Outbreak of Budget Sanity Continues at State Capitol

At a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee in Austin today, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs testified that she could not imagine how the legislature could close the current-year revenue gap with cuts alone. Combs described in detail how the legislature has used the Rainy Day Fund to weather economic downturns in the past, and she affirmed that the recent recession is the worst Texas has seen since the Rainy Day Fund was created back in the 1980s. Republican Rep. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, chair of the Appropriations Committee, this week introduced a bill to use nearly $4.3 billion of the $9.4 billion in the Rainy Day Fund to close the fiscal 2011 portion of the state’s overall revenue gap. It will take a three-fifths vote in each chamber of the legislature to tap the fund for this purpose. But Combs made it clear today that she would have to use her back-up authority as comptroller to borrow money from the Rainy Day Fund to cover the state’s outstanding obligations for fiscal 2011, if the legislature fails to act.