Today the House Appropriations Committee kicked their proposed budget out with only Republicans voting for it. Which is fitting since it’s only a bill a Republican would vote for. Appropriations Chair Rep. Jim Pitts is blaming the tea party for this budget. With the money spent on the current biennium from the Rainy Day Fund (RDF) it leaves the shortfall over the next biennium at $23 billion. Of course this is all part of The Show.
Kuff has this post, Can the lege pass a budget? In it he states:
Politically, the Republicans are probably best served by coming up with a budget that allows them to say they cut expenses but did as much as they could to spare public education as quickly as possible, but if that were easy to do they’d have done it by now.
It’s not about the ease, but about The Show – going through the motions – before doing the inevitable. Kuff also links to this post, The Budget, which discusses how far apart the House and Senate are right now on the budget.
However, there is a growing chasm between the House and the Senate on the budget. The Governor and House leadership have agreed to spend $3.2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to balance the FY 2010-11 budget. But, the Governor and House leadership have stated that they will not spend anything from the Rainy Day Fund for the FY 2012-13 budget, nor will the House pass any tax revenue increases. This will result in a House budget for FY 2012-13 of approximately $77 billion of general revenue spending. The FY 2010-11 budget was approximately $87 billion of general revenue spending, including federal stimulus funds of $6.4 billion.
The votes are not there in the Senate Finance Committee to pass a $77 billion budget, much less in the Senate itself. To pass the Senate in Regular Session, the budget will probably need to be at least $83 billion in general revenue. In other words, the Senate is looking to spend at least $6 billion more than the House. If the House says no more Rainy Day Funds and no additional tax revenue, it is going to be very difficult to find the additional money. At this point, you would have to say one or more special sessions is a growing possibility.
The Show is about providing political cover so that what eventually and inevitably will happen, can happen, without too much political retribution in 2012, for those currently in power.
The problem is that we obviously have a massive revenue problem in our state. One of the many areas that’s been underfunded for decades is transportation. The DMN has an editorial on this today, Where’s the congestion relief out of Texas Legislature?
Texas lawmakers are tackling the problem of transportation underfunding with the ferocity of bunny rabbits.
The bill-filing deadline has passed for this year’s lawmaking session, but there have been no bold, promising moves to bulk up the state’s highway fund. It appears that TxDOT revenue will actually drop in the next two-year budget cycle.
Most of the Legislature’s revenue-generating ideas nibble around the edges or try to solve the problem over the long haul.
The only plans the GOP in Texas has for roads is debt, and selling off our land to corporations – privatization in the form of so-call public private partnerships (PPP’s). We used to pay for our roads with the gas tax but that is off the table with the GOP. Unless, you the voter approve it. At least that’s state Sen. Steve Ogden’s plan for the future. It’s SJR 30 which would raise the gas tax 5 cents to pay off future transportation debts. He wants Texans to decide on these types of controversial, and politically tenuous, issues in Constitutional Amendment elections after the legislative session. Essentially shirking the responsibility.
And the DMN is also taking Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to task for his flip-flop on transportation funding. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Dewhurst doesn’t want to raise taxes on the rich, since he is the rich – his fortune estimated to be in the hundreds of millions. Obviously the budget shortfall could be solved easily, by finally making the rich pay their fair share.
As far as where the budget stands, and where the discussion is headed, it’s key to remember what Sen. Steve Ogden said recently:
Going forward things…we’re not going to be cutting any more, but we’re going to be adding back to the budget in areas where the senators feel we have to increase funding and one of those areas will be public education.
That’s why it’s extremely likely that what Pitts and his committee voted out today is nothing near what the eventual budget will be. If it was he wouldn’t be blaming the tea party he’d be praising them. There will be much wailing and tea party angst as we continue. But that’s all just part of The Show.