|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
Protests of education cuts continue in Austin
BY VALERIE REDDELL
AUSTIN — An agreement announced by Gov. Rick Perry, Comptroller Susan Combs and House Speaker Joe Strauss to use up to $3.2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund will help the state avoid the embarrassment of not being able to pay the bills, but does not address the projected massive deficit in the 2012-2013 biennium, local school district officials said Tuesday on the condition they not be quoted individually. The fund currently has more than $9 billion. Big Sandy, Goodrich and Onalaska school districts are working feverishly to cut budgets without staff layoffs, but Livingston and Leggett are signalling some layoffs will be needed unless there’s a dramatic change in the news from Austin. Livingston ISD stands to lose about $3,042,095.54 in revenue, according to the estimates prepared by Rep. Scott Hochberg of Houston. Hochberg’s estimates of lost revenue at other Polk County districts include: Big Sandy: 672,686.42 Corrigan-Camden: 635,147.55 Goodrich: $388,481.74 Leggett: $347,211.62 Onalaska: $1,175,578.45 An analysis of the budget cuts proposed by House Bill 1 would result in the loss of 58 jobs at school districts throughout the county, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Those reductions would trigger another 81 job losses in the private sector, the report continued. While House Appropriations Committee members voted unanimously to use $3.11 million from the Rainy Day fund to offset this year’s revenue shortfall, many Republicans on the committee said they won’t tap it again to avoid painful cuts for public schools and higher education. “We’re willing to tap the rainy day fund to save face, but we’re not willing to tap the rainy day fund to mitigate the harm that is going to be inflicted upon our children,” Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio told the Austin American-Statesman. “That, in a word, is irresponsible.” The House’s rainy day fund bill, HB 275, heads next to the floor of the House where it needs 90 votes for approval. Several statewide media outlets are reporting that Gov. Perry has vowed to veto the budget bill if lawmakers attempt to use any of the remaining money in the Rainy Day Fund. The 2012-2013 biennium budget has a projected shortfall of $15 to $27 billion. The measure announced by Perry, Combs and Strauss also uses $300 million from increase sales tax collections in recent months and cuts another $800 million this year. Appropriations Committee Chairman Larry Pitts has said the committee will not approve any bills that include a tax increase.