Disarray Over Fiscal Bills Causes Delay, Confusion

The House was expected to take up two controversial fiscal matters bill today, but from the start representatives were not sure the lower chamber was prepared to pass them. The apparent holdup? Whether some of the revenue measures amount to the "accounting gimmicks" that the governor warned against Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Perry (c) speaks with reporters outside the Senate Chamber on May 5, 2011.

The House was expected to take up two controversial fiscal matters bill early this morning, but from the start representatives were not sure the lower chamber was prepared to pass the legislation. On Tuesday Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts said that reconciling differences between the House and Senate version of the appropriations bill is contingent upon the House passing the fiscal reform legislation. If the fiscal reforms in Senate Bills 1811 and 1581 do not pass today, a special session may be necessary to reach an agreement on the budget, they said.

If passed, those bills are expected to add a total of about $2.6 billion in state revenue. The disagreement appears to be over how that money is generated. The vast majority of that amount, $2.2 billion, comes from delaying payments to school districts for the 2013 school year until the beginning of the next fiscal year. Late Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry sent out a press release that stated he is against using any kind of "accounting gimmicks" to balance the budget. 

While representatives delayed the debate on fiscal matters this morning, Perry made a surprise appearance in the lower chamber and joined Speaker of the House Joe Straus for a private meeting in his office. When Perry emerged, he was followed by a gaggle of reporters from the House chamber back to his office. He declined to give any definitive answers on what the meeting was about.

“They’re working on it," he said, in reference to the debate over the fiscal bills and the work of the budget conference committee, where 10 House and Senate members are trying to reach a compromise spending plan that can pass both chambers. However, he added he believes the message from constituents is clear: “They want us to have a balanced budget without raising taxes, getting into the Rainy Day Fund."

Dewhurst is missing from the Senate floor, and rumor is back-door deals could be going down in attempts to prevent a special session.

While leadership met, Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, announced the GOP caucus will meet at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the budget drama. The House has now recessed until 2 p.m. 

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