Senate passes $111.7 billion state budget

AUSTIN ‘ The Senate has passed a $111.7 billion state budget, but that action is just another step in the process. The next step is a review of the budget by a House-Senate conference committee in April. The Senate’s budget provides money for state employee pay raises, new health and human services spending, new public education spending and money for Texas Grant college scholarships. Before the vote, two Democratic members, Sens. Mario Gallegos of Galena Park and Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso said Texas’ current tax structure is hurting state spending. Gallegos said the tax cut pushed through by President George W. Bush when he was governor is what has caused the state’s current budget woes. In addition to a cash shortfall, the state will lose $2 billion in matching federal funds, Gallegos said. Orient Railroad doesn’t go to the Orient You own a railroad and may not even know it. And we’re not talking a Monopoly game windfall. It received hardly any publicity, but the Texas Department of Transportation has closed a $9.5 million deal to buy the South Orient Railroad Co. The Orient Railroad, of course, does not go to the Orient. It’s as West Texas as oil wells and mesquite. The railroad cuts across the state from Coleman County to Presidio, where it connects with a Mexican rail line. The largest community served by the Orient is San Angelo. That’s where the movement to save the Orient from closure began. The state is paying $6 million to buy the Orient’s assets, from tracks to trains. Texas Pacifico Transportation, the company getting a 40-year license to operate the system will fork over the other $3.5 million. State Museum Opening Austin’s Bob Bullock Texas History Museum will officially open April 21’San Jacinto Day. A gala commemorating the opening is planned for April 28. One of the guests may be President Bush. Parks and Wildlife reward offered A $4,500 reward is being offered for information concerning the slaughter of 39 antelope in Dallam County. The animals were found dead on a ranch in Dallam County on Dec. 9 after fire fighters responded to a grass fire on the property. “This is the most wanton waste of wildlife I have seen in my 30-year career,” said Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement Director Jim Robertson. “The way these animals were killed was horrendous, about as barbaric as you can get.” Investigators said some of the antelope had been run over with vehicles, others were shot at close range with shotguns. Statewide, Texas has only 11,000 antelope, compared with more than twice that number in 1987. Anyone with information on the slaughter should call the toll free Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-793-4263.

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