AUSTIN During hours or rigorous budget debate, state lawmakers on Friday gave tentative approval to amendments which wouldcut state spending on the arts and increase state funding of anti-abortion groups. When the Texas House of Representatives is expected to take a final vote on the state s 2012-2013 budget early Saturday morning, it is expected to include deep cuts.
Texans gathered outside the Capitol throughout the day on Friday protesting, angry over proposed cuts to mental health care spending, public school spending, and nursing homes.
But the people of Texas want something else. They want a balanced approach, said State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio. They want other ways of raising revenue besides doing cuts.
Democrats didn't sway other lawmakers. The Republican-dominated House gave tentative approval to cutting millions of dollars from the budget of the Texas Commission on the Arts. They also agreed to a plan by State Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland,to shifts tens of thousands of dollars from birth control advocacy groups for indigent women to anti-abortion groups.
We wanted it to go to a network that would provide assistance to families and an alternative to abortions, Weber said.
Even without those hot button issues, the debate over the budget was guaranteed to be divisive. Republicans had drawn a line in the sand, calling for no new taxes, meaning cuts were inevitable.
There s not going to be any more money, said State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs. We re not going to raise taxes.
Isaac is one of a very closely watched group of lawmakers Freshman Republicans many of whom were elected on a no-new-taxes pledge. He and his colleagues believe cuts now will ensure a healthier Texas in the future.
If you increase the burden on me and my constituents, people are going to lose their jobs, Isaac said. They re going to lose their cars. They re going to lose their homes.
Democrats hoped to dip deeper into the rainy day fund. They favored using 3 billion in reserves to pay current bills. However, they also wanted billions more to lessen the cuts to the 2012-2013 budget.
We are not cutting anything, said State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, who leads the House Democratic Caucus. The cost is still there. It s just a question of who s going to pay for it.