Budget Negotiators Pass $15 Billion in Cuts for 2012-13

Budget negotiators adopted a report Thursday that cuts state spending by $15 billion. The measure is scheduled for a vote on the House and Senate floors as early as Saturday afternoon.

Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden (l), R-Bryan, and State Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), share a laugh after the Appropriations Conference Committee passed out HB1 on a 9-1 vote on May 26, 2011.

Budget negotiators met briefly this morning and voted 9-1 to adopt a conference committee report that cuts the state budget over the next biennium by $15 billion, or 8 percent. The total amount of funding from taxpayers, known as general funds, is $80.4 billion. The total expenditures for all funds, including federal money, is $172.3 billion. 

Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, told reporters their respective chambers are expected to vote on the report as early as Saturday afternoon. 

"We have covered the entire [2010-11] biennial deficit, and the budget is balanced for the next two years," Ogden said. "And at the end of the day, that’s a pretty extraordinary accomplishment considering the challenge we were in."

In order to pay for the budget, Ogden said it is still essential to pass a series of fiscal bills. One of the most critical at this point is SB 1811, which is supposed to generate about $3.5 billion in revenue and includes measures like payment deferrals to school districts. Pitts said the conference committee for that particular legislation met until late Thursday night and is close to an agreement.

School finance is the other key piece of the puzzle, and lawmakers continue to work on a plan that might appease both the House and the Senate. 

The only no vote on the report came from state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, who has consistently argued that the budget cuts too deeply into education and health and human services. 

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