Yesterday, the Austin American-Statesman ran an article titled “State comptroller certifies budget,” informing its audience that Texas Comptroller Susan Combs had verified that sufficient revenues were expected to pay for the 2012-13 budget. For a curious few, the Statesman’s article raised an interesting question: If the Comptroller had certified the budget, then what reason did the Legislature have in taking up SB 1, a major non-tax revenue bill? The answer can be found in the last rider in Article IX.
Sec. 18.115. Contingency for Senate Bill 1811. The All Funds appropriations made for theFoundation School Program (FSP) in Article III, Texas Education Agency Strategies A.1.1 and A.1.2, are contingent on enactment of SB 1811 or similar legislation by the Eighty-second Legislature, Regular Session, 2011, relating to certain state fiscal matters and that amends Chapter 42 of the Texas Education Code to adjust state aid payments to the level of FSP appropriations made elsewhere in this Act. Should this legislation fail to pass and be enacted, the All Funds appropriations for the FSP made in Article III, Texas Education Agency Strategies A.1.1 and A.1.2, are hereby reduced to zero for each year of the 2012-13 biennium, and the sum-certain appropriation identified in Rider 3 of the Texas Education Agency’s bill pattern is hereby reduced to zero for each year of the 2012-13 biennium.
As the Contingency Rider states above, if SB 1811 failed to pass during the regular session (which it did), then All Funds appropriations for the Foundation School Program would be reduced to zero for the 2012-13 biennium. Since this actually came to pass-which was as surprise to most-it inadvertently freed up about $37 billion or so in revenues that the Comptroller then used to certify the budget. Obviously, the Legislature cannot zero-fund public education, which is the reason for SB 1. But for the moment, at least, the state’s 2012-13 budget technically certifies.