Monday, April 4, 2011

House Passes A Budget

Update April 4, 2011 @ 1:02am

House Bill 1, the draconian $164.5 billion 2011-13 budget that cuts $23 billion from 2009-13 spending levels, passed the Texas House Sunday on a preliminary vote of 98 to 49 along party lines. Two Republicans, Aaron Pena and David Simpson, voted against the bill.

House Bill 1 cuts public school spending by nearly $8 billion and cuts Medicaid spending by more than $4 billion. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio released a statement that says in part, "Eighty thousand kids are not going to get their scholarships and grant money because of this bill. Forty-three thousand people are going to get kicked out of nursing homes or denied nursing home entrance because of this bill..." The Center for Public Policy Priorities projects that as many as 189,000+ public education related jobs will be eliminated in Texas. Almost 14,000 public education jobs may be eliminated in Collin Co. Medicaid cuts to nursing homes and other health care providers will most likely result in many nursing home closures.

House Bill 1 taps none of the remaining $6 billion in the state's Rainy Day Fund, but it does include $100 million in new fees. Republicans on the House floor made some adjustments to the version of the bill that passed out of the Appropriations Committee last week. Conservatives stripped family planning funds to fund autism and mental health services for kids. For details on other adjustments made to House Bill 1 on the House floor read this article in the Texas Tribune.

Lawmakers in the Texas Senate have been working on their own version of the budget, but the Senate version cuts about $13 billion to mitigate the cuts to public education and Medicaid. Senate budget-writers propose adding $10 billion state-related revenue through new and increased fees. The spending gap will be major point of contention with House and Senate appointees meet to hammer out the differences in conference committee.

Original Post March 23, 2011 @ 5:49pm

Texas Tribune: Wednesday proved a pivotal day for Texas lawmakers in the budget-writing process.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 18-7 along party lines to move a draconian 2012-13 budget bill to the floor for a vote. In addition to deep cuts K-12 and college education funding the House budget bill includes a 10 percent cut to Medicaid provider rates, a 34 percent cut in nursing home funding and cuts thousands more state jobs.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Senate continue to suggest they want to make less-deep cuts in public education than their counterparts in the House.
The Statesman: The House budget as it comes out of the House Appropriations Committee looks like the draconian budget proposed by the Legislative Budget Board in January, with a few tweaks:

House budget-writers were able to sprinkle some extra money into education and health care but otherwise did little to change the bare-bones proposal with which they started.

The 2012-13 budget will hit the House floor late next week after the Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 1 Wednesday morning in an 18 to 7 party-line vote.

Weighing in at $164.5 billion — about $23 billion less than the current two-year budget — the bill still follows the no-new-taxes, deep-cutting approach that state leaders have long advocated.

“It is a budget that reflects the money we have,” said Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie. “There’s a lot of members of the House, this is as far as we can go.”

TrailBlazersBlog: The House budget subtracts $4.3 billion in cuts made to make up for the current biennium’s shortfall ($3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, plus a billion in spending cuts, which has yet to be ratified by the House), and toss it over the fence to the House-Senate reconciliation committee:

Rep. Jim Pitts said he’d like to see House-Senate budget negotiators massage the budget his Appropriations Committee approved Wednesday — and even “make it better.”

But Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the House’s chief budget writer, said Texans alarmed at the budget’s deep cuts in spending will need to change some minds in the House, which has an unusually large number of freshman, many elected with tea party support.

“There’s a lot of members of the House, this is as far as we can go,” Pitts said. Asked to elaborate, he said, “They don’t like anything else put in this bill. They feel like they were elected to make cuts.”

So, the old guard Republican is blaming the new Tea Party Republicans for decimating public education and Medicaid for senior citizens. That's nice, since it was Gov. Perry and the old guard Republicans who back in the 2006 Legislature concocted a Rube Goldberg-style school funding and business tax reform measure that simultaneously cut property taxes, imposed a new “margins” tax on business and rejiggered the way public schools are financed. Wowee zowee—three birds with only one stone!

Problem was, as the state Legislative Budget Board pointed out at the time, the plan’s math didn’t wash because the "margins tax" wouldn’t bring in as much as the Legislature thought. In fact, the board said, it would leave a $5 billion hole in the state budget every year - which actually turned out to be a $14 billion recurring budget hole.

