The swirling force of Texas politics

Texas May Hold Garage Sale to Balance Budget

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    NEWSLETTERS

    flickr/tex1sam

    A Senate panel is considering a bevy of options to raise more than $4 billion in one-time revenue, including the sale of unused state property and a speedup of some tax collections.

    Republican Sen. Robert Duncan, tasked with finding non-tax revenue options, called the measures "cash flow management" that would help keep classrooms open and balance the Senate's budget proposal in the face of a massive revenue shortfall.

    "These are things that we have to do to be able to fund an essential-services budget for education, nursing homes, health care and public safety," Duncan said. "I'm trying to keep this bill as non-controversial as possible because it is a bill that needs to pass ... I want you to consider that as we go forward."

    Other options include pushing large school payments into the next fiscal year and making little cigars subject to the state's $1.41 cigarette tax.

    Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst charged the subcommittee with finding options for "non-tax revenue" that could help the state deal with a shortfall of at least $15 billion.

    The committee was expected to vote on the measure later this week.

    The recommendations also repeal a hotel sales tax exemption for long-term residents and an economic development tax refund.

    Duncan said the proposals, many of which were approved by a House committee earlier this week, were "the best options we have and begs the question, should we use the Rainy Day Fund?"

    Gov. Perry has warned that he wouldn't sign a budget that taps the state's reserve fund for the net two-year budget.

    Earlier in the day, Sen. Steve Ogden, chairman of the budget-writing committee, ran into resistance with a plan to take a one-time $2 billion payout from the state's public school endowment fund.

    "This committee should have some choices on how we balance the budget and this is one possibility," Ogden said.

    Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, whose office helps oversee management of the Permanent School Fund, called the proposal a "dangerous precedent when we have another alternative called the Rainy Day Fund."