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Senate makes progress on the budget

They still haven’t gotten to the actual budget yet, but they’ve passed a bill that allows for some extra “non-tax revenue” plus a bunch of accounting gimmicks, which makes their less-penurious-than-the-House budget possible.

The Texas Senate, digging publicly for money while it battles quietly over a proposed budget, approved a “non-tax revenue” bill that would make $4.3 billion available for spending over the next two years. The vote was 21-10, with all of the no votes coming from Republicans.

Senators walked around taxes, wary of a constitutional provision that requires revenue-raising measures to start in the Texas House. They talked about taxes on small cigars, on full-time residents of hotels and motels, and on ending exemptions to producers of high-cost natural gas. Other ideas, like sweeping the balances in the governor’s economic development funds, were presented and then pulled down before they came to a vote.

The Senate Finance Committee voted out a budget a week ago that depends on the money in SB 1811, and also contains a provision for tapping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund for up to $3 billion. That provision, combined with the fact that the budget cuts 5.9 percent from current spending, has senators struggling to assemble the 21 votes it would take to call up the budget for debate.

Given the 10 Nays from Republicans, you can see how difficult it is for the Senate to thread the needle on this budget. Ogden thinks the budget may come to the floor on Monday. I’ll bet there’s an awful lot of intense negotiations between now and then.

Along the way, the Senate rejected Republican amendments to impose a hiring freeze at state agencies as well as some other salary cuts, and they adopted some transparency initiatives that had been pushed all session by Sen. Kirk Watson. All this happened while Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was whining about Democrats being mean and partisan without saying who he had in mind, which drew a sharp retort from Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who is generally not one of the hotheads. Like I said, this ought to be a fun weekend for them. And finally, in separate action, a Senate committee voted to stick a knife in the guts of Planned Parenthood, which as we all know will do ever so much to improve the health of women everywhere. EoW and BOR have more.

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