Senate Makes It Rain (Drizzle, at Least) for Public Education

Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands)
Patrick Michels
Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands)

In the end, the Senate proposal to spend $5.7 billion out of the state’s Rainy Day Fund on roads ($2.9 billion), water infrastructure ($2 billion) and schools ($800 million) was unanimous: 31-0.

Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, told lawmakers he had “woken up at 2:30 this morning not knowing how we were going to get this out of the ditch.”

During the day, according to the Austin American-Statesman, “an angry dispute over the resolution developed behind closed doors” as Democrats and Republicans tried to reach a deal.

Although Democratic proposals to fully restore the $5.4 billion cuts made to public education were rebuffed on partisan lines, the additional money for schools in Senate Joint Resolution 1 amounts to a concession by Senate Republicans.

“We are within spitting distance” of matching spending levels before the Legislature made big cuts in 2011, noted Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth).

Later, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D- San Antonio) said, “With today’s vote, we have signaled that we are no longer going to kick the can down the road on water, transportation, most importantly, the infrastructure of opportunity: education.”

Even with the additional spending, the state’s Rainy Day Fund—officially called the Economic Stabilization Fund—is expected to have a balance of around $6 billion when the Legislature meets again in 2015.

Still, for today at least, the Senate could brag on itself: It almost restored all the damage it did two years ago. Now, there’s a campaign slogan.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is the editor of the Observer.

Published at 9:00 pm CST