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The Brief: Top Texas News for March 7, 2011

Today, Gov. Rick Perry will try to put the brakes on House Republicans, who appear readier than ever to tap the Rainy Day Fund.

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The Big Conversation:

Today, Gov. Rick Perry will try to put the brakes on House Republicans, who appear readier than ever to tap the Rainy Day Fund.

Ahead of a possible vote this week on a bill that could draw $4.3 billion from the fund, Perry will meet with the House Republican Caucus to make a case against drawing down the $9.4 billion pot of state reserves.

Perry's position has attracted the support of some conservatives, who, like the governor, say using the fund will only delay tough financial decisions. But lawmakers, including an increasing amount of Republicans, have said that in light of proposed cuts poised to severely hit crucial services like education and health care, it'd be irresponsible not to spend some of the fund.

The bill's author, Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, has said he's optimistic that he'll get the House votes needed to draw from the pot.

But as the Chronicle notes, some say Perry's position is strategic, allowing him to cede ground on the issue later. If he'd initially supported tapping the fund, the theory goes, lawmakers would now have leeway to ask for even more revenue — and possibly push for increased taxes.

The dispute over the reserves has especially vexed Tea Party Republicans, many of whom, as the Austin American-Statesman reports today, campaigned against tapping the fund. One such Republican, Connie Scott of Corpus Christi, now tells the Statesman that she's rethinking her position.

"I think the more you look at the situation, the gravity of the situation — and when it is presented to you in different ways, then sometimes you have to go back and rethink those positions," Scott says.

But not all Republicans are convinced, including Marva Beck, R-Centerville, another House freshman. "It would have to be real, real bad before I would want to touch that," she says.

Culled:

  • The procedural scuffle that preceded last week's House abortion sonogram vote was the first real fight of the legislative session — and could be a preview of things to come as lawmaking gets under way, says the Tribune's Ross Ramsey.
  • The Austin American-Statesman and The Dallas Morning News each ran investigative pieces this weekend on two state-supported economic enterprises: the Innovate Texas Foundation, which, the Statesman reports, spent half of the nearly $2 million in taxpayer money it received on salaries and benefits, and the Emerging Technology Fund, whose former director profited on private business deals while running the fund, according to a Morning News probe.

"I think there were a lot of deer-in-the-headlight looks when the budget was laid out." — State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, on initial budget proposals

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