Perry signs $151 billion budget

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 22, 2007, 3:34am

Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 1 into law, approving a $151.9 billion budget for the state of Texas in 2008-2009.

"The budget passed by the 80th Legislature will ensure Texas continues on the path of prosperity; building and strengthening the distinct pillars that create a great society: quality education, health care and security," Perry said in a press release. "Legislators should be proud of their work, but be ever cognizant that more is still to be done."

The budget signed by Gov. Perry increases general revenue spending by $7.7 billion, or 11.8 percent, compared to the current biennium. Ninety percent of growth is due to increased funding in education, human services, criminal justice and the environment.

Among increases, border security funding is up by more than $100 million. An additional $146 million will be invested in college financial aid and hundreds of millions went to teacher incentive programs.

Many budget increases dealt with health issues, including hundreds of millions of dollars to help Texans purchase private and employer-sponsored health insurance and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

The budget also includes a new film incentive program to encourage filmmakers to shoot in Texas.

However, the governor also used his line-item veto power to reduce the two-year budget by $570 million.

"While I support many of the investments in the budget, I am concerned this budget is not transparent; rather it continues billions of dollars of accounting gimmicks and neglected opportunities to provide relief to the taxpayers who footed the bill," said Perry. "Not one cent of more than $7 billion unspent by this legislature went to additional tax relief. Instead of leaving all that money in a government bank account, I believe we should have invested some of it in the economy through tax cuts."

As passed by the legislature, special items funding for agencies and institutions of higher education totaled $1.2 billion, or 19.5 percent of the total higher education general revenue funding. Because special earmarks for local institutions often don't meet the statewide goals of our higher education system, Gov. Perry vetoed more than $35.8 million of the $123 million in earmarks that were disclosed as single line-items.

The budget for FY 2008-09 takes effect September 1, 2007.

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