Even though the House Appropriations Committee stopped with $800 million in budget cuts, conservative lawmakers kept looking for more ways to reduce spending and protect the state’s rainy day fund dollars.

Amendments doing both will be offered on the House floor by conservatives when the entire chamber gets to work on the budget this morning.

House Bill 4, as passed by committee, entails $800 million in cuts to the 2009-2011 budget, thereby requiring HB 275 to draw down $3.12 billion from the state’s rainy day fund –- all to cover the $4 billion current-year budget deficit.

Conservative legislators picked up the ball and successfully found more ways to reduce spending. For example, one amendment would reduce pay for the rest of this budget cycle (the end of August) for all state employees making more than $60,000 per year. Another amendment would impose a hiring freeze for the same time-period.

In a letter hand-delivered to every House member yesterday, TFR encouraged them to support such efforts. We will include votes on those amendments on the Fiscal Responsibility Index.

Even then, there will be a gap in the current biennium. As we’ve said all along, the rainy day fund does exist to bridge spending gaps when all other possible options have failed, or at least been explored. Wise fiscal stewardship means paying your bills.

To that end, we support amendments improving HB 275 (tapping the rainy day fund) by reducing the “take” to under $3 billion and requiring spending cuts to happen before any dollars can be drawn down.

Once again we find conservative legislators are doing the diligent work of watching out for Texans’ best fiscal interests.