The Texas House and Senate released their preliminary budgets this week which kickstarts debate over public school finance reform and property tax reform, two major focal points for state lawmakers in the 86th Legislative Session.
The House budget includes more than $7 billion more into public schools, a 17% increase. The budget also includes $109 million for school safety but decreases funding to the Department of Health and Human Services by 3.2%. The Senate budget differs quite a bit with just $4.3 billion going toward public education. Their budget includes $3.7 billion for teacher pay raises which would boost every full-time public school teacher’s pay by an additional $5,000 per year. It also includes $2.3 billion to pay for property tax relief, if legislators agree to pass reforms that decrease the need for the unpopular “Robin Hood” system, which requires property-wealthy school districts to subsidize poorer ones.
Just before the start of the legislative session, Comptroller Glenn Hagar issued the Biennial Revenues Estimate (BRE) for 2020-2021. The BRE is set at $119.12 billion, an 8% increase from the last budget. The Economic Stabilization Fund, known as the state’s Rainy Day fund is set at $15.4 billion by the end of 2020-2021 biennium, still below the ESF constitutional limit of an estimated $18.6 billion. While the state’s budget is healthy this legislative session, we can expect a significant amount of funding to go towards Hurricane Harvey relief.
While fights loom on revenue caps, vouchers and tapping the Rainy Day fund, legislators seem to be focused on economic policy this session and trying to steer clear of social issues, especially under the leadership of new Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, (R-Angleton).
Senate Committee assignments were announced today. The House Committees may come a little later this month since Speaker Bonnen is meeting with members individually. Count on your Chamber to keep you updated on those committee assignments as well as any bills that may impact the business community. And, make sure to register for VIVA San Antonio 2019, the Chamber’s legislative advocacy day at the State Capitol. Click here for information on how to register as well as what sponsorship opportunities are available.