Texas Legislature passes budget that cuts billions

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by APRIL CASTRO

Associated Press

Posted on May 28, 2011 at 7:28 PM

Updated Saturday, May 28 at 10:29 PM

AUSTIN (AP) — The Texas Legislature on Saturday passed along largely party lines a state budget that cuts billions from public schools, state universities and health care.

The vote brought to an end more than four months of debate on how to cut $27 billion in state services. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Perry for his signature.

The House voted 97-53, after Democrats spoke for hours bashing the Republican supermajority for choosing budget cuts over tapping the state's nearly $10 billion Rainy Day Fund. Five Republicans voted against the budget.

Facing a massive revenue shortfall, lawmakers crafted the $172 billion budget by making cuts and using deferrals rather than raising taxes or dipping into the $10 billion reserve fund.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 20-11, mostly along party lines. McAllen Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa was the only Democrat who supported the bill.

The budget loomed over a session that Sen. Steve Ogden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, called the most "challenging session that has faced our Legislature in the last 20 years," when debate began late Saturday afternoon.

In all funds, the plan for 2012-2013 is $15 billion less than the current budget, but that doesn't account for the costs of providing services to new population.

The shortfall was a result of a business tax that has consistently failed to generate expected revenues and a slump in sales tax receipts.

For public schools, the budget is at least $4 billion short of what districts would be owed for basic operations under current funding formulas. To accommodate the lower spending, the Legislature also is working on a companion measure that would change the formulas so the reduced funding levels are legal.

The budget also cuts money for full-day pre-kindergarten, teacher incentive grants, arts education and financial aid to college students.

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