Patrick Michels

Senate Passes Budget Bill Over Tea Partiers’ Quiet Objections


Above: Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands)

In a surprisingly quick move, the Senate passed SB 1—the $196.95 billion state budget for the next two years—late Saturday afternoon on a 27-4 vote, without any vocal opposition from conservative members voting against it.

The budget spends $94.6 billion from general revenue, an 8.3 percent increase over the current fiscal biennium.

“The state budget reflects our commitment to conservatism by cutting approximately $1.3 billion in taxes,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a statement.

Dean of the Senate John Whitmire (D-Houston), spoke in favor of the bill. “All 31 districts have been represented in this document. I think it’s a document that’s reasonable, and one that will serve this state for the next two years,” he said.

Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams reflected on the product of his first session as lead budget author, and angry emails he’s received calling him “socialist” for spending more than last session’s meager budget. “I find that kind of amusing, actually,” he said.

Conservative Greenville Republican Sen. Bob Deuell also spoke on behalf of the budget, calling supporters of family planning budget cuts “short-sighted.” Deuell has proposed and supported anti-choice bills this session, but was vocal about the need for family planning funding. “There are people who don’t understand when you don’t fund family planning, you’re going to end up with more unwanted pregnancies, people on welfare, abortions.”

Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)—who derailed the budget process at the tail-end of the 2011 session as a protest over cuts to education—also spoke in favor of the new budget bill.

“For those that say that this is an excessive budget … I would just take a moment to remind us all of the items for which Texas is known, but that not a single person on this floor would say that we are proud of. We know that we are dramatically underfunding our infrastructure. And, as Senator Duncan pointed out, with the tremendous growth that we have, while that’s been wonderful for our economy, in some ways, it’s been tremendous stress on us as well,” she said. “This is … a product that we should all be proud of.”

Tea party Senators Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) all voted against the budget, but none spoke against it this afternoon.

The House, which wrapped up a light day of business earlier, will take up SB1 on Sunday afternoon along with other major bills. Lawmakers will also need to pass a handful of other supplemental budget bills that round out a delicate deal between Republicans and Democrats.