Rep. Straus, Joe

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by: Rep. Straus, Joe

AUSTIN -- House Speaker Joe Straus asked a key House subcommittee Monday to recommend ways to make the state budget more transparent and accountable to taxpayers.

Straus said the Legislature should use the fees that Texans pay for their appropriate and intended purposes, instead of using them for budget certification.

The Legislature has increasingly used the practice of “funds consolidation” for two decades. In the current biennium, $4.9 billion will sit unspent in General Revenue-Dedicated accounts so that it can be used for budget certification. Straus noted that the state has used the practice in good and bad fiscal years, but he said now is the time to ensure that fees go toward their intended purposes – or go away.

“This move toward greater transparency will require discipline and tough choices, but I am confident that the House is up to the challenge,” Straus told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Articles VI, VII and VIII. "In the end, Texans will have a budget that is fairer, simpler and more straightforward.”

Straus acknowledged that the state will face a number of fiscal pressures in the next legislative session, including the need to pay for a Medicaid shortfall. In 2011, the Legislature also deferred a $2 billion payment to school districts into the next biennium. Therefore, he called on the Subcommittee to recommend an appropriate timeframe for reforming the use of GR-Dedicated funds. He also asked that Members address what should happen to fees when they exceed certain revenue targets or outlive their intended purposes.

“I look forward to hearing the committee’s recommendations and working with the entire House on these important, overdue budget reforms,” Straus said.


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