Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Senate budget a tad higher than House's

Check out the Senate's proposed budget as well as the LBB's Summary of Legislative Budget Estimates and the LBB's full Legislative Budget Estimates.

Might be less severe than the House version though no less fatal.


Education not slashed as deeply, but plan still cuts 15% from current budget.

Monday, Jan. 24, 2011

The Texas Senate on Monday delivered a state budget proposal that cuts a little less from education and other programs than the version released last week by the House of Representatives.

But the upper chamber's $158.7 billion budget proposal, which is $2.3 billion bigger in overall spending than the House bill, still whacks 15 percent from the current two-year budget.

The spending differences between the two proposals, however, are dwarfed by the huge challenge facing lawmakers as they attempt to close a massive budget hole without raising taxes or accessing the $9.4 billion rainy day fund.

Given that challenge, the Senate will begin hearings on the 2012-13 budget bill next week, said state Sen. Steve Ogden, the Bryan Republican who was reappointed chairman of the Finance Committee on Monday.

"I know it's urgent," said Ogden, who crafted the Senate proposal. "I think the best thing we can do here in the Senate is to get started."

House Speaker Joe Straus has not yet appointed committees, which will need to happen before House members can take up its budget bill.

The quick start is well advised, said Dale Craymer, president of the business-backed Texas Taxpayers and Research Association .

The Legislature will have to change state law in order to make the level of cuts to public education and Medicaid that lawmakers assumed when creating the proposals. Such cuts won't be politically popular, so budget-writers will need to build a consensus to make them happen, Craymer said.

"This go-round is a much more political exercise" compared to past legislative sessions, Craymer said. "The stakes are clearly much higher, the decisions are much tougher. You've got to be willing to say there are some things that we can do without."

Texas will also have to get approval from the federal government to make the planned changes to Medicaid, a formidable task given the strained relationship between the Obama administration and state leaders.

"Texas has a lot of company in seeking change," said Craymer, noting that many other states are in similar budget straits.

The Senate budget anticipates some extra federal money coming to Texas to pay for Medicaid, which would free up some state dollars. It also uses some dedicated fees to pay for general operating expenses.

In relative terms, public education benefited the most from the additional money in the Senate budget. Direct aid to school districts would be reduced by $9.3 billion rather than the $9.8 billion in the House version.

Some education programs that were nixed by the House, including pre-kindergarten funding and teacher incentives, got $400 million, far less than the $1.8 billion in the current budget.

Cuts to higher education were not quite as deep in the Senate proposal. Four community colleges axed by the House got a reprieve in the Senate.

And the Senate proposes to erase about 1,400 fewer state positions than the 9,600 cut in the House version.


Proposed Senate budget

The $158.7 billion state budget released by the Texas Senate is $2.3 billion bigger than the House version delivered last week. The budget figure includes state, federal and other revenue sources. Here's a look at some of the differences:

Senate House Difference

Direct state aid to public schools $33.3 billion $32.8 billion $500 million

Other public education programs $400 million 0 $400 million

Higher education $21.6 billion $21.1 billion $500 million

Criminal justice $4.6 billion $4.5 billion $100 million

Border security $111.5 million $76.6 million $35 million

Source: Legislative Budget Board, www.lbb.state.tx.us

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