Liveblog: Senate Passes Budget, 19-12

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of Senate Finance Committee, looks for support on the Senate floor during the introduction of the Luna Scholars in the background on May 4, 2011.
Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of Senate Finance Committee, looks for support on the Senate floor during the introduction of the Luna Scholars in the background on May 4, 2011.

Over the vehement objections of Democrats, the Texas Senate today passed a state budget for the next biennium by a vote of 19 to 12. On Tuesday, Sen. Steve Ogden's effort to get a two-thirds vote and send the chamber's substitute for the House budget, known as HB 1, to conference committee failed on the floor. On Wednesday, Ogden and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst bypassed tradition and resorted to a loophole in the rules to allow them to send the bill forward with a simple majority vote, setting the stage for the straight party-line vote late in the afternoon. 

Liveblog

by Thanh Tan
Good afternoon! Welcome to our liveblog. We'll be following the Senate's latest attempt to pass a budget for the next two years. The session was scheduled to start at 11am, with the budget at the top of the agenda. Nearly two hours later, they've finally started the debate. We presume there is some wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes. Unless Sen. Ogden miraculously found an extra two votes overnight, the chamber may attempt to bypass tradition and push the budget through the chamber with a simple majority vote (which is 16 votes instead of 21). Read Ross Ramsey's story to see how that would work here: http://www.texastribune.org/texas-taxes/budget/failed-budget-vote-threatens-senate-tradition/
by Thanh Tan
Senate just voted to pass the substitute budget bill. No debate. 19-12 party line vote. On to third reading...
by Thanh Tan
Senate will break for about eight minutes. Stay tuned.
by Thanh Tan
The Texas Senate never adjourned last night. They just recessed, so the Democrats are expressing concerns about whether the Senate is properly following parliamentary procedures. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, just says they're not sure what the Republicans may do, but they want to make sure today's actions don't affect other bills on the agenda.
by Thanh Tan
To be clear, the TX Senate is still operating as though today is yesterday, because they never adjourned. Not sure what the strategy is here. Sen. Ogden just walked by the press table and asked whether we're sick of the budget. He says they'll pass the substitute bill through third reading today-- if he's called on to do so. On the budget, Ogden remarks, "It is kind of interesting, isn't it?" Note: not a single Democrat voted for the budget in the House. Today, not a single Democrat in the Senate voted to pass the budget on second reading. I'm hearing some talk about how this is the first time the budget has been so partisan.
by Thanh Tan
The Senate has adjourned. In a few minutes, they'll start a new legislative day. It's likely they'll vote on the budget bill, which is now on the third reading calendar.
by Thanh Tan
Committee Substitute House Bill 1 is up again. Ogden thanked folks and moved for passage of the bill. Sen. Leticia van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is up to speak out against the motion, which she says is characterized by a "different process, different procedures." She says the "Texas promise" to give the next generation a "prosperous future" is at risk and the new budget doesn't address enrollment growth. "Members, I fear that this budget doesn't adhere to that promise, because if we really mean that education is a priority, we wouldn't be talking about a new norm where we define our responsibility as less than what we know is needed for our public schools," she said. "Goodness, I hope your spouse isn't a teacher, because with this budget there will be no new jobs."
by Thanh Tan
Sen. van de Putte says she has heard from Texans of many backgrounds who are concerned about the cuts proposed in the Senate's substitute bill. "This budget treats people as numbers and it is what it is," she said. "But we cannot forget those numbers are people. And I've seen their faces. And I've heard their voices. And I cannot ignore their pleas."
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville is debating against the budget. "Political constraints have led some of us to put the next election before the next generation... (These) cuts are about taking, often from the most vulnerable in our state," he said.
by Thanh Tan
In his debate against the budget bill, Sen. Lucio is referring to passages from the bible. "Caring for one another in a society costs all of us something... life does have a fiscal note," he said. A pro-life Democrat, Lucio pointed out "there is no sonogram provision" in the budget that forces government to closely check up on those who risk losing their services. "I'm in peace with my decision (to vote against this bill). I'm not scared to return to my district and explain my actions."
by Thanh Tan
If you'd like to watch a live video feed of the Senate debate, go to this link on our site: http://www.texastribune.org/session/82R/
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, is speaking out against the process. He says he does not believe voters gave lawmakers a mandate to make the "draconian" cuts proposed in the budget. "We don't fund growth in this budget" for schools or health care, he says. Ellis is going over the history of the Rainy Day Fund, which has come in handy many times in the past. Gov. Perry resorted to it for property tax relief several years ago. "When did it become so sacrosanct?" he asked.
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Ellis says conservative lawmakers may be in for a rude awakening if they pass a budget that's anywhere close to the House's budget. "They're going to learn passing this budget means throwing them out" along with all the folks who may be displaced from nursing homes.
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Wendy Davis is the fourth Democrat to speak out against the Senate Finance Committee's substitute bill. She has brought up the standard low rankings for state spending on health care and schools, the margin tax's failure, etc. "This budget is sealing our fate," she says.
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, speaking against the bill: "The money is out there, it'll just take... leadership to collect that revenue." He says the legislature has been spending "hot checks" for too long. Showing his theatrical side, Gallegos then held up an oversized check with "insufficient funds" stamped in red ink. He says "enough's enough" and the state needs to stop paying its bills with smoke and mirrors.
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, is the first Republican to speak up in support of the budget bill. "There is absolutely nothing to the idea that we're not paying for our students," the Senate Education Committee chair said, adding enrollment growth is paid for by property values. "Every student is paid for by the FSP (Foundation School Program). No student is being left out of the system. We're paying for all of them."
by Thanh Tan
As the budget debate rages on in the Texas Senate, we're hearing from outside groups. Assuming the simple majority passes the bill, here's a statement from AARP Texas President Ollie Besteiro:

“AARP is disappointed with the risky budget proposal passed by the Senate today.

