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The Brief: Nov. 16, 2010

Texas agencies will have to reach even further into their already threadbare pockets.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Texas agencies will have to reach even further into their already threadbare pockets.

State leaders announced Monday after a Legislative Budget Board meeting that agencies must slash their budgets by 2 to 3 percent, in addition to the 5 percent of cuts already requested. The board — whose membership includes state lawmakers, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House — also set a spending cap for the next budget.

"I haven't met a ... successful businessman or businesswoman who, if they needed to, couldn't tighten the belt 5 percent or, perhaps, even more, and still deliver their product," said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Officials are unsure how much the additional 2 to 3 percent will save, and legislators also said they couldn't guarantee that previously spared services (e.g., education) would again be shielded. "But every dollar we cut now makes that process a little bit smoother," said House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Meanwhile, a Democratic state senator took aim at Republicans for their "irresponsible," "back-room" approach to dealing with the budget. "For years, those in control have balanced the budget with a combination of debt, diversions and deception," said Kirk Watson of Austin.

Watson, who has long been critical of state budgeting methods, accused Republicans of "accounting trickery" and said that he'll soon introduce a series of bills aimed at increasing transparency in the process.

"We need to rebuild our budget from scratch, from the ground up," he said.

CULLED:

  • Despite encountering some pushback from Joe Straus supporters, Republican leadership went ahead with a straw poll in the speaker's race Monday. Results haven't been released, but BurkaBlog has details on the polling process.
  • The Tom DeLay money-laundering trial continued Monday, with a Republican National Committee official testifying that the group made no illegal donations to candidates in 2002.

"I thought it was going to reflect negatively across the country when it got out." — A parent in the Plano Independent School District, which has nixed plans to remove a humanities textbook that depicts ancient nude statues

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