House Budget Committee’s Plan Cuts Deeper Still—Split Vote Sends Bill to Floor April 1

On April 1 the Texas House is slated to vote on HB 1, a budget plan that is twice as bad for public schools as the latest Senate version described above. The bill came out of committee this morning with all Democrats present opposed and all 18 Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee in favor. This harsh House bill would cut school aid by roughly $800 per pupil, with percentage reductions reportedly ranging up to 14 percent. State funding for grant programs would be reduced to near zero. Similar damage would be done on the health-care side of the state budget.

Next Thursday, March 31, before the House votes on this awful budget, it will vote on two other key budget bills. HB 4 is the supplemental budget bill to balance the books for the current fiscal year 2011, relying heavily on spending cuts that already have been implemented by state agencies. HB 4 in effect would give legislative approval to agency reductions like the elimination of funding for mentoring new teachers, the axing of grants for new science labs, and cancellation of funding to help at-risk students.

HB 275, the other preliminary bill coming up next Thursday, is the one that authorizes use of more than $3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund. If this partial use of the Rainy Day Fund is not approved by the House, then the cuts in school aid under HB 1 would be $2 billion worse (nearly $10 billion total), and the loss to school districts would ratchet back up to $1,000 per pupil on average, as in the House budget as originally filed.

HB 1 as passed in committee today would leave more than $6 billion sitting in the Rainy Day Fund while enacting budget cuts that ravage public education and deal a severe blow to the state’s economic recovery. Meanwhile, many House members along with the governor also continue to pretend the state can’t consider raising new revenue to fix a structural shortfall of $5 billion a year that they themselves created with a botched tax overhaul in 2006. Upcoming Hotline messages will let you know how you can convey to the governor and lawmakers your views on this utterly inadequate response to the state’s fiscal crisis.