SENATE RELEASES PRELIMINARY BUDGET PROPOSAL
|Senator Brian Birdwell of Granbury talks with a wounded veteran on a day when the Senate honored soldiers wounded in the line of duty. Senator Birdwell, a retired Army officer, was himself wounded during the attack on the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.|
(AUSTIN) — Senators got their first look at the first draft of the state budget Monday, one that includes a billion dollars more for public education and public safety than the preliminary budget released by the House last week. The Senate's chief budget writer, Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, stressed that the budget out this week is only a starting point for the final version. "Not a single Senator has walked up to me and said, 'You know, I like that bill, let's vote it out tomorrow'", he said. "We're going to go work on it, and see what it's going to take to get 21 Senators to bring this bill to the floor."
The Senate budget doesn't use deferrals to help balance the books as in 2003, when the state was facing a $10 billion shortfall. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst addressed cuts to public and higher education, saying that savings will be made by cutting specific programs, rather than across the board cuts. The Senate Finance Committee will begin hearings on the budget beginning Monday, January 31st.
Also Monday, the Senate set out the procedure for how it will handle debate and testimony for the voter I.D. bill. The bill, which would require a photo I.D. to vote, will be heard before the Committee of the Whole Senate beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Senators will be able to question the bill's author, Senator Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay, and offer amendments. Members of the public will be allowed to testify and share their opinions on this Legislation as well.