Texas Budget Woes

School financing was addressed by law makers in a special session earlier this year. Public policy observers say the results of that special session created a serious budget hole that lawmakers will have to address in the upcoming regular session. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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The special session earlier this year was to address school financing and property taxes. Center for Public Policy Priorities Executive Director Scott McCown says the resulting legislation is putting the state of Texas in the hole.

"We spent $5.3 billion on public ed, $5.3 billion. But then we spent $13.5 billion, over 70 percent of everything we spent, we spent on property tax cuts."

Those tax cuts are being paid for by a new business tax, better collection of used car tax, and increased cigarette taxes. McCown says

"And that produces 8.3 in revenue. We spent $18.8 billion, we raised 8.3, we have a hole of 10.5. And going forward into 2010-2011 the hole becomes 11.5."

McCown says a strong economy will help law makers this session. State agencies have been asked to prepare budgets with a ten-percent cut.

"What I want you to understand is that they are not really writing the budget out of a surplus. They are writing the budget out of cuts to services and programs and vital public structures that we need."

McCown says the term surplus has been redefined in state government. He says it now refers to increased revenue without accounting for increased costs and population.McCown says what's being unfunded at the state level are prison needs, higher education financial aid, school buildings and health and human services. He says those needs total three billion.

Also at the meeting, former Lt Governor William Hobby presented Mayor Bill White and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels with the 2006 Hobby Visionary Award for their response to Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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