Texas Has Cash for Fixes, House Budget Chief Argues, While Key Senator Urges Caution

AUSTIN -- The Legislature's two money divas sang arias that couldn't differ more in tone Tuesday as the end of session opera known as budget negotiations formally began.Rep. John Zerwas, the jovial anesthesiologist and hospital administrator who is the most important holdover from former Speaker Joe Straus' team of pragmatic House Republicans, noted that Texas has a host of unattended problems.With a much brighter revenue outlook than lawmakers had last session, Zerwas made it clear the House intends to spend some money.The House still would leave a nearly $9 billion stash in the state's "rainy day fund," made up largely of oil and gas tax revenues, he said.And Zerwas, R-Richmond, noted that both the House and Senate's budgets would stay within two separate spending caps contained in the Texas Constitution."We have to live by those. We've done that well," he said.Crucially, though, as Zerwas ticked off priorities he said are shared by the two chambers - "school finance, school safety and future mitigation against disasters" -- he said nothing about teacher pay.  Continue reading...

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