Comments on HB 2, the Supplemental State Budget Bill for 2021-2023

Every Texan understands that HB 2 is a complex effort to bring the Texas state budget into balance for the remainder of the 2020-2021 biennium and to free up General Revenue that will help maintain state services through 2023.

However, we have been, and continue to be concerned, about House Bill 2’s 5-percent interim reductions — to health care/SNAP/TANF eligibility determination staff at the Health and Human Services Commission, for example, and to higher education overall — because many of these reductions have become part of the General Revenue baseline used for the 2022-2023 budget proposals, and some could remain there after House mark-up, floor debate, or the conference committee report on the final Senate Bill 1.

Inadequate eligibility staffing, as the HHSC noted in September 2020, has the “Potential reduction impact [to create a] decrease in eligibility determination timeframes; [and to] increase the agency’s risk of not meeting federally required eligibility determination target timeframes.”

Higher education’s loss of state General Revenue support, combined with the COVID19 impacts on public colleges and universities, has led to staffing reductions and other actions which could further endanger Texas college students’ ability to complete their degrees on time.

Every Texan is therefore pleased to see the House’s intent in the HB 2 committee substitute to use $876 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund as part of the 2021-23 budget proposals, and urges the House Appropriations committee and all members of the Texas House to use more ESF as needed, as well as additional federal aid, to restore state support to agencies and colleges helping Texans access the health, nutrition, education, and social services they need to fully and equitably recover from the pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. The links in the American Rescue Plan between state support for higher education, and federal aid for public K-12 education, are yet one more reason to provide our public colleges and universities and state financial aid programs the resources they clearly need.

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