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Lawmakers work on budget compromise

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State lawmakers spent Wednesday engaged in tense, behind-closed-doors talks in hopes of reaching a compromise on a new two-year state budget.

The main sticking point for house and senate members is a way to find extra money for education and a new statewide water plan. There is disagreement over whether or not using $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund will violate the constitutional cap on spending increases.

"I think we are going to go down to the wire, I think they will attempt to move the appropriations bill pretty rapidly but the wheels are still turning," said State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D) Austin.

If a deal is not reached by the end of the month, a Special Session will have to be called.

"I did bet a Coca-Cola that we'd probably be here in a June and that's my judgment because the Governor is very serious about redistricting, the budget and tax cuts, so that's my belief we will be in a special session," said State Senator John Whitmire (D) Houston.

Along with a possible Special Session for the budget, lawmakers are already preparing for an education Special Session next year. That's when a State Supreme Court ruling is expected on the funding formula which a lower court earlier declared was unconstitutional.

In other action at the state Capitol, the Senate gave final approval to a bill creating new limits to the powers of university Regents. The restrictions mainly focus on authority to fire campus Presidents and also require Regents to under undergo ethics training. The vote sends the bill to Gov. Rick Perry for his signature.

While that legislation is in question, Governor Perry is expected to sign another bill sent to him Wednesday. The Michael Morton Law requires state Prosecutors to share more information with the defense attorneys in criminal cases.

The legislation was spurred by the wrongful conviction in Williamson County of Morton for the murder of his wife. He spent 25 years in prison before being cleared by DNA evidence. Morton will join Governor Perry at the Capitol Thursday for a signing ceremony.

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