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Top Morning Stories April 21, 2011

Sen. Steve Ogden R-Bryan during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.
Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, courtesy of the Texas Tribune.
Sen. Steve Ogden R-Bryan during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.

Senate Committee to Take Up Budget

The Texas Senate Finance Committee will take up the state's budget and could vote on it today. The Senate's proposed cuts aren't as deep as those approved by the House.  KUT's political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune,reports Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, wants to include a measure to use $3 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget if additional revenue can't be found. Once the committee votes, the budget bill goes to the full senate.

Firefighters Hoping Weather's On Their Side

Firefighters in North Texas are hoping cooler temperatures, higher humidity and a chance of rain today will help them control a wildfire west of Fort Worth. Rain moved through North Texas last night but did not hit the area where the fire is burning according to the Associated Press. The fire, near Possum Kingdom Lake, has destroyed at least 160 homes and burned nearly 150,000 acres.

People Mourning the Loss of 2 Firefighters

A firefighter from the North Texas community of Cactus died yesterday.  Amarillo.comis reporting firefighters in that region are mourning the death of one of their own:

Cactus volunteer fireman Elias Jaquez, 49, had been in critical condition in Lubbock since being transported there April 9 with third-degree burns over more than 60 percent of his body. He died about 4 a.m. Wednesday at the Lubbock Burn Center. As news spread, Cactus City Manager Steve Schmidt-Witcher said offers poured in from fire departments across the region hoping to honor Jaquez at his funeral.  

As the Austin American-Statesmanreports, Jaquez passed away the same day a funeral was held for Gregory Simmons, a firefighter from Eastland. 

Simmons, 50, was remembered as a devoted husband and father who always helped out his fellow firefighters. After the emotional service at Leon River Cowboy Church in Olden, his flag-draped coffin was placed on top of a firetruck as more than 200 firefighters saluted.   

Austin Property Taxes Could Increase Next Year

The City of Austin is facing a $9. 8 million budget gap.  That’s assuming the city increases the tax rate the highest it can without giving voters a chance to overturn it. The owner of a $180,000 home would pay about $60 more on their property tax bill next year.  The city’s holding public meetings before it adopts a final budget in mid-September.  KUT's Matt Largey has more on the city's budget here.