Opening the floor debate on the budget bill, Finance chair Steve Ogden defended his use of federal stimulus funds and not dipping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, noting that the $182.25 billion spending plan is seven percent higher than last biennium. “That is attributable to the federal stimulus funding,” he said. “It did stimulate our budget. We’re seven percent higher than we would have been without the money.” In response to questions from Sens. Eliot Shapliegh and Rodney Ellis, Ogden said he could assure the Senate the Finance Committee was not “reckless” in how it interpreted federal rules on spending the stimulus money. He made the case for leaving the Rainy Day Fund alone: “Things can get worse before they get better. You will see …serious deterioration in sales tax collections, showing that state of Texas slowing down faster than we thought. I think that’s getting ready to happen.” Next session, he said, the Legislature will likely be” out of balance by 10 billion (because of built-in commitments like property tax cuts.) “We will really be in the tank if we spend our Rainy Day Fund now,” he said.
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