Tuesday, January 17, 2017

From the Texas Tribune: In dueling budget proposals, Texas House and Senate billions apart

Each chamber in the Texas Legislature has introduced their respective budgets, and they are $8 billion apart. The House is far more generous than the Senate.

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Texas House and Senate leaders unveiled dueling budget proposals — starting nearly $8 billion apart — in separate moves Tuesday that foreshadowed remarkably different priorities in the two chambers during a legislative session that promises to be even more tightfisted than usual.

Texas Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson on Tuesday proposed a $213.4 billion two-year base budget.
An hour later, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus outlined the lower chamber’s base budget, which included $221.3 billion over two years. The nearly $8 billion difference between the chambers — about $5 billion of which comes from state revenue — offers a starting point for leaders to begin negotiating how to spread limited funds this legislative session.
The proposed House budget offers about $2.2 billion more in state funds for education than the Senate’s. The House proposal for state spending on health and human services is about $2 billion larger than the Senate’s as well.
Nelson’s proposal would tap $103.6 billion in state general revenue, the portion of the budget over which lawmakers have the most control. That’s less than the $104.9 billion that Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar estimates is at lawmakers’ disposal amid relatively dour economic forecasts. General revenue is

“While we will need to prioritize and make efficient use of our resources, I am confident we can meet the challenges ahead,” Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said in a statement.
Straus’s budget proposal, on the other hand, would require about $108.9 billion — or $4 billion more than Hegar’s estimate. Straus said his base budget prioritized “investments in children and our future” while increasing state spending by less than 1 percent.
“This is the first step toward producing a balanced budget that reflects the priorities of the Texas House and does not raise taxes,” the San Antonio Republican said in a prepared statement.
Where House budget writers would find the additional $4 billion was not immediately clear Tuesday but state Rep. Drew Darby, a San Angelo Republican and House budget expert, hinted that his colleagues would consider tapping the state's Rainy Day Fund, which holds more than $10 billion.

For more on what's in the article:

- Legislative Budget Board.
- House Budget.
- Senate Budget.
- Texas Senate Committee on Finance.
- Texas Comptroller.
- Rainy Day Fund.
- Texas Association of Business.

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