Rainy Day Fund

Lower Colorado River Authority

Parts of Central Texas saw as much as 12 inches of rain over the weekend. Water levels in the Highland Lakes  rose slightly, but the storm was far from a drought-buster.

Lakes Travis and Buchanan remain only about one-third full. 

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

The legislative session ends today – meaning lawmakers had a late final night of debating and voting on bills before today's mostly ceremonial end. Lawmakers did finally pass the one bill they’re constitutionally required to -- the state budget.

Texas Tribune http://www.texastribune.org/texas-legislature/82nd-legislative-session/appropriations-oks-31-billion-from-rainy-day-fund/

There’s a debate right now over what Texas lawmakers should do with the money in the Rainy Day Fund. The fund was set up in the 1980s to smooth out the differences from times of oil boom and bust.

Some see now as a boom time, because of the growth of energy production from hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," but others see the threat of stormy times ahead.

Daniel Reese

A plan approved today by the Texas Senate Finance Committee would spend a lot of money on water and road projects if Texas voters give the go-ahead.

A constitutional amendment proposed by committee chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, would tap into the Rainy Day Fund, which is money mostly from the state’s gas and oil tax revenues, for transportation and water projects.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Should Texas take money from the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund for water projects? It’s an idea that will get a closer look today.

Lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee are holding a public hearing this morning on the proposal. The bill would set aside $2 billion from the economic stabilization or "Rainy Day" fund for water projects.

The bill’s author – Rep. Allan Ritter (R-Nederland) – says prolonged statewide drought has revealed the importance of developing a dedicated source of revenue for the state’s water plan.

Texas Tribune

The Moody’s credit rating agency says last week’s Texas school finance ruling could have a negative effect on the state’s credit rating.  Last week, a state district court ruled that the present school finance system is unconstitutional, in part because it inadequately funds public schools.

Moody’s is not downgrading Texas’ coveted triple-A credit rating, but the report suggests that could all change if the state is forced to tap its reserves to overhaul the school finance system.

Gov. Perry called on legislators to back his "Budget Compact" today.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry is calling on state lawmakers to cut spending and keep taxes level in the state’s next budget. Perry unveiled details of the “Texas Budget Compact” in Houston today.

“By keeping this tight rein on spending, we can build a more solid, predictable economy that doesn’t put off tough decisions until, in some cases, it’s too late to deal with them,” Gov. Perry told the crowd in Houston. In details noted on the Governor’s website, Perry also called to “preserve a strong Rainy Day Fund” and “cut unnecessary and duplicative government programs and agencies.”

The state is in the middle of a two year budget passed by lawmakers in 2011. That budget cycle cut spending by $15 billion.

Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News

Because Texas doesn’t have enough money to run the state for the rest of the fiscal year, legislators gave initial approval to HB 275 today, authorizing a $3.1 billion withdrawal from the so-called rainy day fund to help  pay for a more than $4 billion supplemental appropriation. That bill is also set for final passage on Friday.

Photo illustration by: Todd Wiseman, courtesy of the Texas Tribune.

Should School Districts Use Their Rainy Day Funds?

Under pressure to tap into the state's Rainy Day Fund, Governor Rick Perry said Texas school districts should dip into their own reserve accounts first.  Gov. Perry said districts have about $12 billion in reserve accounts.  Ross Ramsey, of our political reporting partner The Texas Tribune, has a report this morning saying that suggestion is not so simple.