The House Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 1 this morning in an 18 to 7 party-line vote. The budget is a little larger than originally proposed with the use of rainy day fund money to help cover the deficit in the current year budget. The agreement between House budget-writers and the Governor to use rainy day fund money freed up $4.3 billion for the next two-year budget, enabling the legislators to put about $2 billion more into public education and social services. The remainder went to prisons. HB 1 should hit the House floor Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
Meanwhile the Senate Finance Committee has been less willing to accept the bare-bones budget proposal that was initially introduced. In an effort to find new dollars, Senate Finance created a new Fiscal Matters Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), to look at options like tax exemptions and ways to improve tax collections; scrub state assets such as the endowment funds and surplus property; maximize the use of taxes dedicated to specific purposes; and review fees, such as those for drivers licenses. Another option under consideration is to sell some $200 million in surplus state property. The subcommittee has a deadline of this Friday to submit their proposals to the full Committee.