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Outside Groups Lobby Texas Budget Writers

With the Senate set to debate the state budget this week, Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports that several outside groups want to shape the conversation.

Pro-union protesters hold signs decrying budget cuts at the Texas Capitol on April 6, 2011.

Various special interest groups have been pushing their budget ideas since before the legislative session began. Now, with the House budget already passed and a Senate version set for debate this week, the battle over which budget is right for Texas has intensified — and, in one case, taken to the airwaves.

In a TV commercial produced by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative state-policy think tank, the group highlighted its wishes.

“It’s time for us to wake up and remind them who they work for,” the commercial says. “Texans want a fiscally responsible conservative budget. Texas works because freedom works, and defending Texas is defending freedom.”

The think tank is part of a coalition called Texans for a Conservative Budget. While the group does not explicitly say it wants the austere House version — which cuts billions of dollars from state services — to reach the governor’s desk, the lower chamber’s bill certainly mirrors the group's fiscal principles.

“We don’t think that the state’s savings, in the form of the Economic Stabilization fund, or Rainy Day Fund, should be spent,” said Joshua Treviño, vice president of communications at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “We don’t think that taxes should be raised, and we think the state should live within available revenues, live within its means.”

Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News

Other groups are supporting the Senate bill. Last week, when a committee gave initial approval to the Senate budget, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s office was flooded with emails, many thanking the chamber for spending more money on health care and education.

“It’s a very difficult budget climate, and we know that there are going to be cuts throughout the state budget,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the Texas Medical Association. “But if you have to have one or the other, we prefer the Senate bill.”

Bailey said her group would continue to push for the Senate bill and for improvements as the House and Senate meet to reconcile their bills. The Texas Public Policy Foundation isn’t going anywhere, either: The group is already shooting another commercial with former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm to push for less spending.

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Health care Politics State government Budget Texas Legislature