By Speaker Joe Straus
It’s often said that the only bill the Legislature must pass is the two-year budget providing funding for education, transportation and other responsibilities of state government. Last week, the House passed that bill with an overwhelming vote of 141 to 5.
The next step is for the Texas Senate to pass its own budget proposal. Once that happens, the two chambers will work on a final product that both the House and Senate can approve before the end of our legislative session on June 1st. I’m confident that we will find plenty of common ground with the Senate and produce a final product that’s right for our growing state. For now, my colleagues and I are very proud of the plan we approved. It is disciplined and responsible, and it focuses on key priorities. I’d like to highlight a few of those priorities:
- Fiscal discipline: The House budget increases spending by 3.8 percent, or less than 2 percent per year. It leaves $8.4 billion unspent, which will allow the House to provide meaningful tax relief. The budget also does not touch the $11 billion projected balance of our state’s Rainy Day Fund.
- Education: Within the context of this balanced budget, the House provides new resources for our public schools, our colleges and our universities. The plan also makes higher education more accessible by funding additional TEXAS Grant scholarships.
- Public Safety: The House budget will allow for the hiring of hundreds of new state troopers, which will improve safety along the Texas-Mexico border. It also funds the provisions of House Bill 11, which will bring consistency to our border-security strategy without harming public safety in other areas of the state.
- Transparency: The plan ends diversions in the State Highway Fund, meaning all of the money in that fund will actually go toward transportation. It also reduces the practice of collecting taxes and fees for one purpose, then using those dollars for something else. For example, more of the money collected in fees on drunk drivers will be used the way it’s supposed to be used – to improve hospital trauma care.
- Government Reform: The budget reforms the way the state issues and manages contracts with private vendors, providing new protections for taxpayers. It also ends the Emerging Technology Fund and requires reforms to the Texas Enterprise Fund.
My colleagues and I are very proud of the budget we passed. House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Otto and his team did an outstanding job of identifying key priorities and working with Members to build support for them. We now look forward to working with the Senate on a final plan.
And don’t worry. The budget may be the only bill that has to pass, but we aren’t stopping there. The House is going to keep addressing issues that matter to Texas and to our economic strength, and I will continue to visit with you about those efforts.