Following a deal announced Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to draw $3.2 billion from Texas’ Economic Stabilization Fund. As we’ve consistently said about the fund: it’s there to be used, but only as a last resort after all possible cuts have been made.
Under no circumstances should those dollars be used in building the next biennium’s budget. Our posting on when to use the “rainy day fund” can be found here.
To put it bluntly: we’re still unconvinced that all possible savings have been found in the current budget.
For example, the Appropriations’ subcommittee charged with dealing with the “current fiscal conditions” has not held a single meeting. How hard can they be working? In fact, no current-biennium savings have yet been implemented by the legislature.
The cost-savings measures in place right now were ordered by the governor, lieutenant governor and House Speaker.
Former State Rep. Talmadge Heflin, now head of the Center for Fiscal Policy Studies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said it was disappointing to see the rainy day fund tapped in what is still relatively early in the budget process.
For his part, Gov. Perry is drawing the line in the sand saying he “will not sign a 2012-2013 state budget that uses the Rainy Day Fund.”
It should be noted that just because the House Appropriations Committee voted to withdraw the funds, this isn’t a done-deal. It still must pass through the full House and Senate – with three-fifths of both bodies needed to vote for it. Only time will tell if we’ve found the legislature’s floor or the ceiling on tapping the fund. A lot can change; keep tuned in!