“By relying on a far more shaky financing method and a potential 1.2% across the board cut, rather than a reasonable and limited use of the Economic Stabilization ("Rainy Day") Fund, the budget passed today demonstrates a lack of responsible state budget leadership.

“While the Senate budget is still far preferable, in its impact on senior services, to the dangerous House budget, the Senate’s leadership has weakened the financing for the budget considerably by eliminating the limited and responsible use of the Rainy Day Fund proposed by its own Senate Finance Committee.

“Two-thirds of AARP Texas members say the state should tap into the Rainy Day Fund to help remedy the current budget shortfall, according to a recent survey. AARP members also ranked primary and secondary education and health and human services as the top two budget priorities for the Texas Legislature this session.

“Too much is at stake here for the Senate to rely on guesses about future available revenue, backed up by a potentially devastating across the board cut. In a nutshell, the Senate budget is not fiscally responsible and merely kicks the can down the road for the next Legislature to deal with.

“It's time for the state's leaders to step up to the plate and do the right thing. The Rainy Day Fund was intended for “economic stabilization” -- exactly these kinds of times. It’s raining. It’s pouring. Using a portion of the fund to get through some temporary hard times is the right thing to do.”
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, says the bill "looks good only in comparison to a bad bill." He is asking lawmakers to think about whether the bill they pass today could look even worse after it goes to conference committee with House members.
by Thanh Tan
"The people of Texas want us to be lean, not mean." -- Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, says he and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa were ostracized by their caucus for voting the finance committee's substitute bill out of committee. Both have said they will not support the current proposed budget, which excludes a contingency rule that would have allowed taking $3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund. Now, he's raising his voice over why -- for the first time in at least 20 years-- the Senate is passing a partisan budget. "This is about using SOME of the Rainy Day Fund for education," he said. "In 20 years, we have never had the budget passed along partisan lines, so does this budget represent the best interests of the state of Texas? Or does this budget represent what the Republican party wants to do, because if that's the case, you have the numbers. You can do what you want to do."
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, is dropping some depressing numbers before the Senate chamber. If the rate reductions for Medicaid and hospitals are reduced as outlined in the Senate budget plans, she says more than 250,000 Texans will have to wait for services or lose their services altogether. Diseases could spread, children could lose mental health services, etc.
by Thanh Tan
Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, is speaking in favor of the bill. "This budget DOES reflect the values of the majority of the people in Texas.... I have heard so much misinformation today... I don't know where to begin." She says it's "wrong to frighten people." Re: waiting lists, Nelson said those who are "truly waiting" and "eligible" are often on multiple lists. "These lists aren't really waiting lists. These are 'interest' lists. Many are interested, but they're not eligible... Only 44% of those on the interest lists are eligible, and it still does't account for duplication," she said. Nelson says the Senate budget actually preserves funding and does "not cut necessary services."
by Thanh Tan
"We did the best we could to make responsible decisions to make sure our health and human services programs are efficient and truly providing for those who need help," says Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. "I truly believe that this bill addresses two sets of people that we need to keep in mind. Those people who depend on our state services and those people who are the taxpayers who pay for these services. Let's put a face on the taxpayer out there right now!"
by Thanh Tan
"For me, the problem is this budget is all about cuts. We haven't spent enough time toward raising new revenue... This state can't sustain this course." - Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso
by Thanh Tan
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, says the bill was doomed to failure with the two-thirds rule because Sen. Ogden hoped for two Democrats to cross over, but the content of the bill is unacceptable. You cannot take $11 billion out of state government "without a lot of pain, misery," he says. Ogden is standing and listening with his arms crossed. Whitmire says there are "intended consequences" in the bill because people are so ideologically attached to limiting the size of government. Instead, Whitmire says Democrats would have preferred a balanced approach that included some cuts and new revenue.
by Thanh Tan
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden is now delivering his closing remarks on the committee substitute for HB1.
by Thanh Tan
From Ogden's closing comments:

"What do you when the economy is not so healthy? Well, the first thing is you do no harm to the economy," Ogden said in his closing statement. The state must do everything possible to get the economy back onto its feet "and the last thing you should do is raise taxes."

"It is a bridget to the future. It does not hurt the economy. In fact, I think it helps it...This budget prioritizes public education. It prioritizes health and human services... We do not cut those services."

"The politically safe vote is to vote no. I think it's a courageous thing to vote for this budget. It's not the critic who counts... For the 19 of you out here who have the courage to vote for this bill, I will fight for it.... and every one of you will be in the arena with me."

by Thanh Tan
No surprise. The Senate votes 19-12, straight party-line vote, to pass the substitute for HB 1. The bill now heads back to the House, then on to conference committee.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.