4/18/2011 5:02 PM
We may be in for a showdown between the Texas Senate and the Texas House on the budget.
Dewhurst today announced that the Senate subcommittee charged with finding non-tax revenue to help close the state's budget hole will meet tomorrow to discuss about $10 billion worth of ideas, including $2.5 billion to $3 billion whose support is growing among the Senators.
He said he does not want to dip any deeper into the state's Fiscal Stabilization ("Rainy Day") Fund. If no more is taken out, the balance should be a little over $6 billion at the end of the budget deliberations. With a billion or so being added per year, he suspects about $8.5 billion in the fund come 2013, when the Legislature will write its next budget.
Dewhurst bragged that the Senate budget puts almost $6 billion of new money into public education spending.
On healthcare, after cuts have been made, $7.5 billion will remain to be funded under federal law. The Senate budget sets aside $4.5 billion plus reforms to wherein "Texans will end up healthier and reduce costs." He said the budget meets the federal requirements for healthcare funding.
Dewhurst declined, for the most part, to discuss specific non-tax revenue proposals. But one thing he did mention was transferring some money out of the Permanent School Fund. But that would be offset and then some by moving the investments at the General Land Office from oil and gas mineral income off of PSF land into the PSF. "That would result in a transfer into the corpus into the principal of the Permanent School Fund of approximately $2.5 billion," he said.
"Any transaction that would be done would be increasing the size of the corpus of the Permanent School Fund for our school children," Dewhurst insisted.
Dewhurst said the Senate similarly in 2003 found enough non-tax revenue and cut spending to close the gap back then.
House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) said over the weekend that he was not interested in spending as much as the Senate. Dewhurst observed that Pitts indicated when the House first passed the budget that Pitts himself was not too pleased with it, particularly on public education and nursing home beds.
Dewhurst applauded Ogden for addressing the 34 percent cut in the nursing home beds.
Ogden said that he expects the Senate to pass a budget pretty close to what currently exists in the Senate Finance Committee. "That budget saves public education, it saves the nursing home industry in Texas, it takes care of Medicaid patients," Ogden said. "The House budget does not."
"I think we're right, and we're going to fight for it," Ogden said.
Pitts could not be immediately reached for comment.
Ogden's committee finished marking up the bill April 15 and expects to pass it out on Thursday April 21. Ogden wants to have it passed out of the Senate by May 1, the week after Easter. "And I think we will," he said.
Dewhurst said his goal is to get all Republican Senators behind the latest version of the budget. Ogden said he expects to get more than the two Democratic votes needed to be able to suspend the rules to bring the bill up.