Spending Limit Poses Challenge for Legislature

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Texas lawmakers adopted a state spending limit yesterday that may curtail their access to money to pay for property tax relief or teacher pay raises.

The action in Austin came despite a record budget surplus.

The Legislative Budget Board is required to adopt a spending limit every two years that parallels the predicted growth of the state economy.

Officials agreed on a limit based on 13-point-one percent over the last two-year budget.

About 14 (B) billion dollars in property tax relief, passed last year under court order, will cause total state spending to rise -- surpassing the spending limit by about four (B) billion.

That means unless lawmakers find a way to exceed the constitutional cap, they'll have to cut four (B) billion dollars from last year's spending levels.

It could mean legislators would have to scrap any new spending on school enrollment growth, Medicaid caseload growth and money promised last year for teacher pay raises.