Striking a blow for common sense, House Appropriations Committee chair Jim Pitts filed HB 275 today to spend up to $4.273 billion from the state’s economic-stabilization fund, better known as the Rainy Day Fund. The proposal by Pitts, a veteran Republican House member from Waxahachie, to use this portion of the $9.4 billion available in the Rainy Day Fund would require approval by a three-fifths majority in each chamber of the legislature. It thus would take an affirmative vote by 90 of the 150 House members and 19 of the 31 senators.
Technically, HB 275 would tap the Rainy Day Fund for use to cover a shortfall in the current budget year, not for the upcoming 2012-2013 biennium. Practically speaking, however, the effect of using the Rainy Day Fund for this purpose would be to free up an equivalent amount of general revenue for use in 2012-2013.
The Pitts bill is a breakthrough, but $4 billion is just a start on the road to a balanced approach to balancing the state budget. The rest of the Rainy Day Fund must be put to use, unjustified tax loopholes need to be closed, available federal funds should be drawn down, and new revenue sources developed.