SENATE APPROVES TAPPING RAINY DAY FUND
(AUSTIN) — The Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a measure that would use the state's emergency fund to put billions more into state infrastructure and education, pending voter approval. SJR 1 would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would let voters decide whether or not to use part of the Rainy Day Fund, which is expected to reach nearly $12 billion by the end of the biennium.
The measure by Finance Committee Chairman Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands would put money into three areas: water infrastructure, transportation and public education. The bill would fund the state's water infrastructure fund with $2 billion. It would increase funding to the Texas Department of Transportation by $2.9 billion. A final $800 million goes to public education, split between general funding and a teacher merit pay program for teachers. This money combined with funding increases for education in the Senate budget passed last month would mean about $6 billion more for public education funding for the upcoming biennium.
Governor Rick Perry, who strongly opposed using Rainy Day Fund money to balance the budget during last session's financial crisis, said this session he would support using some fund money for state water infrastructure. He hasn't supported using that money for public education, but a resolution like the one passed by the Senate Tuesday would bypass the governor's desk and put the issue directly before voters. The bill must still be approved by a two-thirds vote of the House before it can be placed on the ballot in November.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, April 24 at 11 a.m.