texas voters have been demanding.
The deal isn’t done until the governor signs on the dotted line, so keep up the communications with your House members and senators.