Ken Paxton Sides With Senate on Fund-shift Maneuver That Eased Senators' Cuts in Their Budget

AUSTIN -- The Senate's chief budget writer has won Attorney General Ken Paxton's blessing for her chamber's proposed fund-shift delay, a move that eased the severity of proposed cuts but drew House leaders' scorn.On Friday, Paxton told Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that it would be permissible for the state comptroller to delay a scheduled transfer of $2.5 billion in general-purpose sales tax to the road fund by one month in each of the next two fiscal years.The delay would allow Comptroller Glenn Hegar to calculate how much "net revenue" was generated that year by sales tax, Paxton said.A 2015 constitutional amendment uses conflicting phrases in mentioning "net revenue" and "that fiscal year" to describe the fund shift, Paxton said."Deposit of net revenue can only occur early into the next fiscal year," he wrote in an advisory opinion requested by Nelson. "Under the facts presented, substantial compliance is making the deposit early in the next fiscal year once the net calculation is complete."Speaker Joe Straus and the House's chief budget writer Rep. John Zerwas have denounced the Senate's fund-shift delay, which allowed it to soften spending cuts without drawing down rainy-day dollars, as "cooking the books" and a violation of the 2015 measure that voters approved. The House has voted to spend $2.5 billion from the rainy day fund to support its two-year budget proposal.Straus spokesman Jason Embry reacted to Paxton's opinion by saying the Senate's move still isn't kosher, because it allows for $2.5 billion of general-purpose spending and a $2.5 billion credit to the road fund -- a double spend of the very same dollars."None of this changes the fact that the Senate is attempting to spend the same dollars twice," he said in a written statement.  Continue reading...

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