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State Budget Conference Committee to be appointed

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A special committee of lawmakers is expected to be appointed next week to draft a final compromise state budget.

The State House approved its $193 billion budget plan last night, which is about $2 billion less than the plan passed by the Texas Senate a few weeks ago. Both budgets provide more money for schools, health care, student aid and they also give state employees a modest pay raise.

A Conference Committee will now make adjustments to both plans --- for a final version that has to be voted on and passed before the end of May.

Political analyst Chuck McDonald told FOX 7 the process could get a little bumpy.

"It has been a remarkably congenial session up to this point, but the budget Conference Committee is really where you put all of that to test," said McDonald

The House budget plan increases state spending by 7 percent. Lawmakers have extra money to work with because of an increase in sales tax revenue.

"I think there is going to be a surprise you and I are not even thinking about right now, but that typically tends to happen, and remember we've got money right now and they can get creative and find ways to do some things that have not been addressed in either the House or the Senate," said McDonald.

The dueling plans have set up a potential fight over the House ban of public funds going to private schools and the Senate leadership blocking any attempt to expand Medicaid.

"Medicaid Expansion, School Vouchers are two programs that are really ... nothing is ever dead until its dead ... but they are in trouble," said McDonald.

Both issues could become bargaining chips to win votes for a final compromise Conference Committee budget. The wildcard could be the Rainy-Day Fund which is estimated to reach about $11 billion by 2015.

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