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Top Stories May 29, 2011

Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News.
With a budget passed, lawmakers turn to SB 1811 to find out how to pay for it.


Legislators passed a new, very tight state budget Saturday night – one that conservatives hail as a fiscally responsible victory that shows the state can make tough choices in hard times and which democrats decried as a long list of poor choices that will hurt students from Pre-K through college, families and those with disabilities.

In a statement, House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) said, "Facing a daunting budget challenge in the aftermath of the worst national recession since World War II, members have made many difficult choices. The end result is a budget that is lean, but prioritizes education while taking care of vulnerable residents in nursing homes and strengthening border security. By balancing the budget and avoiding new taxes, we will help our Texas economy continue to grow and add jobs."

But critics including Lon Burnham (D-Fort Worth) said Texans deserve a better budget. “The state portion of the budget is $18 billion short of the funds needed to maintain current service levels for a growing population,” Burnham wrote. “The budget eliminates financial aid for 29,000 low-income college students and cuts funding to nursing homes by $1.6 billion. It also cuts a historic $4 billion in statutorily-required funding for public schools that will result in pink slips for 40,000 to 50,000 school district employees.”

The state constitution requires lawmakers to pass a budget. But this one won’t work until they tackle SB1811. They are expected to take that up today.

It’s going to be a hot day. Around 95 degrees, with winds from the south about 15 miles an hour. If you’re heading to Lake Travis, be warned that water levels are low, and that brings out a number of hazards for boaters, from islands to rocks lurking just beneath the surface. Only three ramps are open so getting on the water is likely to take longer than usual.

If you row clear of the lake and prefer to enjoy the Memorial Day Sunday at a park, remember there are burn bans in place across all five counties in Central Texas, including Travis, Hays, Williamson and Bastrop.

Emily Donahue is a former grants writer for KUT. She previously served as news director and helped launch KUT’s news department in 2001.