Volume XXX, Number 4
State budget on the move in both chambers
After weeks of study and discussion, a budget bill is headed to the House floor.
On Tuesday, March 24, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $209.8 billion budget on a unanimous vote. The bill (HB 1) spends about $7.7 billion more than the 2014-15 budget but leaves about $8.4 billion in available funds on the table, in addition to several billion dollars that have been set aside in the Rainy Day Fund.
Committee chair John Otto (R-Dayton) noted that about half of the $8.4 billion represent funds dedicated to a specific purpose and that the number is just $2 billion below the state’s spending cap.
The budget kept most health care funding flat but that could change when the conference committee on the budget begins in the coming weeks.
The full House was expected to take up the budget this week before they leave for their Easter break.
House leadership also announced this week that they plan to add $800 million to the budget to address school funding lawsuit that will be heard by the Texas Supreme Court late this summer. It had been expected that the Legislature would put off addressing the lawsuit until a special session after the Court ruling and it is still unclear whether Senate leadership will agree to the additional funding.
In the Senate, the Finance Committee moved closer to completing its version of the budget. The Senate budget also keeps health and human services funding near current levels but unlike the House budget does fund Medicaid cost growth.
The Senate also passed $4.6 billion worth of tax cuts this week. Included are an increase in the homestead exemption from school property taxes; a 15% cut for businesses paying the franchise tax; and a complete exemption from the franchise tax for businesses that make less than $4 million a year.
Once the Senate adopts its form of HB 1, the budget process will move to a ten member conference committee composed of five Senate and five House members. These legislators will have the difficult task of finalizing the budget before the Legislature adjourns on June 1.
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