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The Brief: Top Texas News for April 6, 2011

House Republicans may be inching toward a compromise on the billions of dollars they just voted to slash from the state budget.

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The Big Conversation:

House Republicans may be inching toward a compromise on the billions of dollars they just voted to slash from the state budget.

House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts said Tuesday, as reported by the Tribune's Ross Ramsey, that he has asked the leader of the House Republican Caucus if conservatives in the House — which this weekend approved a stark, revenue-slashing budget — would be willing to spend more money.

"I asked the caucus chair, 'If I brought you a bill back that's $5 billion more than we had on the floor, what would be the reaction from the caucus?' And he said, 'Well, it depends on where the money comes from,'" Pitts said.

Though the House — in part propelled by conservative freshman Republicans who say they were elected to make broad cuts — voted Sunday to reduce state spending by $23 billion, lawmakers have said there aren't enough votes in the Senate to pass the austere House proposal. And Pitts and House Speaker Joe Straus have repeatedly said they expect the House's budget plan to change as middle ground with the Senate is sought. "I think we can make it better," Pitts said.

Pitts also noted that he wasn't alone in expecting — and possibly hoping for — a little compromise.

"Since we passed the bill on Sunday night, I've had some of the members that are more of the 'We came here to cut' and you know there's a big group, especially freshmen, who feel like they've been mandated to cut," Pitts said. "But they're coming to me and they want, 'Don't cut this program, or don't cut that program. Don't cut in my back yard.'"

Culled:

  • Meanwhile, in the Senate on Tuesday, leaders said that dealing with budget woes would require the state to, in effect, go back to square one to deal with a business tax system that leaves the state with an inherent deficit of $10 billion, the so-called structural deficit. "When you have a system where you have statute after statute that forces you to spend more and more money and then you enact statutes that require you to collect less and less in taxes, you've got a system that's fundamentally unstable and sooner or later you're gonna have to fix it. I would suggest we start soon," said state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert has raised $1.1 million during the first five weeks of his U.S. Senate campaign, according to a source close to the campaign. Along with a personal investment of $1.6 million, Leppert now has about $2.6 million cash on hand.
  • The Mexican American Legislative Caucus has filed suit in Hidalgo County to protest 2010 census procedures that resulted in "omissions in Latino population" across the state, which will soon use census data to draw new legislative, congressional and State Board of Education districts.
  • As the Trib's Brandi Grissom reports, an attorney for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has aroused suspicions of infiltration among dog breeders, who will face stricter regulations under legislation that seeks to eliminate puppy mills. "I think she’s a mole," says Dale Martenson, a dog breeder who thinks the bill would kill his industry. "They oppose us, and they want us to stop breeding."

"The Capitol is full of them, in their high heels, and — no offense ladies — boobs hanging out, skirts up to their butts. … I've been to lots of fights, but y'all are bound to have seen them around here." — A witness testifying during a committee hearing on cockfighting Tuesday, during which the topic of prostitutes was (somehow) broached

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