The Texas Legislature is feeling the pressure of the looming deadlines imposed by the end of this legislative session on May 30. The only thing the Legislature must accomplish during regular session is passing the state budget, but that task seems to be the most difficult with a $15 billion-plus deficit and two very different budget plans from the House and Senate.
The Senate Finance Committee decided on Thursday, May 12 to take an additional $800 million from the Rainy Day Fund for the current budget, not the one two years from now. In total, the Senate proposed withdrawing $3.97 billion from the emergency fund and $3.1 billion has already been authorized by the House. However, Governor Perry has claimed he will not support using more than $3.1 billion, and the House is not likely to agree to using more either.
The House wants to keep its deep budget cuts but the Senate wants to spend more. These differences are creating a gridlock in the budget debate and time is running out with just over two weeks of session remaining. As time counts down, it is becoming apparent that the House may be unwilling to move from their $164.5 billion two-year plan, and the Senate is not willing to compromise funding for certain programs like education and Medicaid. As Senator Steve Ogden warned, “If the House doesn’t show some more flexibility, we’re going to special session.”
$8.3 billion is the magic number dividing the House and Senate chambers. No one wants to see important things such as education and public service programs go underfunded, but Texas has a daunting budget deficit that cannot be overlooked. The clock is ticking for the Texas Legislature to come to an agreement, but additional non-tax revenue sources must be found if the Senate and House are to agree on a budget. The Rainy Day Fund and the Senate’s accounting maneuvers are not appealing to the House or Governor Perry, and they are certainly not a long-term solution to solving Texas’ budget woes.