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Texas lawmakers will have surplus billions to spend or save

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

You could call it the Texas contradiction: a Houston mom, desperate for economic help, imploring passersby at a thriving upscale shopping center.

In other words, many in this state are doing great, but just as many or more are not.

"The state don't help," the woman said.

At exactly the same time, 160 miles away, State Comptroller Susan Combs was telling lawmakers they've got billions of additional dollars at their disposal.

"Robust revenue collections driven forward by a recovering Texas economy led by sales taxes will result in a budget surplus," Combs said, projecting new revenue of $96.2 billion.

But after paying leftover bills from the current biennium and stuffing $3.6 billion in the "Rainy Day" fund, the balance left for distribution is likely to leave many disappointed, especially advocates for Texas public schools.

"We are not going to see the restoration of the $4 billion to $5 billion cut during the 2011 session," Rice University Political Science chair Mark Jones said.

That recession-driven cut amounted to $500 dollars per student.  Given the performance of Texas schools, there will be plenty of pressure on the Republican-controlled legislature to put a sizable portion back.
"When we are talking about our future, we are talking about our children," Children at Risk executive director Bob Sanborn said.

Sanborn said Texas must get public education and mental health off the chopping block.

"In the state of Texas, we leave loads of kids behind and those kids grow up to be burdens on society," he said.

While additional state cash for kids remains in question, the issue of water seems to be one area of concern that's attracting bi-partisan consensus and consequently a sizable share of any fresh funding.

"Even the most hardcore fiscal Republican realizes that without water, the Texas economy is in trouble and the Texas population is in trouble," Jones said.

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