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TX Governor's Budget Adds $15M for Tech Fund, Retains Enterprise Fund

February 09, 2011

Citing the need to ensure a competitive edge in the weak economic climate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is asking lawmakers to continue investing in the state's economic development tools by providing an additional $15 million for the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) and retaining funding for the Texas Enterprise Fund in the coming biennium. The governor also is proposing $50 million for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) scholarships and $32 million to increase STEM academies.

Gov. Perry is seeking $219.2 million for his priorities and initiatives over the next two years, which includes the additional funds for the ETF and STEM incentives as well as $20 million for the Film and Video Game Incentive program and $11.3 million for Economic Development & Tourism. House and Senate committee budget recommendations unveiled last month would provide $21.3 million for the ETF in unexpended balances not obligated in the current biennium, but add no new funding. The governor's budget would add an additional $15 million to foster emerging technologies, enhance university-industry collaboration, and promote technology commercialization.

The estimated balance for the ETF in the current biennium is $137.4 million in all funds. Budget documents note the proposed decrease in funding to $21.3 million reflects the elimination of general revenue appropriations transferred to the fund and elimination of one-time federal fund reimbursements. A recent article in the Austin American-Statesman reported that the technology fund would "burn through" through its $21 million balance in a matter of weeks without additional money.

The governor supports the House recommendation for the Texas Enterprise Fund, which retains about $151 million in unexpended balances for deal-closing incentives. The Senate version would divert $50 million out of the fund with most of the money slated for workforce initiatives.

To help attract and retain graduates in STEM fields, the governor proposes $50 million in surplus funds from Texas Guaranteed for the T-STEM Challenge Scholarship program. The scholarships provide competitive awards to regional partnerships between higher education institutions, school districts and local employers. Texas Guaranteed is a public, nonprofit corporation created by the legislature to administer loan applications and provide resources for higher education access. Private industry would be required to match the $50 million appropriation. The budget includes another $32 million to increase the number of T-STEM academies by 2014.

During his State of the State address, Gov. Perry challenged colleges and universities to offer bachelor degrees for a total cost of $10,000, including books and proposed a four-year college tuition freeze, essentially locking in the price a student pays during freshman year.

Texas is facing a budget shortfall ranging from $15 billion to $27 billion, according to media reports. To address the shortfall, the governor proposes cutting nearly $5 billion in general revenue funding from public and higher education and $2 billion from health and human services, reports the Associated Press.

Gov. Perry's 2012-13 budget recommendations are available at: http://governor.state.tx.us/files/press-office/Governor-Budget-2012-13.pdf.

The House and Senate recommendations are available at: http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/.

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