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Eagle Eyes on the State Budget: Are we there yet?

May 8, 2011 

As we send out yet another stream of e-mail, FB, and Twitter alerts for the upcoming week and scan alerts in our own stuffed inboxes, no doubt inside our heads we are screaming – “Are we there yet?”  No, we aren’t there yet…sine die is May 30.  Is there a special session ahead?? More than likely.  On the state budget front, here’s where the process picks up starting Monday, May 9. 

The Texas House

The Texas House has rejected the Senate’s substitute budget.  The Senate budget cuts about $11 billion, while the House cuts $23 billion.  

Next, the budget moves to a conference committee where the differences between the two houses will be negotiated.  By a majority vote in the House, a message is being sent to the joint conference committee that the Rainy Day Fund is off limits to help pay for the spending. The vote is not binding on the final decisions of the conferees, but it definitely sends a signal the House will not support a reconciled budget if it calls for a raid on The People’s Savings Account.

(Activists, keep up the pressure.) 

House conferees will be:  Four Republicans Jim Pitts, John Otto, Myra Crownover, John Zerwas and lone Democrat Sylvester Turner.  How conservative is this committee tapped by Speaker Straus?  See the individual and collective averages (last line of table) below: 

82nd Legislature House Budget Conferees

Young Conservatives of TX

Empower Texans

TX Conservative Coalition Pledge

Americans for







Jim Pitts R







John Otto R







Myra Crownover R







Sylvester Turner D







John Zerwas R







House conferees: avg conservative rating- 81st session (2009)

All 52.4%/

Rep only 61.25%

All 65.2%/

Rep only 73.25%


All 48.4%/

Rep only 54.75%

All 49%/

Rep only 56.25%

See Liberty Institute’s ratings for these members: 

The Senate

The Texas Senate adjourned last week without Lt. Governor Dewhurst naming the Senate’s representatives for the budget joint conference committee.   This is quite interesting since the legislative session’s clock is ticking so loudly.  So, how far is it to the finish line?  Quite a distance… 

Steps left to go in the state budget process: 

  1. Lt. Governor Dewhurst appoints Senate conferees;
  2. Members of both houses will reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of HB1. 
  3. The version of the appropriations bill agreed to by both the House and Senate conferees will be sent back to both chambers for a final vote.  It takes a simple majority of the Senate to pass the appropriations bill (16 votes out of 31).  There are 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate, but the party labels mean nothing – absolutely nothing in the Texas Senate when it comes to determing fiscal conservatism.  A simple majority is also required in the House to pass a final appropriations bill.  There are 101 Republicans in the House and 49 Democrats for a total of 150 members.  A vote of 76 “yeas” will pass the budget.  Again, when it comes to the question of conservatives in the Texas House, forget about the party label.  It means nothing (as the post-legislative session report cards will bear out).
  4. The Comptroller must certify that the State of Texas will bring in sufficient revenue to cover the appropriations (approved spending) made by the legislature during the two years covered by the budget (fiscal biennium 2012-2013). 
  5. The bill is then sent to the Governor’s desk.  The Governor can approve the budget, use his line item veto authority to further cut spending, or he can veto the entire budget. If the legislature is in session, a two-thirds vote of approval in each house can override a veto(es).
  6. The state’s new fiscal biennium begins September 1, 2011.  State agencies will follow the appropriations in the approved budget for two years.  The legislature will reconvene in 2013 for the next regular session. 

Final note to fellow constitutional conservatives:

Keep reading posts and e-mails that keep you informed on late-breaking news.  Keep calling, visiting, and faxing your elected officials.  You are making a difference!  Determine to finish strong.  We cannot allow Texas to edge any closer to becoming California.  

When the dust settles on this session, the weary but determined citizen lobbyists will assess any damage to Liberty and from whose hands it came.  They’ll issue report cards.  They’ll assess the final redistricting maps.  They’ll identify the heroes.  They’ll identify the villains.  They’ll be on the hunt for quality candidates to retire incumbent legislators who just need to get out of our state house! 

Primary 2012 here we come!  Until then… 

Take Personal Responsibility.  Advance Liberty.  Promote Freedom.  Solider on.