NPT Capitol: Senate passes its version of the budget, Shapleigh votes no
The Texas Senate passed its version of the state budget, Wednesday. SB 1 passed 26 votes to 5, with El Paso state Senator Eliot Shapleigh voting against.
SB 1, authored by Senator Steve Ogden, R-Bryan uses over $10bn of federal stimulus aid while leaving the state’s rainy day fund untapped (at round $9bn).
Shapleigh, along with Senator Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, raised concerns at the very start of the debate Wednesday afternoon about the legality of using stimulus funds when Texas has the money to plug its own budgetary holes using the rainy day fund. (The Economic stimulus package, HR1, has provisions which prohibit the use of stimulus money if it simply substitutes for cash a state was going to dole out anyway, providing ways for the feds to recover the money.)
Ogden cautioned that Texas’ economic circumstances “could get worse before they get better.” Hence it was prudent to use stimulus money now and keep rainy days funds in the tank for an even rainier day. Otherwise Texas would “really be in the tank” if things continued to slide. (There are rumors circulating in Austin that state comptroller Susan Combs will lower her revenue estimate for the biennium. i.e. work out that Texas has less moolah than she first thought.)
The state budgetary process now awaits the House’s version of the bill. Then the two chambers will appoint a conference committee to hash out the differences before sending it back to their respective chambers and then on to the Governor.
Check out NPT for Shapleigh’s reasons for voting against the Senate version of the budget.