Yesterday, the Texas House approved a balanced state budget for the 2014-2015 biennium. The budget does not exceed the state’s constitutional spending limit, maintains a robust Rainy Day Fund for future emergencies, and does not raise taxes.
“I am pleased that we were able to pass a balanced state budget that does not raise taxes, maintains a robust Rainy Day Fund for future emergencies, and stays within our constitutional spending limit,” said Bohac.
SB 1 includes increased funding for public education, restoring nearly all cuts from the state’s General Revenue Fund in 2011, when the legislature faced a $27 billion budget deficit. Additionally, the legislature completely funded enrollment growth. The budget also provides for nearly $1.2 billion in tax relief for Texas citizens and businesses and creates a revolving-loan fund to jump-start water projects, a top priority in light of historic drought and potential business and job loss to the state (Texas voters will have the opportunity to authorize $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for this new water fund through a Constitutional Amendment election in November 2014).
Mental health services received a vitally important increase of $259 million which will help divert Texans with mental health problems out of our criminal justice system and into treatment. To help keep the fund sound, the Teacher Retirement System will benefit from an additional $530 million and teachers who have been retired for more than 15 years will receive of a cost-of-living increase.
“Education has always been one of my top priorities, and I am especially proud that we were able to come together and restore nearly all of the cuts that were made to public education during the previous session,” said Bohac. “This responsible state budget represents our commitment to setting the appropriate long-term priorities that will keep Texas on the path to prosperity.”
"The Texas Legislature took a big step towards ending budget diversions and increasing transparency by correcting $400 million in diversions over the next biennium," Bohac said. "When we have dedicated accounts that are set up for a specific purpose, we need to ensure that those funds are used for that purpose and not used as a budgetary accounting gimmick."
HIGHLIGHTS OF STATE BUDGET (SENATE BILL 1)
(All figures below represent General Revenue and are compared to 2012-13 estimated spending levels.)
MAINTAINS FISCAL DISCIPLINE
- Stays below the constitutional spending limit
- Funded within available revenue
- Will allow for more than $1.2 billion in tax relief
- Does not rely on Rainy Day Fund dollars
- Fully funds enrollment growth
- $3.2 billion increase for the Foundation School Program (in addition to enrollment growth)
- $530 million to strengthen the Teacher Retirement System
- Increase in TEXAS Grant funding so that about 87 percent of eligible students are covered
- Reduces the need for tuition increases by boosting per-student funding at colleges and universities
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
- Savings of $400 million from new Medicaid cost-containment initiatives
- $18 million in new state funding for Inspector General to increase identification of waste, fraud and abuse in Medicaid program
- $259 million in new state funding for mental health programs
- Funding to lower caseloads and reduce delinquent investigations at Child Protective Services
- Increases transparency by using more gas-tax dollars directly for roads – eliminates $400 million in Fund 6 diversions
- Salary increases for correctional officers and Schedule C employees (law enforcement)
- 1 percent pay raise for state employees in 2014; 2 percent in 2015
Rep. Dwayne Bohac represents House District 138. He is a lifelong district resident.
[via Your Houston News]