Dear Chair Bonnen, Chair Huffman, and Members:
Every Texan’s mission is to strengthen public policy to expand opportunity and equity for Texans of all backgrounds. Our priorities for the 88th Legislature focused on a few key policy areas that would benefit all Texans and create a stronger community, workforce, and economy in our state.
The state budget is the primary means by which our Legislature defines its priorities. We thank you for your hard work on the budget so far, yet we believe more can be done to advance equitable policies for all Texans.
This letter first provides a brief summary of our budget conference recommendations, followed by a more detailed discussion contrasting the House and Senate bills. Overall, our recommendations emphasize the importance of making equitable investments to help Texas’s public schools, workers, and low-income residents.
Summary of Recommendations
- Pay raise for Medicaid community attendants. Every Texan prefers the more generous and equitable Senate proposal. However, we believe community attendants’ wages should be brought to $15 per hour, at a cost of $2.2 billion, according to HHSC.
- Medicaid fees for doctors and other practitioners. Texas Medicaid has not had regular inflation increases to rates for physicians and other non-hospital providers for 30 years.
- Additional staff support for Medicaid “unwinding” and maintaining 2022 pay raises for critical staff. Every Texan supports the higher funding provisions in the House bill. Without sufficient staff and other items requested by HHSC, coverage will be at risk for millions of eligible Texans.
- Increased funding for family planning and women’s health programs. Every Texan supports the higher funding provisions in the House bill, which help expand access to contraception and preventive health care, including in more rural and underserved parts of the state.
- We strongly encourage the Legislature to expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion is a common-sense measure that would support healthcare for around 1.5 million uninsured Texans, of which 90% of the cost would be covered by the federal government. It has been a clear choice for 40 states and D.C., but some Texas lawmakers continue to block it simply out of ideological rigidity in spite of the overwhelming potential benefits.
- We oppose the Alternatives to Abortion program. Both budgets significantly boost the program – $80 million per year in the House bill and $70 million in the Senate bill – but it does not constitute health care. These increases redirect funding away from actual health care services provided by Medicaid and state health agencies.
- We encourage the Legislature to realistically fund Medicaid to cover the inflation and growth in cost per Medicaid enrollee, estimated to require $2.2 billion in general revenue and $5.8 billion in all funds. Neither bill provides this funding, yet the extent to which the conference committee funds this will determine the size of the supplemental funds needed in the 2025 session.
- Maximize support for teachers, schools, and students. Both budgets include $5.0 billion in increased public education funding, contingent on the passage of other legislation. A vital next step is passage of HB 100, which includes a modest increase in the basic allotment and other provisions for which Every Texan has long advocated.
- Retain the Herrero rider in the House bill prohibiting funding vouchers or ESAs. We oppose the passage or funding of any such program, such as that envisioned by SB 8. Vouchers and ESAs take vital tax dollars from our beleaguered public school system, harming students and communities across the state.
- Benefit enhancements for TRS retirees. The House budget’s $4.4 billion one-time COLA and other supplements provide long-overdue relief for our retired public school teachers.
- Keep higher education diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in place. We strongly oppose the prohibition on higher education DEI programs, found in both budget bills but worded differently. DEI programs are vital to making our campuses more diverse, equitable, and fair.
- TEXAS Grants should be offered to the top 10% of graduating high school students. The House budget guarantees, for the 2023-24 academic year, that all eligible students graduating in the top 10% of their high school classes can receive a TEXAS Grant for higher education.
Worker Power and Fair Taxation
- Article XI includes $4.2 billion to supplement state retired employee pensions. We believe adding that item to the final budget would be an important recognition for our state worker retirees, who have not seen a cost-of-living adjustment since 2001. A good bill supported by Every Texan is HB 830, which would provide a one-time 10% bonus and 4% COLA going forward.
- The budget’s massive tax cuts are irresponsible, inequitable, and unsustainable. Of the two competing proposals, we find the Senate’s flat-dollar homestead exemption increase to be more equitable. But we cannot support it because of the package’s other provisions.
In the base budget bills, we thank you for strengthening per-child funding and method of finance for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI); supporting the growing demand for Healthy Texas Women and Family Planning Program services, and supporting the Better Birth Outcomes services detailed in the HHSC LAR.
Differences in Article II of the budget bills include:
While we appreciate the additional $5.0 billion that both House and Senate bills add to public education, both versions of the budget are light on specifics for those appropriated funds. Otherwise, the particulars of the $5 billion investment rely on pending legislation in both chambers.
Differences in Article III of the budget bills include:
To reduce the historically high turnover rate of state government employees, both the House and Senate versions of the budget include $1.8 billion to institute a 5 percent pay raise in each year of the biennium. We appreciate this nod to Texas’s state workers, and we would like it to go further by supporting HB 202, which would provide a $10,000 raise over the next biennium.
Further, we thank senators for the progress on paid parental leave for state employees in SB 222 and express our hope that all Texas workers may someday enjoy that benefit.
We believe the budget should be more fiscally responsible, and we encourage the Legislature to acknowledge the transitory nature of our $32.7 billion leftover balance and consider investing in our people. Like Texas, other states are unwisely proposing permanent tax cuts, paid for by their one-time surpluses. This session’s tax cuts will likely come back to haunt the 89th Legislature.
Again, we appreciate the Legislature’s work on the budget so far and we are eager to see even more progress on these important issues facing Texans across our state. As you continue your deliberations over the budget, please contact us if we can be of any assistance.