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House Appropriations Committee passes a budget

It’s not much different than what they started out with.

House budget-writers were able to sprinkle some extra money into education and health care but otherwise did little to change the bare-bones proposal with which they started.

The 2012-13 budget will hit the House floor late next week after the Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 1 Wednesday morning in an 18 to 7 party-line vote.

Weighing in at $164.5 billion — about $23 billion less than the current two-year budget — the bill still follows the no-new-taxes, deep-cutting approach that state leaders have long advocated.

“It is a budget that reflects the money we have,” said Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie. “There’s a lot of members of the House, this is as far as we can go.”

Basically, take the original cut-everything, fund-nothing budget, add the $4.3 billion we got back from using a little bit of the Rainy Day Fund to close the last biennium’s shortfall (which as far as I know has yet to be ratified by the House), and leave it at that. Rep. Pitts sounds like he realizes what a turd this budget is.

Rep. Jim Pitts said he’d like to see House-Senate budget negotiators massage the budget his Appropriations Committee approved Wednesday — and even “make it better.”

But Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the House’s chief budget writer, said Texans alarmed at the budget’s deep cuts in spending will need to change some minds in the House, which has an unusually large number of freshman, many elected with tea party support.

“There’s a lot of members of the House, this is as far as we can go,” Pitts said. Asked to elaborate, he said, “They don’t like anything else put in this bill. They feel like they were elected to make cuts.”

I’m glad we’re all clear on that, because I for one will be happy to make the 2012 and 2014 elections all about it. Democrats did the right thing and unanimously voted against this budget, while all Republicans voted for it. Which, again, is fine by me. A press release about this from four of the Dems on Appropriations is here, but I’ve included it beneath the fold because it’s worth quoting in full.

Putting questions of electoral politics aside, there is still the very real matter of whether the House and the Senate can agree on a budget. Texas Politics explores that a little further.

The day before the House Appropriations Committee approved a budget that’s about $23 billion less than the current two-year budget and that includes huge cuts for health care and education, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was expressing confidence that the Senate would be able to come up with additional revenue to make cuts all agree are inevitable slightly less injurious.

Asked whether a Senate subcommittee was looking for $5 billion in non-tax revenues, he said, “I’m not sure that I or the committee are looking for a specific number, but we’re looking for an alternative if we don’t go into the rainy day fund as much as some of the members in both the Senate and the House are considering. And what I would rather see is a larger list rather than a smaller list, so that we can very carefully and thoughtfully go through and pick those, if any, that we think make sense and that will fund our operations. In some cases, some of the non-tax revenues are one-time; some of it is recurring.”

Sale of state property is among the list of possibilities, Dewhurst said.

He was parsing his words carefully, knowing that an internecine budget battle looms and knowing also that he’s likely the one who will have to find a solution that somehow mollifies zealous anti-tax, anti-spend members in both houses while avoiding cuts that go deep into the muscle and bones of many state services.

Good luck with that, a sentiment I mean half sarcastically and half sincerely. We’ll let you know how you did next year. EoW, Trail Blazers and Texas Politics has more, and here’s an LBB analysis of HB1, which you’ll either have to figure out how to rotate or risk getting a kink in your neck trying to read.

Democrats Unanimously Vote ‘No’ on State Budget Cuts

Austin – Today Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee unanimously voted against HB 1, the Republican budget proposal for 2012-2013. HB 1 passed the Committee on a vote of 18-7 and will be considered by the full House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

Democrats on the Committee spoke out against the proposal to cut funding for neighborhood schools, make college more expensive, and eliminate basic services for children, seniors and the disabled.

House Democrats have called on state leaders to fix the $10 billion permanent budget hole created by the Republicans’ 2006 tax plan and use a portion of the $9.4 billion Rainy Day Fund to address the 2012-2013 budget, but the leadership has refused to do so.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) said, “In many cases the cuts in health and human services are making life and death decisions. Texas children, senior citizens and disabled Texans deserve better. With inadequate resources, our school children are destined to a second class education and unable to compete in today’s global economy. This budget is unacceptable to our constituencies who have sent us to ensure a first class education for our children, protect our citizens, care for those who no longer can care for themselves and provide services to those who have nowhere else to turn.”

Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) said, “Texas is experiencing a budget shortfall, but cutting funds to schools, the elderly and disabled is not the only way to address our problem. It is important that we uphold the commitment to our citizens and not put the most vulnerable of our population, like children, the disabled and the mentally challenged at risk. I will continue to work throughout the rest of the session and any special sessions to have a bill with the appropriate cuts that I can eventually vote for.”

Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) said, “Just like so many Texas families, the state has put money into savings for times of fiscal crisis. Texas Republicans are today demanding that we make devastating cuts that will hurt Texas’ school-aged, elderly, and disabled residents, cuts that they would never suggest for their own families. It is unconscionable that such brutal cuts are being proposed while billions of dollars sit unspent in the state’s savings account.”

Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) said, “Not a single person showed up in our committee and asked us to eliminate pre-k grants for our youngest schoolchildren and financial aid for college freshmen, but that’s what this budget does. Prior generations of Texans have invested in educating children in our state, but this generation will drop the torch if this budget passes. The budget is almost $8 billion short of funding our legal obligations to schools. These cuts will destroy the infrastructure of education and health care that past generations have built for our children. The Republican budget fails to uphold our obligation to our children and threatens to end our state’s prosperity. We can do better than this if the Republicans fix the recurring $10 billion hole they put in the budget with the 2006 Perry Tax Swap and eliminate tax loopholes that litter our tax laws.”

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  1. […] is considerably better than the House version, not that that’s a high bar to clear. It’s also slightly better than the optimistic […]

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