The Texas House acknowledged today that the budget that was recently passed didn’t have enough funding in it. In other words, the are admitting Texas has a revenue problem. And that is a first step in getting this budget where it needs to be. House budget-writers back billions in extra revenue.
House budget-writers approved bills that could free up more than an additional $3 billion for spending on state services through the next two years through moves big and small.
The House Appropriations Committee approved bills to put off a $1.8 billion state payment for school districts from the upcoming biennium to the next one, and to speed up the collection of more than $1 billion in franchise, sales, motor fuels and alcohol taxes.
The legislation approved by the panel also would make moves including suspending the state sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping and having unclaimed property revert more quickly to the state.
The bills would yield new money that could be put in areas including public education, college student financial aid and nursing homes, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.
He said that lawmakers are working with retailers on the back-to-school holiday idea, suggesting that item might not stay in the bill.
Earlier in the day Peggy Fikac in the HChron reported that the Seante Finance Committee is close to finalizing in budget proposal, Senate panel tries to ease fiscal pain.
Senate budget-writers voted to ease cuts in public schools, college financial aid and nursing home rates in a proposed spending plan that – while slim – would exceed a bare-bones House proposal by billions of dollars.
Now, they just have to figure out how to pay for it.
Senate leaders are looking at non-tax revenue and, possibly, dipping further into the rainy day fund than Gov. Rick Perry has said he is willing to do. If they do not find agreement on revenue, spending may have to be shaved.
“This is a pretty aggressive effort to fund as many critical items as we could. It’s going to be a challenge to make sure it balances,” Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said after the panel sent a two-year budget proposal to the printer Thursday night in anticipation of a committee vote next week on the overall bill.
“If we’re successful, we’ll still be substantially reducing funding as compared to the current biennium,” he said.
Ogden did not give a final tally on the proposal. He said last week that as the Senate plan stood then, it would spend $16 billion more than the House measure. Senate budget-writers since have voted to add money in some areas.
And Sen. Ogden stated on the floor today that he’s ready to fight, Ogden: We’re going to fight for this budget.
Over the next few days, members of the Senate Finance Committee will have to figure out the best way to balance the state budget, said Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan.
“The central issue is how much of the nontax revenue are we going to support and therefore how much of the rainy day fund we’re going to need to balance up,” Ogden said.
On Tuesday, the committee members will tackle the menu of revenue options assembled by Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, that would be needed to pay for the billions of dollars of spending that have been added to the Senate budget, including $6 billion for public education.
“It’s going to be interesting tomorrow because a lot of these issues will have some controversy around it,” Ogden said.
One potential controversy will center on a proposal to eliminate a tax exemption for certain natural gas producers, he said, but it raises a lot of money.
“Basically, how much we decide to do here will determine how much of the rainy day fund we’ll need to recommend to balance the budget,” Ogden said. “Really, the senators are going to be asked to make a choice which is the better way to balance the budget.”
That decision is on Wednesday’s agenda. And the big question will be whether the senators will authorize taking more than the $3.1 billion already agreed to by the House and Gov. Rick Perry.
There still a long way to go. As Jason Embry asked today, “So with six weeks to go, does anybody believe we’re not headed to a special session?” Probably a few people, but fewer each day.
At this point the House and Senate are pretty far apart. And Ogden said the right thing when asked about the where Gov. Perry and the House may stand on what the Senate is likely to pass, “..his primary concern right now is with the senators, not everyone else involved in this game”.
The final budget will likely be somewhere between the Senate and House bills. It’s good there’s still a long way to go – meaning well into the Summer – before a deal must be done. Because that time is needed for The Show to continue, and bring enough legislators around to a more balanced approach. One thing to keep in mind, it takes fewer votes to pass a tax increase then it does to use the Rainy Day Fund.