State lawmakers will be heading to Austin next week and there is a full load of challenges on the horizon.

The 82nd Texas Legislature is scheduled to convene on January 11 and end on May 30. State Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) represents Senate District 2, which includes Rockwall County. Deuell said one of the first items on the agenda is addressing a projected multi-billion dollar shortfall in the upcoming biennial budget.

“We really don’t know how much we are not going to have, because the Comptroller hasn’t told us,” Deuell said.

There has been speculation the gap could be as wide as $25 billion.

“I think it is probably closer to $15 to $18 billion,” Deuell said.

Of course, that’s still a lot of money, but Deuell noted how the state has $8 billion in its “rainy day fund.”

In setting the 2005-2007 biennial budget, the state was facing a $10 billion shortfall and had no reserves upon which to rely. Deuell said back then, the legislature passed a 23-month budget which drastically reduced the deficit, delaying the need to consider any major reductions. He explained a similar procedure might be implemented this time, in the hopes the economy might improve during the interim.

“I’d rather not cut something and then find out we didn’t have to,” Deuell said.

When the gavel falls, the Texas House will begin the process of drafting the budget. Deuell, meanwhile, is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

“We will begin holding hearings almost immediately,” Deuell said. “We’ll get to look at the budget and health care issues.”

For more, see the Jan. 7 issue of the Rockwall County Herald-Banner.

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