I’m sure you’ve heard Rick Perry and other Republicans talk about how they’ve “balanced” the budget without tapping into the Rainy Day fund. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that they’re lying.
Republicans have given up any pretense that they’re saving the remaining $6.5 billion rainy day fund for some unknown rainier day.
House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, spoke against a Democratic effort to use $4 billion from the rainy day fund for public schools in the 2012-13 budget by saying that money “technically doesn’t exist.”
“The funds aren’t available,” Eissler said, echoing a point that has been openly acknowledged by other Republicans during this special legislative session. They were a little forthcoming during the regular session.
Almost $5 billion of that fund will be needed to cover the tab for Medicaid in the 2012-13 budget. But legislators won’t pay that bill until they return in 2013.
We already knew this, but it bears repeating, and it’s good to see more of them being forced to acknowledge it. The budget they’ve passed is a sham that passes several billion bucks on to the next Legislature. Anyone who tells you otherwise is at best misinformed.
The “Democratic effort” is, I presume, referring to a press release (which you can see here) by Sens. Rodney Ellis, Wendy Davis, and Eddie Lucio that announces legislation they filed to close various tax loopholes and use the Rainy Day fund to restore the $4 billion in funding that had been cut from public education. EoW has a summary of their proposals. The good news is that by flushing the Republicans out on this, Democrats were able to do something about it.
Democrats scored a minor victory Thursday when House members voted to spend any growth in the state’s rainy day fund over the next two years on student enrollment increases in public schools. An amendment offered by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would require that any growth in the rainy day fund above the $6.5 billion that is projected to be in the fund at the end of the next two-year budget cycle will go to schools to pay for additional students. The amendment, adopted on a voice vote, was part of a state fiscal matters bills that was tentatively approved on Thursday.
Howard conceded that Republicans have blocked access to the projected $6.5 billion in the fund, but asked them to compromise and take any monies above that amount to cover enrollment gains in schools over the next two years. She estimated that enrollment increases of 70,000 to 80,000 students per year will cost school districts an extra $2.2 billion – and that would be the maximum that could be taken for education under her proposal. Republicans were generally supportive of the idea and the amendment was easily approved. It was unclear, however, whether the Senate would support the idea.
Assuming it survives the Senate, that still may amount to nothing, but you take your victories where you can. Trail Blazers and PoliTex have more. A statement from Rep. Garnet Coleman is beneath the fold.
Today, House Democrats scored a victory for Texas students. Representative Jessica Farrar and Representative Donna Howard offered an amendment to invest the growth of the Rainy Day Fund (the state’s savings account) on Texas students. The Farrar/Howard amendment will accomplish what the state should have done in the first place – fund enrollment growth for our public schools.
The Republican budget passed during the regular session cut $4 billion from public education, and does not provide funds for the 160,000 new students expected to enter our schools in the next two years. The Farrar/Howard amendment could result in the $2.2 billion more needed to cover these students.
Currently, there is approximately $6.4 billion in the Rainy Day Fund. According to some projections, the Rainy Day Fund could rise above $12 billion over the next two years. If these estimates are true, the Farrar/Howard amendment will ensure that Texas students are the first to benefit from this money.
If Texas students gain $2.2 billion for public education, the special session was well worth it. We may not have gotten students everything they deserve, but we got them more than what they had under the Republican budget. Unfortunately, these funds are not yet certain. The onus is now on the House to keep this language through third reading, and then on the Senate to keep these essential funds intact. Democrats will continue to fight to protect this investment.