State lawmakers consider first budget bill of the session

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Updated: 1/15/2013 4:06 am
Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams laid out a draft state budget, revealing the Republican leaders' spending priorities for the next two years.

The draft was just a starting point, that will most likely undergo hundreds of revisions before becoming law. Lawmakers have $96 billion in revenue to spend, but much of that money is already spoken for.
Democrats have at least one demand, to recoup $5.2 billion cut from public schools last session.

However, a lawsuit being argued just around the corner at the Travis County Courthouse is slowing down the whole process. Hundreds of school districts are suing the state over the current system for distributing school funds. Lawmakers, including Lubbock's Robert Duncan, said it's highly unlikely school funding will make it onto either floor until that lawsuit is settled.

"I think we're all dedicated to making sure that we adequately fund our schools," Duncan said. "The question is where that is, and that's what this next 90 to 100 days will involve is hearings, and cross-examination of witnesses and evidence, and basic good-go common sense to say how much do we need to put in this system until the court tells us what we need to do."

The Texas State Teachers Association released a statement saying, "The base budget unveiled by Senate leaders today is a recipe for failure and a disservice to our school children and thousands of dedicated educators. An $8.8 billion surplus and an $11.8 billion Rainy Day Fund balance clearly give the Legislature enough money to begin restoring the damage inflicted on our local public schools last session."

Texas House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts said he will introduce a budget tomorrow that would increase school funding at least as much as required to pay for school growth.

The Texas AFT President Linda Bridges also released a statement, saying, "The best that can be said for today's initial spending plans is that they are just the starting point, not the ending point, for writing the 2014-2015 budget. Texas can do better. The money is there. What's needed is the will to make the needed investment in our schoolchildren and our state's future."
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