DEWHURST PREVIEWS SENATE BUDGET
|Lt. Governor David Dewhurst spoke to members of the press following today's Senate session during which Senators adopted their operating rules and procedures for the 82nd legislative session.|
(AUSTIN) — The House laid out a preliminary version of the state budget on Wednesday, January 19th , proposing to spend $31 billion less in 2012-2013 than the state spent in the current budget cycle. The House version includes almost $12 billion in cuts to healthcare and $10 billion in public and higher education. It also keeps the $9 billion Rainy Day Fund intact and would eliminate nearly 10,000 state government positions.
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said the Senate will lay out its own proposed budget by the middle of next week, one that looks to preserve more funding for programs such as TEXAS Grants and merit pay incentives for teachers. He added that the Senate's budget will include enough money to take care of less-fortunate Texans. "We're going to work hard to make sure we don't spend money we don't have, " said Dewhurst. "But we're providing that safety net for the vulnerable, elderly, frail, disabled and children and reaching out to help the jobless and the helpless."
|Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound sponsored a press conference today regarding child-protection issues facing the state. Senator Nelson was joined by a group of legislators including San Antonio Senator Carlos Uresti (pictured left) and Greenville Senator Bob Deuell.|
Dewhurst didn't close the door on using the Rainy Day Fund to help balance the budget, but said the money must be spent carefully and with an eye to the future. "If we use some of the money in the Rainy Day Fund, we're leaving enough there . that we have an amount sufficient to balance our budget in 2013," he said. Dewhurst is hopeful that the Comptroller will revise her revenue estimate upwards for the next biennium, pointing out that sales tax receipts, the largest income source for the state, have increased each of the last eight months.
Also Wednesday, advocates against child abuse and neglect gathered with legislators to urge budget writers to remember the needs of Child Protective Services. According to Madeline McClure, Executive Director of TexProtects, a child advocacy group, the House proposed budget included a 18 percent cut to CPS and other child welfare services. While the budget is preliminary, advocates said the system could not bear significant cutbacks.
Health and Human Services Committee Chair Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound laid out two bills she has filed to improve foster care and protective services in Texas. One, Senate Bill 218, would prioritize keeping foster children in their home communities to preserve connection to friends and families. The other, SB 219, seeks to increase access to mental health care to foster children and victims of abuse and neglect. It would require a child in the CPS or foster care system to undergo a mental health screening within thirty days of admission.
In session Wednesday, the Senate passed a resolution honoring the victims of the shooting tragedy in Arizona last week. A gunman opened fire on a crowd assembled for a townhall meeting with Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on January 8th, killing six and wounding 13, including the congresswoman herself. All 31 Senators co-signed the resolution, which passed unanimously.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, January 24th, at 1:30 p.m.