First Texas House budget bill leaves $5.5B unspent
The first budget bill considered by the Texas House this session will leave $5.5 billion in unspent revenue on the table and cut off grant funding to the state's troubled cancer-fighting agency, which is under criminal investigation, a top Republican budget writer said Monday.
But House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts made no mention of restoring any of the $5.4 billion that lawmakers cut from public schools in 2011 in announcing a lean 2014-15 budget proposal despite a bright state revenue forecast ahead.
"This bill recognizes the demands of population growth on public schools and Medicaid, and steadfastly maintains the House's commitment to fiscal discipline," Pitts said.
Pitts said the $89.1 billion budget draft covers enrollment growth in public schools, but that commitment alone is certain to not appease Democrats and teachers who wanted deep classroom cuts reversed this session.
The bill is expected to be filed Tuesday. The Texas Senate was expected to unveil its budget bill later Monday.
The decision to appropriate no new grant money to the $3 billion Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas comes as somewhat of surprise. Although both Republicans and Democrats have been lining up to blast the embattled agency in recent weeks, lawmakers have mostly called for stricter oversight instead of cutting off funds entirely.
CPRIT is under a moratorium from awarding any grants while prosecutors investigate an $11 million grant to a private company that was approved without the proposal undergoing any scrutiny or review.
Pitts said the House is expected to pass a $6.8 billion supplemental spending bill in the coming weeks that will settle unpaid tabs in the current budget.
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