House Appropriations approved a revised budget proposal for the next biennium today, and we covered it with live analysis on Twitter.
First, the committee increased general revenue spending in the budget proposal by $5.7 billion over the bill as introduced, and a large portion of the increase goes to highways.
But even with the increase, many agency requests have gone unfulfilled. For example, the TEXAS Grants did not receive the funding needed to continue providing financial aid to college students at current levels, and may therefore have to once again reduce individual grant amounts or restrict eligibility.
House budget writers left over $8 billion on the table in available general revenue, and have $2 billion in wiggle room under the spending growth cap. These funds could go a long way to increasing investments in Pre-K, community mental health services, community colleges, and other services that benefit hardworking Texans and businesses. Now these needs are competing with the tax cuts promised by leaders in both chambers.
Taking a longer view of spending, it becomes clear that despite having more resources to address the needs of our growing state, House budget writers are opting to do even less for the people of Texas. When adjusted for population growth and inflation, the proposal actually cuts spending relative to the current budget. Without smart investments now, the future prosperity of the state is in serious jeopardy.
House members will debate HB 1 on the floor on Tuesday, March 31.
They may change the distribution of funds using amendments, but they can’t increase the total amount of general revenue spent.
The Senate, meanwhile, is working on its own proposal, and differences between the two will have to be resolved in conference committee (learn more about the budget process).