- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to use billions of extra dollars on tax cuts and paying down debt without forcing lawmakers to make a politically unpopular vote to authorize more spending.

Patrick said Wednesday the proposal would free up nearly $5 billion that is otherwise off limits unless the Republican-controlled Legislature votes to bust a self-imposed spending cap. That option is politically toxic to most conservatives.

A Senate bill would instead put the onus on voters in November to decide whether the Legislature can spend additional money in economic boom times on tax cuts and debt reduction.

Gov. Greg Abbot has called for more than $4 billion in tax cuts but other needs are piling up. Those include an underfunded state pension system and health care for retired teachers.

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