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Senator Nelson files budget bill

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Senator Nelson confers with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick in the Senate.

Texas State Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) on Tuesday filed SB 1, the Senate’s base budget, establishing the state’s funding priorities for the next two years.

“This base budget is a starting point, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop a balanced budget that addresses our needs and strengthens our economy.  While we will need to prioritize and make efficient use of our resources, I am confident we can meet the challenges ahead,” said Senator Nelson, chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

Last week, the Texas Comptroller issued his Biennial Revenue Estimate, indicating that the Legislature will have $104.9 billion available for the FY 18-19 budget.  SB 1 allocates $103.6 billion, including additional resources for transportation, Child Protective Services and other priorities. SB 1:

  • Continues the current funding formulas for both public education and higher education;
  • Adds $2.65 billion to cover student enrollment growth, which is projected to be more than 80,000 per year over the next two years;
  • Increases the education instructional materials allotment by $29.6 million;
  • Provides an additional $32 million for high quality pre-kindergarten;
  • Continues funding at current levels for Communities in Schools;
  • Includes $5 million for Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a new program designed to help students pursue careers in technology;
  • Provides $10 million to support Education Commissioner initiatives;
  • Maintains current funding levels for Texas’ major financial aid programs for public institutions of higher education, including TEXAS Grant;
  • Adds $44.1 million for Graduate Medical Education with the goal of ensuring that residency slots are available for Texas medical school graduates;
  • Dedicates approximately $5 billion for transportation in accordance with Proposition 7;
  • Adds $260 million to address the critical needs of Child Protective Services;
  • Provides a $1 billion commitment to improve the state hospital system and address other state facility needs;
  • Includes $63 million to eliminate waitlists for community mental health services;
  • Keeps funding for women’s health programs at current levels;
  • Maintains veterans’ services and the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, a $20 million grant program to assist veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues;
  • Fully funds the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute;
  • Maintains the additional $800 million for border security approved last session;
  • Includes $25 million for high caliber bullet-proof vests to protect Texas peace officers;
  • Directs the Department of Information Resources to study the state’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

Balancing the state’s needs against available revenue, SB 1 eliminates one-time expenditures from the previous budget; includes many agency recommendations for 4% savings; reduces funding for non-educational higher education initiatives; and calls for a 1.5% across-the-board budget reduction, exempting the Foundation School Program.

With declining oil revenue and growing needs, the Legislature faces several critical budget decisions this session, including:

  • Structuring our school finance system to better meet the needs of students;
  • Skyrocketing health care costs in Medicaid, the Teacher Retirement System, the Employee Retirement System and correctional managed care; and
  • Addressing mental health needs of the state, including infrastructure and capacity challenges within the mental health state hospital system.

“We have difficult decisions to make this session, and we will work tirelessly to address the needs of the state in a responsible manner,” Senator Nelson said.

In crafting the base budget, 16 agencies underwent strategic fiscal review – a modified form of zero-based budgeting.  In an effort to improve transparency, five agency budgets are presented in a program-based format, and members will receive a program-based version of SB 1 in its entirety. For more information on how the budget process works, visit http://www.senate.texas.gov/_assets/srcpub/85th_Budget_101.pdf

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