Sen. Steve Ogden has been candid that the budget bill he proposed is not attractive: he says there’s no way he could get 21 votes to pass it. But the reaction to the Senate proposed budget filed this week has been met with a lot less anxiety than the House proposal.
Perhaps the House broke the bad news and therefore the Senate’s version – slightly higher – looks better by comparison. At the same time, Senate leaders have been more optimistic that a really draconian budget plan won’t be necessary. One reason is the steady message delivered by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst – that the last half year of sales tax receipts are slowing inching up, promising a rebound in the state’s treasury. If the trend continues, Comptroller Susan Combs will be able to raise her estimate before the Legislature adjourns.
Senate leaders are also convinced that the Rainy Day Fund should – and will - be tapped into to fashion a reasonable budget plan.
According to Sen. Bob Deuell, the effect of the shortfall also could be trimmed by writing a 23-month budget – effectively pushing one month’s expenses to the next biennium, when, indications are, the economy – and sales tax receipts – will be healthier. Such a plan would save $4 billion to $5 billion.
So the Senate’s rosier scenario is: a better revenue estimate in April or May, tapping the Rainy Day Fund, and blunting the pain with a 23-month spending plan.
Not that Ogden is sugar-coating the state’s financial situation. When asked how concerned school superintendents should be, Ogden’s advice was: “Plan for the worst and hope for the best.”