The upshot: Perry, who pushed the swap, and old guard Republicans knew full well they helping to create today’s “crisis.”

Can the House and the Senate can agree on a budget. Texas Politics hints at the answer.

The day before the House Appropriations Committee approved a budget that’s about $23 billion less than the current two-year budget and that includes huge cuts for health care and education, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was expressing confidence that the Senate would be able to come up with additional revenue to make cuts all agree are inevitable slightly less injurious.

Asked whether a Senate subcommittee was looking for $5 billion in non-tax revenues, he said, “I’m not sure that I or the committee are looking for a specific number, but we’re looking for an alternative if we don’t go into the rainy day fund as much as some of the members in both the Senate and the House are considering. And what I would rather see is a larger list rather than a smaller list, so that we can very carefully and thoughtfully go through and pick those, if any, that we think make sense and that will fund our operations. In some cases, some of the non-tax revenues are one-time; some of it is recurring.”

Sale of state property is among the list of possibilities, Dewhurst said.

He was parsing his words carefully, knowing that an internecine budget battle looms and knowing also that he’s likely the one who will have to find a solution that somehow mollifies zealous anti-tax, anti-spend members in both houses while avoiding cuts that go deep into the muscle and bones of many state services.

Press Advisory: Democrats Unanimously Vote 'No' on State Budget Cuts

March 23, 2011

Press Advisory

The Texas Legislature - Democrats Unanimously Vote 'No' on State Budget Cuts

Austin - Today Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee unanimously voted against HB 1, the Republican budget proposal for 2012-2013. HB 1 passed the Committee on a vote of 18-7 and will be considered by the full House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

Democrats on the Committee spoke out against the proposal to cut funding for neighborhood schools, make college more expensive, and eliminate basic services for children, seniors and the disabled.

House Democrats have called on state leaders to fix the $10 billion permanent budget hole created by the Republicans' 2006 tax plan and use a portion of the $9.4 billion Rainy Day Fund to address the 2012-2013 budget, but the leadership has refused to do so.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) said, "In many cases the cuts in health and human services are making life and death decisions. Texas children, senior citizens and disabled Texans deserve better. With inadequate resources, our school children are destined to a second class education and unable to compete in today's global economy. This budget is unacceptable to our constituencies who have sent us to ensure a first class education for our children, protect our citizens, care for those who no longer can care for themselves and provide services to those who have nowhere else to turn."

Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) said, "Texas is experiencing a budget shortfall, but cutting funds to schools, the elderly and disabled is not the only way to address our problem. It is important that we uphold the commitment to our citizens and not put the most vulnerable of our population, like children, the disabled and the mentally challenged at risk. I will continue to work throughout the rest of the session and any special sessions to have a bill with the appropriate cuts that I can eventually vote for."

Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) said, "Just like so many Texas families, the state has put money into savings for times of fiscal crisis. Texas Republicans are today demanding that we make devastating cuts that will hurt Texas’ school-aged, elderly, and disabled residents, cuts that they would never suggest for their own families. It is unconscionable that such brutal cuts are being proposed while billions of dollars sit unspent in the state’s savings account."

Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) said, "Not a single person showed up in our committee and asked us to eliminate pre-k grants for our youngest schoolchildren and financial aid for college freshmen, but that's what this budget does. Prior generations of Texans have invested in educating children in our state, but this generation will drop the torch if this budget passes. The budget is almost $8 billion short of funding our legal obligations to schools. These cuts will destroy the infrastructure of education and health care that past generations have built for our children. The Republican budget fails to uphold our obligation to our children and threatens to end our state's prosperity. We can do better than this if the Republicans fix the recurring $10 billion hole they put in the budget with the 2006 Perry Tax Swap and eliminate tax loopholes that litter our tax laws."


Rep. Dawnna Dukes: Pamela McPeters, 512-463-0506,
Rep. Craig Eiland: Lynette Kilgore, 512-463-0502,
Rep. Eric Johnson: Brent Rubin, 512-463-0586,
Rep. Mike Villarreal: Peter Clark, 512-463-0532,

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