A lean $58.6 billion state budget bill that includes cuts from education to health care was passed early Monday by the House Appropriations Committee.
The 19-2 vote sent the two-year spending plan to the full House, which is expected to begin days' of debate on the 2004-05 budget next week.
House budget writers had been constrained by $9.9 billion shortfall and promises of no new taxes from the state's new Republican leadership, meaning deep cuts were contemplated across state government.
The $58.6 billion in state money appropriated in the bill is 3.4 percent less than the $62 billion in state money spent in the current budget.
When federal and other funds are added, the 2004-05 budget recommendation totals $117.7 billion, just about even with how the current all-funds spending plan will total when the fiscal year ends Aug. 31.
Most of the funds — $48.8 billion, or 41.5 percent — were allocated to public schools, colleges and universities.
But there still was slashing to education, including textbook purchases, the Texas Grant scholarship program and cuts to retired and active teachers' health insurance.
In the $40.9 billion health and human services area, 56,000 frail and elderly Texans will lose home-care services, 17,000 low-income pregnant women will lose Medicaid and programs such as the Children's Health Insurance Program were scaled back, leaving hundreds of thousands of youngsters without coverage.
In my mind, if there really is such a thing as a "compassionate conservative," that conservative shouldn't be watering down his or her philosophy with half-measures that keep these institutions in place. Such a person would look to long-term ways of reducing the size and reach of the state but put their creativity into ways of easing the affected populations into their new responsibility. It would be an exit strategy for unnecessary state agencies, not a way of preserving them over time in a slightly diluted manner. It's an active attack on non-limited government, not an acceptance of the status quo.
The Legislative Budget Board website for 2004-2005 has the detailed data on the budget estimates and proposals.
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