New Move to Find “Non-Tax” Revenue in Texas Senate Education; Commissioner Eases Path for Districts to Use Fund Reserves

New Move in Senate to Scrape up More Revenue: The San Antonio Express-News reports that action is afoot in the state Senate to find $5 billion in additional revenue to reduce proposed budget cuts for education and health care in 2012-2013. At the behest of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a subcommittee on “fiscal matters” to be named Monday will be chaired by Sen. Robert Duncan, Republican of Lubbock. Among items Duncan’s panel reportedly will examine: possible sales of unused state lands and extracting more income from state investments such as the Permanent School Fund, the state’s endowment for public education.

As quoted in the Express-News, Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio offered this comment: “I’m glad the lieutenant governor is doing this. Desperation requires you to get creative.” But Van de Putte noted that a real solution to the state’s long-term fiscal problem requires a fix for the business margins tax, which has produced billions of dollars less than its backers projected when it was enacted in 2006.

Education Commissioner Eases Path to Use of School Districts’ Local Reserve Funds: Commissioner of Education Robert Scott announced this week that he will ease financial-accountability rules that encourage districts to maintain substantial funding reserves. The commissioner in a guidance letter to school administrators said the current state budget situation calls for the adjustment because districts will be under great pressure to tap those local reserves to make up for shortfalls in state revenue.