National budget deal would free up money for Texas

April 12, 2011 11:07:47 AM PDT
A deal on the federal budget would remove the strings attached to $883 million in stimulus funds for Texas. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, said in a statement released Tuesday that he hoped lawmakers would use the money to fill an $8 billion gap in schools funding over the next two years. Overall, Texas faces a $27 billion budget shortfall in order to maintain the current level of services.

"Removing all accountability on Governor Perry's use of $830 million of federal aid to education by repealing the 'Save Our Schools' Amendment is one of many unwise concessions made to Republicans to avoid their threatened government shutdown," Doggett said. "If this federal money is added to the funding for our schools contained in the State Senate Finance bill, our purpose can still be achieved."

Perry has blasted Doggett for attaching strings to the federal stimulus money and Texas Republicans made repealing the amendment a priority.

The Texas-specific provision required that Perry promise the state will maintain certain education spending levels through 2013 in order to get the funds. Perry complained the Texas Constitution prohibited him from committing to future state spending. Texas applied for the money anyway, but was rejected and later filed suit against the Department of Education.

Democrats in Congress said they put forth the provision, which also bypassed state lawmakers and sent the federal aid directly to school districts, because of the way Texas handled federal stimulus dollars in 2009. Texas lawmakers used $3.2 billion in federal stimulus money to replace state money and ended the legislative session with billions in the state's Rainy Day Fund.

That led to an even bigger budget shortfall this year. Texas lawmakers have proposed tapping $3.2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, but still are billions short in funding public education.

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