Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the House’s lead budget writer, today filed bill that would draw down nearly $4.3 billion of rainy-day money to cover the state’s deficit in the current two-year cycle.
Pitts’ plan would tap a fund composed mostly of oil and natural gas tax revenues, though general revenue fund surpluses also make some contribution to the rainy day fund. Under a 1987 constitutional amendment, tapping the fund to plug holes in a current budget requires three-fifths approval of those present in each chamber. If everyone votes, that means at least 90 House members and 19 senators would have to consent. It’s only in writing the next two year budget that the higher threshold of two-thirds in each house is required.
If you look at House Bill 275, you see a proposed draw-down of $4,273,557,000 — the very same number Comptroller Susan Combs used last month in estimating the 2010-2011 deficit.
That number may wind up being smaller for the 2010-11 deficit, depending on the effect of earlier cuts and possible upward revisions in sales tax revenue. If so, it’ll be all the more to be available for the current biennium. Still not nearly enough, but every little bit less horrible helps.
Pitts’ bill for this is HB 275, which will require supermajority votes in each chamber. That would be a challenge under any circumstance, and will be even more of one given the teabaggers’ insistence on inflicting as much damage as possible on the state’s economy. Pitts hopes he has the votes, but I won’t be too sure till they’ve been cast. More rational folks like Scott McCown have pushed back on this, though I doubt his words will have much effect on those who believe that taking money out of the economy is good for it. Abby Rapoport has more.