The Texas Tribune is liveblogging the Senate's debate over its substitute for House Bill 1, the proposed budget for the next biennium.
The Senate will attempt to pass a bill that cuts state and federal spending by about $11 billion, or 5.9 percent.
While lawmakers generally agree that spending level is acceptable, there is no consensus when it comes to the proposed methods of financing the bill, including a possible use of the Rainy Day Fund. Follow our liveblog for the latest developments.
"It is a far better budget than any alternative that's out there. It's a far better budget than any reasonable alternative in the future."
Shapiro: "The alternative to this bill represents a permanent and unsustainable blow to public education."
The across-the-board cuts would take place if the comptroller says the money isn't available; if it is, those cuts won't happen.
And the Medicaid cuts are a sleight of hand: Lawmakers will be back in January 2013 and if Medicaid comes up short — by, say, $1.25 billion — they'll take care of it then. In fact, the budget without any changes pushes $3 billion in Medicaid spending off for the next Legislature to deal with.
But on every other day, the Senate's calendar starts with House bills. And there's apparently no blocker in front of House Bill 1 — the budget — if it's considered on a "House day." Today is a Senate day, and if they've got 21 votes, they'll proceed with the debate. If they don't, they can bring it up tomorrow with only 16 votes.
If you don't have it in your head, here's the partisan arithmetic: The Senate has 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
"The Texas Public Policy Foundation welcomes the news that the Texas Senate may shortly consider a 2012-13 budget bill that does not include use of the Rainy Day Fund. This is a credit to the hard work and persistence of Sen. Steve Ogden and the Senate Finance Committee.
“The Foundation has consistently opposed use of the Rainy Day Fund for ongoing obligations, in the belief that cutting excessive spending and living within the state's means is the best way to a sound budget. We are pleased that the Texas Senate will have an opportunity to enact a budget that is consistent with this approach."
The alternative to this is SB 12, which gives us furloughs, reductions in pay, and firings," he says. "That's not the kind of options that the great state of texas presents to the school districts.
"We ought to stop our discussion right now if we can't come up with a better alternative than that."
"I didn't have 21 votes on Friday," Ogden says. "I'm hoping I have them today."
He couldn't get the support needed with that money in, so he's trying now without it.
But state agencies cannot absorb additional cuts, Whitmire says. Already being cut 29 percent, Texas Parks and Wildlife will have to change park hours, sell parks, or turn parks over to cities and counties for management, says Whitmire. “How would Texas Parks and Wildlife absorb additional cuts?” he asked Ogden.
But Davis says current revenue isn't enough: The legislature hasn’t found a way to make up for revenue lost for public education when they compressed property tax rates and replaced that revenue with a lesser grossing margins tax. SB 22 says to voters, “we never could make it up to you,” she says. Constituents will be told, instead of making up funds, the state is going to “permanently institutionalize funding you with less,” Davis says.
The fight will be hard regardless, he says, because the consensus coming from the supermajority of the House gives them “a huge negotiating advantage.”
He says the Senate's budget is better, and says he thinks "the House wants to join us, and we need to give them a path." Patrick's against spending the Rainy Day Fund, but also wants to fund public education. He voted against the plan coming out of committee, but says he'll vote for it with Ogden's promise that RDF is coming out.
West pushes back, saying Ogden got a bipartisan bill out of committee and then ran into Republicans who balked at the RDF provision. He says the Democrats came in asking, "Can we get some assurance on the backside that we're not going to get rolled? That's what we're talking about. And then we have speeches about partisanship on the floor."
This had been rolling along without the partisan stuff, although twelve Democrats in a row stood up to speak against the budget.
"I asked, when I was elected your president pro tempore, to leave your politics at the door."
"Outside groups have penetrated this Senate, and we are a weaker body for it."
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