Dave McNeely: Will Texas lawmakers invest or cut taxes?

As the Texas Legislature kicked off its 140-day regular biennial session, the state’s top three leaders were touting the same message: Texas ain’t Washington.

Republican Joe Straus, just re-elected to a third term as House speaker, bragged that, “In the Texas House, we don’t put the Republicans on one side of the room and the Democrats on the other.”

Unlike Washington, “we work with our colleagues, regardless of party,” said Straus, who became speaker in 2009 with near-unanimous Democratic help to oust Republican predecessor Tom Craddick.

First drafts of state budget hold the line on spending

AUSTIN – The Republican-led Legislature plunged into the opening round of writing a new state budget Monday as leaders in the House and Senate released separate initial spending plans that drew quick attacks from critics for failing to restore more than $5 billion in education cuts imposed by lawmakers two years ago.

House leaders are calling for $187.7 billion in spending over the next two years, while the Senate version proposes $186.8 million.

Reflecting a directive from Gov. Rick Perry, the budgets essentially take a hold-the-line approach to spending and are substantially below robust revenue projections available to lawmakers for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal biennium, which starts in Sept. 1. The Senate proposes a $3.1 billion, or 1.6 percent, decrease from current spending while the House would cut spending by $2.2 billion or 1.2 percent.

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