House Passes Budget

Reps unanimously approve $178 billion proposal for 2010-11 a bit before dawn

Chairman Pitts: Probably still sleeping
Chairman Pitts: Probably still sleeping

Around 7pm last night House Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said he doubted the House could pass the state budget all in one day on Friday.

Around 10pm, he was more optimistic, saying he thought they could get it all done without breaking overnight.

He was right both times. A little after 4am on Saturday morning, the Texas House of Representatives passed their $178 billion state budget by a unanimous vote of 149-0 (Rep. Kirk England, D-Grand Prairie, was absent due to a family emergency.)

The mood on the floor was generally positive all night: House Democratic Caucus Leader Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, explained that it was because the whole process had been built around consensus, and both sides agreed to keep contentious, nuisance, and poison pill amendments off the floor (so the brakes were put on backdoor immigration, stem cells, and planned parenthood reform/attacks.)

Pitts summed the whole experience up before the final vote when he said, to a round of tired but happy applause, "I think now we can call it our budget."

Full press release from Speaker Joe Straus after the break.

House Trims $4 Billion Off Senate Budget

Austin – Today Texas House Speaker Joe Straus praised the House of Representatives for adopting the state's 2010-2011 biennial budget.

"I appreciate the outstanding work of Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, Vice Chair Richard Raymond, and all Members of the House of Representatives for passing a sound budget which is fiscally responsible and funds essential government services," stated Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. "I am proud of the entire House for working together to produce a balanced budget, control state expenditures, and make wise spending decisions. Today's approved budget makes prudent investments in critical areas and includes funding increases in education and health care."

The budget reduces general revenue spending by 2.5% compared to the last biennial budget, uses the federal stimulus dollars wisely to ensure the funds are spent on one time expenditures that will not result in ongoing costs to the state and leaves the Rainy Day Fund untouched. This strategy is essential to plan ahead for the next budget cycle, in 2012-2013, when the economy is projected to still be feeling the effects of the recession.

The House version of Senate Bill 1 totals $178 billion for all funds for the state's 2010-2011 biennium. That is approximately a 2.5% annual increase for the biennium, which is below the projected rates of inflation and population growth for Texas. The all-funds budget includes nearly $80 billion in General Revenue and approximately $11 billion in federal stimulus funds.

What makes this all doubly interesting is that the Senate normally passes their version of the budget unanimously, but could only muster 26-5 for their $182.2 billion proposal. That difference could allow the House to walk into the conference committee (where the differences between the two bills will be reconciled) holding the political high ground.

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81st Legislature, State Budget, Jim Dunnam, Texas House of Representatives, Jim Pitts

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