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Budget: Conference Committee to Resolve Differences

By Paul Emerson
TAC State Financial Analyst

With two full weeks remaining in the legislative session, the state budget has reached the next stage — appointment of conference committee members from the House and Senate to iron out the differences between the two chambers’ versions of the budget.

The Senate and House budget version differ by a huge amount — $12 billion. This difference assumes the change in the method of finance is able to raise the $3 billion that will no longer be used from the Rainy Day Fund.

APPOINTMENT OF CONFERENCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS:

Last week, the following House members were appointed as conferees: Chairman of House Appropriations Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton), Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton) and Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond).

The Senate also appointed its conferees. They are: Chairman of Senate Finance Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan), Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands).

Both conference committees are dominated by Republicans; only two Democrats are serving on each committee. And, according to the House and Senate Rules, for the conference committees to confer with one another, only a majority (three conferees on each side) is needed for approval.

During conference committee, there is no posting of time or location where the members may meet. Traditionally, conference committee members try to meet as a full body, but with the budget shortfall lingering this session, meetings may operate differently.

SUMMARY BUDGET DOCUMENT:

The Texas Association of Counties County Information Project (CIP) has put together an abbreviated four-page document comparing the current budget (2011-12) with each chamber’s final state budget. The last two columns on the far right in the table show the percent change between the current budget and the final budget for each chamber. This makes it easier for readers to identify how much funding was reduced from both versions of the state budget.

In addition, CIP has put together a longer and a more comprehensive report that describes 40 or more agency’s programs that directly/indirectly impact counties. The highlighted sections represent changes that were made to each program during the budgetary process on both sides of the chamber. These figures also include the introduced base bill for both sides, as well as the final version for each bill.

For more information on this article, contact Paul Emerson, TAC state financial analyst, at (800) 456-5974 or .