State budget passes the Senate

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, The Budget, The Lege, Uncategorized at 11:26 am by wcnews

Yesterday the Texas Senate approved a $182 billion state budget for the 2010-2011 biennium, it will now move to the House. Five Democrats voted against it, (Kirk Watson, Wendy Davis, Rodney Ellis, Mario Gallegos, and Eliot Shapleigh). From Floor Pass Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) is happy:

“I’m particularly proud of my committee and the work that they did,” says Ogden. “I think Sen. [Juan] Hinojosa has been extraordinarily helpful as Vice Chair, and I was proud of the Senate, not only in the fact that we passed the budget 26-5, but also in the way we conducted ourselves. I thought it was a good day.”

Sen. Shapliegh is not.

Shapleigh has already issued a statement, saying, “Budgets are moral documents—and Texas is better than this budget.”

Kuff says it’s better than he originally expected.

I have some sympathy for Ogden’s position about not spending the money in the rainy day fund, given that sales tax revenues being collected now will be the basis of the next budget. Given how awful I thought this budget was going to be when the session first began, I almost feel a sense of relief at the way it has turned out so far. On the other hand, given how reluctant a lot of Republicans were to dip into the rainy day fund for just about everything, even hurricane relief, before we knew there would be enough federal money to cover whatever we needed, I can’t say I have much faith that we won’t be in an equivalent position in two years’ time, only without any assistance from DC. And I know that the top priority of the Republicans will be maintaining those irresponsible property tax cuts. I’m glad to avoid the problem for now, and I’m glad that the usual budget victims escaped mostly unscathed, but I totally understand why those five Senators (all Democrats - Ellis, Gallego, Watson, Shapleigh, and Davis) voted no.

As EOW pointed out yesterday it’s imperative for Texas that the stimulus money is used to stimulate the economy and not let Texas save for a rainy day. This Peggy Fikac article, State Senate approves its budget plan, has the winner and losers in the budget thus far.

Amid worries over how to spend federal stimulus dollars and fears that state revenues will dwindle, the Texas Senate on Wednesday approved a $182.2 billion, two-year budget that gives more money to public schools and universities, correctional officers and people with disabilities.

But it doesn’t give more to all who wanted or needed it.

As it stands, the budget proposal would increase funding for college aid, but not nearly enough to cover all students eligible for Texas grants. It would increase money for human services, but it wouldn’t expand eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Among spending highlights, it would pour more money into community services for people with disabilities, trimming waiting lists.

Public schools would get a boost, with some funding tied to separate finance system reforms. Universities and health-related institutions would get an increase.

Correctional officers would get pay raises, and a teacher incentive pay program would get an infusion.

The proposal also would increase funding for regulatory agencies to ensure they can properly do their jobs, a move budget-writers advocated because they said insufficient oversight contributed to national economic problems.


About half of the stimulus money would substitute for state funds that otherwise would be needed. That raised questions because the proposal leaves untouched a state savings account known as the rainy day fund. That savings account is expected to grow to $9.1 billion in a couple of years.

“Borrowing from Obama to balance the budget on the backs of Texas’ neediest kids is not the right or moral choice,” said Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso.

Ogden, R-Bryan, said he believes the budget is on solid ground and he expects the state to need every cent of the rainy day money in coming years.

“We played no games with this federal stimulus money,” Ogden said. The most prudent action is “to hold on to the rainy day fund until we’re sure things aren’t going to get worse before they get better.”

There’s still a long way to go before this deal is done.

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