Budget Roadblocks

As the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature winds down, the only bill that must be passed, the state’s budget, is still in limbo.  On this last day for action, according to the rules (which can be broken if almost everyone agrees) there are still many moving and unresolved parts to a final budget bill.

  • SB 1 is the appropriations act to fund the government for the next two
    years.  It’s the ultimate resolution but can’t be finalized until other elements are complete.
  • SJR 1 is the proposed constitutional amendment to establish a constitutional revolving fund to be used for water conservations.  The House missed a midnight last night deadline for appointing a conference committee to meet with the Senate appointed conference committee to finalize the resolution.  The Quorum Report says that the “wheels still appear to be on, nonetheless.”  Remember, rules on timing can be overruled by a significant majority of the body.
  • HB 7 is a bill that includes a refund of monies from the System Benefit Fund.  The System Benefit Fund is a fee charged to utility customers to fund utility bill assistance for needy families.  CPA Sen. Williams (R-the Woodlands), and Rep. Darby (R-San Angelo) both authored bills to refund the almost $800 million of unused funds to utility customers.  Democrats objected to not using the money for
    its intended purpose.
  • HB 1025 is a supplemental appropriations bill that is in conference and until last night was in danger of failure.  The bill includes tapping the states Rainy Day fund as the funding source for the water fund proposed in SJR 1 and for significant public education funding. The
    education funding piece is critical for Democratic agreement with any budget deal.  The Senate version of the bill said it would not be effective unless HB 7 (above) was passed.  Democrats said they would not vote for HB 1025 as long as it was dependant on passage of HB 7.
  • This morning Sen. Williams announced a new plan whereby the unused System Benefit Funds would be used to reduce
    future electricity bills for needy families over the next three years and the System Benefit Fund fee on utility bills would be ended in 2017.  Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), the only Democrat on the budget bill House conference committee, said he supported the new compromise.  One significant roadblock block removed.
  • Then Gov. Perry announced his opposition to taking money from the Rainy Day Fund for education as provided in HB 1025.  Will that kill the legislative deal?  If not, will Perry veto the budget and call a special session?  Perry has previously said he want $1.8
    billion in tax refunds.  Will the System Benefit Fund payments for needy families’ utility bills and the ultimate demise of the $150 million annual fee count towards Perry’s quote?
  • HB 500 is the franchise tax relief bill that is supposed to deliver around $600 million of the tax relief demanded by Perry.  The conference committee to work out the substantial differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill was appointed yesterday.

Today could be the day when the budget comes together or
falls apart.

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