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Senate passes its budget

Once the rules were suspended to allow the budget bill CSHB1 to come to the floor, this became a mere formality.

The Texas Senate took minutes to tentatively approve a proposed $176.5 billion, two-year state budget Wednesday in a party-line 19-12 vote, steamrolling Democrats who said it cuts back crucial services while leaving billions unspent in the rainy day fund.

Senate Republicans said the proposal is the best they can be offer to preserve priority spending in the face of a mammoth revenue shortfall and demands that Texas preserve its savings account for future needs.

[…]

Ogden got all 19 Republicans in the 31-member Senate on board when he stripped the rainy-day contingency from the bill, but he lost any Democratic support.

I’m just wondering if there’s any polling data to back up this belief that massive cuts are preferable to dipping into reserves, especially given that we’ve had no problems using it before and that the same Governor who’s standing guard over the RDF like Ebenezer Scrooge over Bob Cratchit’s Christmas bonus is telling school districts to use their reserve funds instead of firing teachers. Obviously, one would have to word the questions carefully, but I think any reasonably accurate description of the RDF, a/k/a the Economic Stability Fund, would yield a lot of support for using it. I sure hope we ask the voters about this in the next election.

Of course, what the Senate really did was more sleight of hand than anything else, as Nate Blakeslee explains.

But here’s the thing—Ogden’s solution is a change in name only, because the Rainy Day Fund is still in the stew. Under the new plan, the budget balances only by pushing $1.25 billion of Medicaid funding into the next biennium. Keeping in mind that the Senate budget already shorts Medicaid by at least $2.7 billion, we are now talking about a shortfall of nearly $4 billion for an entitlement program. This guarantees an enormous supplemental bill in 2013. How will we pay for it? Last night, after the budget debate, Dewhurst pointed out that by taking the Rainy Day Fund out of HB 1, we will have plenty of money in the fund to pay for any shortfall due to entitlement programs like Medicaid. So under the new Odgen/Dewhurst plan, the Rainy Day Fund will act as a sort of, what’s the word…backstop. Here’s your takeaway: By taking out the backstop now, we will have the Rainy Day Fund available as a backstop in 2013.

You remember how this Lege closed the budget gap from the previous biennium, right? Guess what the next Lege will be asked to do as a first order of business. Assuming they don’t fix it with a supplemental appropriation next year. Barring a sufficiently strong recovery that blows current revenue projections out of the water, we’re going to use this money sooner or later. In the name of appeasing the teabaggers, Republicans voted to move the money from their left pocket to their right pocket, call it “savings”, and hope no one notices. You do have to give them credit for having brass. The Trib, Postcards, and Burka have more.

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3 Comments

  1. I am having a “Texas Scrooge of the Year Award,” on my blog and Rick Perry is my first nominee. For any other nominees I will try to get a poll set up on my blog. Comments are welcome.

  2. […] broke years of tradition and rammed through their partisan budget.  Kuff has a great wrap up, Senate passed its budget, which includes an escerpt from Texas Monthly’s Nate Blakeslee. Of course, what the Senate […]

  3. […] to have about that. This agreement shorts Medicaid by $4.8 billion, at least some of which is to be appropriated later. The House will tackle some key budget bills tomorrow, at which time we’ll have a better idea […]