Texas lawmakers may need special session for budget

Reuters News
Posted: May 30, 2011 1:04 PM
Texas lawmakers may need special session for budget

By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas lawmakers could be headed to a special legislative session as early as Tuesday after a late-night filibuster on Sunday delayed a bill linked to the state budget, officials said.

The final day of the state's biennial legislative session is on Monday. But Democratic state senator Wendy Davis filibustered because she objects to budget cuts that Republican-led lawmakers plan to make to Texas schools.

Republican governor Rick Perry said on Monday that there is "still time to get the work done today."

"I hope that cooler heads prevail and that before the end of the day is up, we will have a fiscal matters bill passed so that we don't have to be back here at 8 o'clock in the morning," Perry told reporters.

Lawmakers late on Saturday sent to Perry a $172 billion, two-year state budget that spends $15 billion less than the last budget cycle.

But that 2012-2013 budget -- Texas has a two-year budget cycle -- slashes $4 billion from schools. Those cuts violate state law, so the budget plan now depends on passage of another bill that would tweak the state's school finance system and delay payments to districts.

That second bill was the subject of the Davis filibuster.

Perry has commended lawmakers for passing a state budget that doesn't raise taxes or dip into the state's $9.7 billion rainy day fund.

The House's chief budget writer, Republican Representative Jim Pitts, said the budget meets the state's needs with the resources available. The state started the legislative session in January with a budget shortfall.

But Democrats said the cuts to schools would be devastating, leading to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes.

"The priorities of hard-working Texas families have seemed to come dead last this session," Davis told reporters on Sunday.

(Editing by Peter Bohan)