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Can They Put Humpty Together Again?

The betting here is that state finance is the closing drama of the session and that in spite of the sharper debates here at the end, that everybody goes home singing Kumbaya.

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Sure. This happens every two years, just as regularly as the bad guy gets to hold the gun at the beginning of the last minutes of every Batman episode, before the tables turn and our hero yet again triumphs.

Seriously, there is plenty of time to put together a finance plan for water and there are several vehicles already on the road that would work. Like the budget, for instance. Water will get done. Transportation might get done. If tax breaks get done, they’ll be smaller than they are now. Public education will get its money in the regular budget and not from the Rainy Day Fund, and in a cleanup to be named later, meaning lawmakers can leave some of their school spending for a special session after the Texas Supreme Court has ruled on school finance.

The House took a swipe at budget diversions with legislation that would reduce the size of that problem from the current $5 billion to about $4 billion. The idea in Rep. John Otto’s bill is that they can lower it some more later until they’re finally weaned. The diversions use unspent balances in 200 programs to account — literally, this is an accounting thing — for spending in other areas, thus keeping the state budget balanced. The problem is that money dedicated to those 200 causes doesn’t get spent where the voters thought it was getting spent.

The budget trap hasn’t changed in the last week, still revolving around factions that do and don’t want to spend money from the Rainy Day Fund and around factions that do and don’t want to bust the constitutional cap on growth in state spending. That’s before you get to the usual disagreements about what to spend the money on if everyone can agree do spend it.

The betting here is that state finance is the closing drama of the session and that in spite of the sharper debates here at the end, that everybody goes home singing Kumbaya.

The governor, through aides, suggested he might call a special session if his wish list doesn’t go well. But in person, he was milder: “We have plenty of time to get the work done in the session. We have 30 days. It’s that classic period of time when people start getting a little bit stressed.”

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