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The Brief: April 21, 2011

The Rainy Day Fund, this session's forbidden fruit, is still tempting some lawmakers.

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The Big Conversation:

The Rainy Day Fund, this session's forbidden fruit, is still tempting some lawmakers.

Sen. Steve Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Wednesday that the Senate would need to withdraw $3 billion from the fund, the state's emergency savings, to pay for the chamber's 2012-13 budget proposal.

The Senate, whose finance committee has spent this week in budget debates, has refused to vote for the House's stark budget bill, which slashes billions in funding from services like Medicaid and public education. Ogden's proposal could further intensify the Senate's tussle with the House, which approved draining the fund by $3.1 billion for the 2010-11 budget but, like Gov. Rick Perry, has balked at any further use of the fund.

"I owed it to everyone to put all the cards up on the table," said Ogden, who called the proposal a last resort in the event that other revenue can't be found. "The last card up is $3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund." (The Austin American-Statesman, meanwhile, has called Ogden "the most interesting person at the Capitol … more willing than most who play at his level to speak openly about the state's challenges.")

In the Senate, the proposal was met with opposition by only one lawmaker: Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who said he was worried about saving the money for future budget woes.

The committee is set to vote today on the budget, as well as Ogden's Rainy Day proposal.

Culled:

  • U.S. Sen. John Cornyn won't be visiting any Planned Parenthood facility, his office has said in response to an offer he received at a Texas Tribune event Wednesday. "It’s like he was trying to make us sound like Planned Parenthood is some secret organization," Alex Albright, a Planned Parenthood board chairwoman, said after the event of Cornyn, who wouldn't refute Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl's false claim that abortions account for 90 percent of Planned Parenthood's services.
  • Cornyn's comments have also given The New York Times' Gail Collins some fodder for her take on family planning in Texas.
  • Four months after he became a Republican, Texas Monthly wonders whether state Rep. Aaron Peña's defection signals a larger trend among Hispanics — and what his switch, which still has some constituents riled, might mean for his political future as the session draws to a close. "As a Democrat, I wasn’t allowed to express myself. I was half of an individual," Peña says. "When I became a Republican, I became a full individual."

"I went on Planned Parenthood’s website yesterday to see if I could get some good information. I came up empty." — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn during a TribLive event Wednesday

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