TX Budget Committee Chair Predicts $18 Bil Hole

Texas lawmakers have been fishing for ideas on how to fill a looming budget deficit when they return to Austin in 2011. Based on new projections out today, they’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie)

Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) Bob Daemmrich

New projections show the upcoming state budget shortfall will be bigger than many expected.

The Legislative Budget Board’s assistant director Wayne Pulver told House budget writers this morning that they could start the next legislative session in a $15 to $18 billion budget hole.

“You’re looking at the – essentially 11 or so billion in use of one time revenues if you will – if the federal money doesn’t reoccur.  Plus the cost pressures.  Plus revenue perhaps not coming in as previously estimated.  So that’s a number that has been out there. And that’s a reasonable number," said Pulver.

House Speaker Joe Straus kicked off the meeting by telling lawmakers that he expected a balanced budget with no new taxes.  Which lead Appropriations chair, state Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, to say that cuts above the already requested five percent from state agencies are likely.  He acknowledged this will be a painful budget, which is why he will push lawmakers to consider everything – including casino gambling – to lessen the cuts.

“I’m going to look at every revenue enhancer that can get.  And I think Texans – if you go across the border into Oklahoma and Louisiana – you’re going to see Texas cars.  And we need to grab that money.”

Lawmakers will have more than $8 billion in the state’s so-called "rainy day fund" to help fill the budget hole. But it takes a two-thirds vote to spend any of it.  For now, Chairman Pitts thinks he only has the votes to spend half the fund.

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