Texas lawmakers finally pass two-year, $ 248.6 billion state budget, sent to Gov. Greg Abbott
This is a developing story.
AUSTIN – The House, joining the Senate, on Thursday gave its final approval to a state budget of $ 248.6 billion over two years.
The House action concluded work on a spending plan that lawmakers say delivers on its 2019 promises to better fund public schools, though critics have called it too loud for the needs of one. Fast growing state.
Including federal funds and investment income, the budget would spend about 5% less than the one Texas lives in – and which expires Aug.31.
Such a reduction “on paper” is very unusual. But the same was true last year, as COVID-19 and skyrocketing unemployment hit the Texas economy. Fears of a massive budget deficit increased last summer, then eased with the rebound in consumer spending by state residents.
In 2019, lawmakers passed a budget that also called for spending $ 248 billion in “all funds”. However, federal coronavirus aid funds that have flowed into Texas since then have increased spending in the current cycle to $ 262.1 billion – nearly $ 14 billion more than allowed in the next budget, Senate Bill 1.
The House sent SB 1 to Governor Greg Abbott, 142-6. Voted four Democrats, including Michelle Beckley of Carrollton and Jasmine Crockett of Dallas; and Republicans Jeff Cason of Bedford and Bryan Slaton of Royse City.
Members of the House also approved and sent Abbott a supplementary supply bill, House Bill 2.
This was after a 59-second explanation by the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Greg Bonnen. The vote was 147-0.
Bonnen, R-Friendswood, called SB 1 a “conservative budget” which remains subject to various tax restrictions in the state constitution.
To maintain wiggle room under a constitutional ceiling, for example, House-Senate budget negotiators increased general spending in the current cycle by about $ 3 billion – adding $ 1 billion to a fund for relief from property tax and nearly a billion dollars for building. the pension fund of the employee pension system.
The increase in current spending creates an additional margin below the ceiling for spending in the next 2022-2023 cycle.
SB 1 is “a bill that all of us can be very proud of,” Bonnen said.
“It represents the priorities of Texans across the state.”
As Progressive Democrats say they are unhappy, lawmakers have resisted the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and angered by negotiators’ increased spending on state border security – at 1 .05 billion dollars – they are relieved to have a say in the disbursement of federal stimulus. money this fall.
Last-minute language ensured it won’t be spent unless lawmakers have a say, and Abbott has vowed to add the topic to a scheduled fall special session on redistribution.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner of Grand Prairie said that despite doubts the budget did not provide financial relief to Texans hit by the winter storm, but included $ 50 million for the centers pregnancy crisis, he would vote for because he is proud of this budget.
Turner and Bonnen trumpeted how the budget fully funds school improvements, teacher salary increases, and local school property tax cuts that lawmakers passed in 2019.
“We are keeping our commitment to our schools,” Bonnen said.
“The biggest victory … is for education,” said Turner, who praised members of the budget conference committee for finding an additional $ 380 million to cover higher education enrollment growth over the years. next two years.
As Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson led the package to senators’ unanimous approval on Wednesday, she recounted the dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.
“When I started working on this budget over a year ago, it was like someone took boxes of puzzles and threw them in the air and all the pieces fell, and we had to unravel it and put these puzzle pieces together, ”Nelson, R-Flower Mound recounted.
But state leaders forced agencies to cut spending and the economy rebounded, she said.
“Slowly but surely these pieces are fitting together,” Nelson said.