Dems, some Republicans unhappy with proposed cuts

Dems, some Republicans unhappy with proposed cuts
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 8:00pm

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas' proposed $73.2 billion state spending plan that makes large cuts to education is just a starting point, but the final version will be no less painful if lawmakers keep rejecting tax increases and tapping the Rainy Day Fund, the lead House budget writer said Wednesday.

Lawmakers got their first glimpse of what the next state budget might look like late Tuesday, as the state faces a revenue shortfall of at least $15 billion for the next two years. Adhering to promises of no tax increases and no money from the Rainy Day Fund, the revenue was mainly made up with about $14 billion in cuts to state programs. The Texas Constitution requires a balanced budget.

Proposed cuts so far include almost $5 billion to public education and the closure of four community colleges. The base budget does not pay for an estimated 160,000 new students who are expected to enroll in public schools over the next two years.

Republican Rep. Jim Pitts, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, outlined the plan to lawmakers Wednesday and took some pointed questions.

"There's nothing in this bill that's not painful," Pitts said in response to questions from a lawmaker upset about a community college targeted for closure. "I wish I had a crystal ball that said what's going to happen by May."

In education alone, the proposed budget would cut money for arts education, pre-kindergarten programs, teacher incentive pay and dozens of other programs. Financial aid programs like Texas Grants would be closed to new students and funding to colleges and universities would be decreased significantly.

The proposal would make public school finance reform legislation almost inevitable, because there's not enough money allotted for schools based on funding formulas in the law.

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