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Billions Sitting In State Accounts Can’t Be Tapped

By Jack Fink, CBS 11 News
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Texas State Capitol

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been a rallying cry for many teachers, parents, and students all across North Texas:  Spare public schools from more than $9 billion in cuts to public schools during the next two years.

Sandy Alexander is a retired school teacher.  “I think you should never ever sacrifice education – it’s imperative to the future we keep that strong.”

But now the state is reportedly sitting on about $4 billion in taxpayer money.  Money the state can’t touch — money it can’t spend on just anything.

As Texas Monthly first reported, it was collected for specific purposes such as reducing emissions, designated trauma facilities, 9-1-1 service fees, among other purposes.

It turns out the state hasn’t used all of that money, and it’s just sitting in the accounts, unable to be touched.

Alexander says “If it’s our tax money, it should be able to be used for important things such as education.”

Katrina Pierson, a North Texas Tea Party member, says the unappropriated funds raise questions.  “Of course, it bothers me. We’re talking about taxpayers’ money regardless.”

Now, it’s caught the attention of Governor Perry.  In a statement, his spokeswoman says Perry is “interested in truth in budgeting.  If there’s money that’s being collected for an intended purpose and not being used for that purpose, we ought to end that.”

But University of Texas at Arlington political science professor Allan Saxe says if lawmakers decide to use the dedicated money for other priorities, it’s a political risk.  “Enticing is the word. Look at that money, let’s go into it, but they’re going to make a lot of people mad because a lot of that money was brought in for specific purposes.”

It’s one more thing lawmakers may consider as they decide on just how severely to cut the budget for schools and the poor.

In another move, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst’s office has announced a new senate subcommittee on fiscal matters will be formed Monday.

Dewhurst’s office says the subcommittee will be charged with finding up to $6 billion in non-tax revenues.

One possible source for that money: selling state property.

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