DALLAS — Texas legislators have agreed on the state’s next two-year spending plan, but still must reconcile revenues with expenditures before the session ends next week
Lawmakers announced an accord late Friday to spend $80.6 billion of general fund revenues in fiscal 2012-13. The total is 11% less than was appropriated in the current budget, which was enhanced with the help from $12 billion of federal stimulus funds that are no longer available.
However, the Texas House on Saturday amended a key revenue measure so it would provide more than $2 billion of business tax relief. SB 1811 was intended to bring in $2.6 billion in additional revenue over the next two years.
The revenue measure would now generate only $400 million, but the lost money is expected to be restored by the Senate or in a conference committee this week. Without the full $2.6 billion, the budget would not be balanced.
Lieut. Gov. David Dewhurst said the budget accord would cut state spending by $15 billion from the current budget.
“We are hard at work passing a number of related bills, including school finance reform, which also must pass in order to balance the budget,” Dewhurst said in announcing the agreement.
House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said the budget was disciplined, fiscally conservative, and was balanced with expected revenues without drawing upon the state’s $9 billion rainy-day fund.
“The agreement that we reached with the Senate funds nursing homes, our public schools and universities, and provides financial aid for college students while keeping substantial revenue in reserves and avoiding any new taxes,” Straus said.
The agreement to cut general fund spending by $15 billion is a compromise between the House’s $164.5 billion budget, which reduced expenditures by $23 billion, and the Senate version that called for $11 billion in cuts.
The original House version included $77.6 billion of general fund revenue, while the Senate plan spent $81.8 billion from the general fund.
The conference committee’s compromise will provide $32.5 billion of state aid for local education and $11.8 billion for higher education over the next two years.
Senators on the 10-person budget conference committee went along with the House plan to use $3.1 billion from the rainy-day fund to balance the 2010-11 budget before the fiscal year ends Aug. 31. The Senate had proposed a $3.97 billion draw to provide more than $800 million for use in the next biennium.
The agreement means the emergency fund should total $6.7 billion at the end of fiscal 2013.
Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, criticized the Legislature for cutting state aid to public and higher education while leaving billions in the rainy-day fund.
“The House and the Senate are about to reach an agreement on burning down the house called the state of Texas,” Coleman said.
House Appropriations Committee chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, and Senate Finance Committee chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said Monday they hope to have a complete budget bill printed by Thursday, with a vote over the weekend.
The Legislature’s 140-day session is scheduled to end May 30.