Sen. Duncan named to state budget conference committee
AUSTIN - Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst today named Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, to the General Appropriations Act conference committee, a 10-member body of the Legislature charged with drafting a budget from the differing House and Senate plans.
"This is a challenge we have worked toward all session," Duncan said. "The task ahead of us is not an easy one. As a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, I've felt the pain of crafting a budget in a shortfall year. There is not enough money to fund every service to the extent our constituents would like, and there are no absolute winners in a budget year that starts $10 billion down."
However, Duncan said, he is appreciative the lieutenant governor kept the needs of West Texas in mind when he was naming members to the conference committee. The 2003 conference committee will be the third such committee Duncan has served. In 1999, former Lt. Gov. Rick Perry assigned Duncan to conference; in 2001, Duncan was named to the committee by acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.
Senate District 28 has a variety of critical elements - among them, the institutions of higher education: Texas Tech University, Angelo State, South Plains College, Howard College, Clarendon College, Texas State Technical College, Western Texas College, Lubbock Christian University, and Wayland Baptist University - that depend on state funding to keep the area growing in the right direction.
The cost of health care is the state's number one budget driver, and management of those costs and meeting the needs of those who depend on these services is critical to writing a balanced budget for 2004-2005. Duncan said that maintaining a thriving healthcare infrastructure throughout the state should also be a key goal of this committee.
"I am looking forward to working with the excellent talent from the House and the Senate who will also be laboring over this budget. We all have the state's best interests at heart, and I am excited about the good things we can do as a team," Duncan said.
The budget conference committee is composed of 10 members: five House representatives named by the Speaker and five Senate members named by the lieutenant governor.
Once the House has passed its budget plan for the biennium and the Senate has passed its budget plan for the biennium, the two are compared. If the plans do not match line-by-line, a conference committee is named. The conference committee has the option of merging the two plans or starting from scratch. It's in the conference committee where the state's biennial budget is finally written.
"It's an honor to be named to this committee," Duncan said. "It's an awesome task, but one I'm proud to take on for the people of Senate District 28."
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