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Budget nears completion

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(Austin)  Budget writers completed deliberations on the state appropriations bill late Wednesday night, and the Senate's Finance Committee Chairman said the budget will move out of committee early next week. 

Bryan Senator Steve Ogden appeared with Finance Committee Vice Chair Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa of McAllen and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst Thursday to talk about important provisions of 2010-2011 state budget.  "I'm proud of the budget," said Ogden. 

"It is balanced, I think we used the stimulus money about as wisely as we possibly could, and I think as we go forward, the state of Texas is going to be in good shape with this budget."

Ogden highlighted three major shifts in spending policy represented in the budget bill.  First, is a substantial increase in money for Texans with intellectual disabilities. 

The budget has $500 million more for community-based services for these individuals, which Ogden believes will cause a shift from institutionalized treatment to treatment options closer to home. 

The second shift centers around public education spending.  Ogden said the conference committee put $1.9 billion more toward public education, contingent on a new school finance bill, one that emphasizes transparency and equity, clearing the Legislature, a prospect about which he is optimistic. 

The final change is a shift in funding for the Texas Department of Transportation.  This session's budget, said Ogden, reduces diversions from the state highway fund by $400 million, and utilizes billions in voter- approved general obligation bonds toward transportation infrastructure. 

The final state budget will be voted out of committee Tuesday, said Ogden, and will be ready for a vote in both chambers before the end of next week.  The Senate will reconvene Friday, May 22 at 11 a.m.

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