Friday, May 20, 2011

Texas Lege Grapples With Passing State Budget

The push is on. Rep Jim Murphy (Dist 133) wrote in an op-ed recently about the deadlines established in the state legislature that keep order in the process of moving bills through for passage.

"The Memorial Day (May 30) end of session is well known. However, the deadlines leading up to it triage bills, establish hierarchies, and prevent a last minute flood of legislation.

We have already passed the May 9 deadline for committees to report (pass) house bills. Any bill still in committee is dead, unless it has a Senate companion. May 12 was a very major deadline, the last day to pass House bills. Again, if you have a Senator carrying a companion, that bill can still pass.

Our calendar on May 12 had more than 100 bills eligible. We can consider Senate bills until May 25 for second reading and for final passage."

An interesting development was announced as an end of session surprise - Comptroller Susan Combs declared an additional $1.2 billion in revenue and now the mad scramble is on to pass a state budget.

Governor Perry said of the additional money reported by Comptroller Combs:

"The revised revenue estimate shows the strength of Texas job creation and economic growth, but it does not mean lawmakers can abandon necessary budget reductions. Just as Texas families and employers have had to tighten their belts during the national recession, so must state government.

"Because of our nation's economic uncertainty, looming federal mandates and possible natural disasters, we must protect the remaining balance of the state's Rainy Day Fund. A budget that drains the Rainy Day Fund, depends on accounting gimmicks or spends more than available revenues is harmful and unsustainable for taxpayers, employers and state lawmakers alike.

"I will not sign a partial state budget or allow it to become law. However, I remain confident we can pass a fiscally-conservative balanced budget in regular session, and will continue to work with the Senate and House to responsibly live within available state revenues."

Speaker of the House Straus spoke to the fact that the House remains committed to no new taxes and keeping hands out of the Rainy Day Fund. He said the House has made compromises, as in any negotiations, and now it is time for the Senate to step up and do the same:

"Earlier this week, Comptroller Combs updated her projections of state revenue and House conferees on the budget promptly agreed to put those dollars toward our first priority, our public schools. The additional revenue from the Comptroller and the improving economy have allowed House budget negotiators to find an additional $2 billion to fund public schools and another $1 billion for border security, nursing homes, transportation, and higher education, for a total of $3 billion. We are prepared to enact legislation that will allow us to pay for these priorities within a balanced budget and without raising taxes or further using the Rainy Day Fund."

Rep Linda Harper Brown, House Dist 105, announced a bill she authored to save some money for the state by eliminating 150 printed reports deemed unnecessary and unhelpful .

"I have authored a bill that will eliminate more than 150 unnecessary government reports. These are reports that have been previously compiled by agencies, but were deemed useless by the recipients of the reports. The purpose of HB 2870 and its Senate companion bill, SB 1179, is to increase government efficiency by eliminating unnecessary and outdated state agency reports that serve no purpose and take up staff time, printing costs, and storage space. As a result of these savings, this legislation will have a positive fiscal impact to the state."

Maybe it's not a monumental amount of savings, but every action helps. Common sense is so important in governing and yet so often missing for the equation.

If a state budget is not passed before the end of session deadline, a special session will be called by Governor Perry. The last day is May 30th (Sine Die). Eliminating the need for a special session would be a cost-saving measure, too.

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