Texas Senate Budget Proposal Is Worse Than You Think

On January 24, the Texas Senate Finance Committee will hear invited and public testimony on its 2018 and 2019 budget proposals for the Texas Education Agency, Teacher Retirement System, and other public school and higher education services that receive state funding. Public testimony on health and human services is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31. These are the only opportunities this legislative session for formal public testimony on health or education funding so come speak up for your priorities. Concerned Texans may also want to visit the Capitol on various advocacy days organized by community organizations across the state.
We’re still digging through the details of the Senate’s starting-point budget proposal (Senate Bill 1) and how it differs from the House’s version (House Bill 1). The two budget drafts are $5.3 billion apart in General Revenue spending for 2018-19, with most of the gap accounted for in health care – Medicaid. The Senate Finance proposal does not yet address the $1.2 billion needed for Medicaid in 2017,  to continue serving 4.1 million low-income children, seniors, pregnant women, and Texans with disabilities.
The House’s draft budget is a much more responsible starting point.
One important detail we’re being asked about is how SB 1 would make an additional round of 1.5 percent cuts ($1 billion) in General Revenue on top of what’s outlined elsewhere in the budget. Tucked away in Article IX of SB 1 is this provision:
agency chart
This means that the Senate would make the following cuts, in addition to what the rest of SB 1 proposes, to get to its General Revenue 2-year budget of $103.6 billion:

“Article” of the appropriations bill
Impact of a 1.5% General Revenue Cut (million $)
General Government (includes Comptroller of Public Accounts, Attorney General, Governor, Facilities, Commission, etc.) -49
Health and Human Services -489
Agencies of Education
(except for Foundation School Program)
Judiciary -8
Public Safety and Criminal Justice -173
Natural Resources -12
Business and Economic Development -8
Regulatory -5
Legislature -6
Total -$1,058

Texas has sufficient revenue to avoid cuts to health care and education.
Let’s remember that the House and Senate could avoid making these cuts, and instead make strategic improvements in state services in 2018 and 2019, if lawmakers approve using part of the state’s massive Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund).  This fund will contain $11.9 billion by 2019, and lawmakers should use it to prevent sudden, massive cuts like the ones the Senate proposes to schools, health care, higher education, and other services that rely on General Revenue.
CPPP will follow the upcoming Senate Finance Committee hearings closely. Follow me on Twitter for the latest updates.

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