The Big Conversation
Texas is defending itself against lawsuits running the gamut from how it manages its foster care system to the constitutionality of the system of financing public schools to the exemptions offered under the state sales tax.
Causing worry, though, is the impact on the state's finances should it lose these cases. The impact could run to the billions in potential tax refunds and lower revenue collections afterward.
"Such sums would handily eclipse the state’s $4.2 billion projected surplus, which could itself dwindle if oil prices remain low and further blunt tax collections," writes the Tribune's Kiah Collier.
“Any of those by themselves are a huge hit,” Dale Craymer, president of the business-backed Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, told Collier. “But if you start losing two or three of those issues then, yeah, it’s much more questionable that the state’s general revenue reserves are sufficient to cover that.”
Persistently low oil prices exacerbate the problem by making it more difficult for the state to build surpluses to help blunt the impact of adverse court decisions.
Collier added, "That could mean budget cuts when lawmakers meet for the 2017 session, at least if the Republican-dominated Legislature remains steadfast in its refusal to tap the state’s nearly $10 billion Rainy Day Fund."
Trib Must Reads
Analysis: Government is Expensive, No Matter How You Pay, by Ross Ramsey — Cutting prices can be expensive. The Texas Department of Transportation offered up the most recent example of that, answering the Legislature’s question about the price of making the state’s toll roads free. Spoiler alert: It's high.
Texas Ag Industry Seeks Swifter Action on Cuban Thaw, by Jim Malewitz — Convincing Congress to lift a 55-year-old trade embargo with Cuba could dramatically bolster the fortunes of struggling Texas farmers and cattle raisers, state lawmakers were told Thursday.
In Texas, "El Bronco" Talks Immigration and Security, by Julián Aguilar — Jaime Rodríguez Calderon, the charismatic governor of Nuevo León known as "El Bronco," visited Texas on Thursday to talk immigration, gun running and the future of politics in Mexico.
Cruz-Kasich Tensions Escalate as Wisconsin Vote Nears, by Patrick Svitek — Ted Cruz and John Kasich still aren't really attacking one another, at least by the standards of a remarkably vicious Republican presidential race, but a heated proxy war is being waged on their behalf.
Zerwas: "I Would Not Have Any Concern" if Top 10 Percent Rule Went Away, by Matthew Watkins — The chairman of the Texas House of Representatives' Higher Education Committee said Thursday that he "would not have any concern" if the Top 10 Percent Rule governing college admissions in the state were eliminated.
The Day Ahead
• The Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee meets at 9 a.m. in the Capitol extension. On the agenda: addressing interim charges on economic development and expedited permitting.
• U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is the featured speaker at the Texas Alliance for Life's quarterly Leadership Circle luncheon in Austin.
DuPont to close La Porte plant where 4 died, Houston Chronicle
Oil production declines as drillers close Houston offices, Houston Chronicle
Cruz wins citizenship case in Pennsylvania Supreme Court, The Associated Press
Cruz, Sanders ahead in Wisconsin, Politico
First Baptist’s Jeffress defends Trump’s abortion comment, embattled Dallas police chief, The Dallas Morning News
Texas 130 toll discounts approved for truckers to ease traffic on I-35, Austin American-Statesman
Planning team picked for Alamo redesign, San Antonio Express-News
Quote to Note
"Those are stunningly unfavorable numbers. ... Historically, I can’t imagine anyone having worse numbers with women. But historically, there’s never been anyone like Donald Trump."
— Quinnipiac University pollster Tim Malloy, on Trump's 70 percent unfavorable rating by women in recent polls
Today in TribTalk
Involuntary annexation wrong for Texas, by James Quintero — Now more than ever, people want a voice in how and by whom they are governed. But is Texas interested in allowing them a chance to participate?
News From Home
• Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT. KUT’s Ben Philpott and the Tribune's Jay Root talk with presumptive Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson about the struggle third party candidates have breaking through the two-party political system.
• Use this interactive to look up Texas public high schools and find out how many of its students enrolled at UT-Austin in 2015. This is part of the Tribune's "The Price of Admission" series.
• We've updated our Government Salaries Explorer with fresh data for employees on the state of Texas payroll and employees at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. The Dallas County Community College District is a new addition to the explorer.
Trib Events for the Calendar
• A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on April 13 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine
• A Conversation with Dawn Buckingham on April 21 at the Austin Club
• A Conversation on San Antonio & the Legislature: The Issues in the Interim on April 26 at the University of Texas at San Antonio
• A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston
• The Texas Tribune's third Texas-centric Trivia Night on May 1 at The Highball in Austin