4/1/2011 1:16 PM
This morning House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) laid out the House’s version of the budget. He fielded questions from House colleagues of both parties for over an hour before the first amendment was offered. It is going to be a long day.
"Today we take up House Bill 1, the state budget for 2012-2013,” Pitts said. “This budget does not raise taxes. It does not rely on any spending and any new tax revenue to pay for programs or services. This budget does not spend any federal stimulus money. This budget does not spend any of the rainy day fund on any ongoing programs or services in the next biennium. Finally, this budget does not grow government."
"This budget reflects the economic realities facing our state, and it only spends available revenue. This bill, combined with the votes we took yesterday on HB 4 and HB 275, fulfills our constitutional responsibility to have a balanced budget. The budget we drafted would also reflect not only the spending cuts taken in 2010-11, it also reflects the 10 percent reductions we required in 12-13 and much more."
Straus this morning issued the following statement kicking off the debate. “We may take difficult, but necessary votes today in order to move this bill to the Senate and for the budget process to continue,” he said. “I'm proud of the work done by Chairman Pitts and all the members of the Appropriations Committee who have worked really hard for not just the first 80 days of this session, but for over a year."
The budget currently includes $77 billion in General Revenue funding, and $162 billion in All Funds (state money plus federal money).
Pitts said the budget cuts $4.5 billion in general revenue (GR), a 5.4 percent reduction fro 2010-11 spending levels. That is in addition to the $1.3 billion in GR cuts made yesterday in HB 4, Pitts said.
Education remains the largest expenditure in the budget.
Pitts said that it is clear that the health and human services portion of the budget does not have sufficient funding for caseload growth.
Turner pressed Pitts on the issue of new fees included in the budget. While $63 million in taxes and fees are contingent on other legislation passing, the budget also includes fees implemented independently of other bills passing – which include about $150 million in revenue.
Turner said the fees would be “substantial.” Pitts said it is the fees that they talked about in the committee with the agriculture department to determine what the farmers and ranchers in the state needed to do to market their products world-wide. Turner said he wanted the members to be aware that the costs will shift. “We are all part of this,” Turner said.
Pitts said that those fees were actually requested by the stakeholders and industries that would have to pay them. He used the cattle industry as an example, saying they wanted to be able to market their products worldwide and asked to have an increased fee to pay for it. He compared it to the recent boll weevil eradication project.
Lucio emphasized that “there was very little that we did” to address creating any new revenue. This was a “cost-cutting exercise,” Lucio said.
Pitts also observed that the revenue situation could improve if certain bills are passed. He said that certain members had bills that could bring billions in revenue to the state, though he did not mention gambling specifically. He said it is not the charge of the Appropriations Committee to generate new revenue.
King distinguished between voting to create or increase fees and voting to give agencies the authority to raise their fees.