State Budget

Bob Daemmrich via Texas Tribune

A stalled oil drilling boom is forcing the state to revise its income predictions — but not enough to force any cuts in the state budget, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said Tuesday.

Hegar: 'Moderate Expansion' of Economy is Expected

Jan 12, 2015
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

Amid concerns that tumbling oil prices could push the Texas economy into a recession, Comptroller Glenn Hegar offered a cautiously optimistic tone on the future of the Texas economy Monday, announcing that lawmakers will have $113 billion to haggle over in crafting its next two-year budget.

“Our projections are based on expectations of a moderate expansion in the Texas economy and reflect uncertainties in oil prices and the possibilities of a slowing global economy,” Hegar said.

The biennial revenue estimate sets a limit on the state’s general fund, the portion of the budget that lawmakers have the most control over. The general fund typically makes up nearly half of the state’s total budget.

Lawmakers will find out this morning how much money they’ll have to work with as they craft the state’s next two-year budget. They’re expected to have plenty of wiggle room, but rapidly dropping oil prices have raised some concerns. Oil and gas prices could affect those numbers.

At the end of 2013, former Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said the state could have about $2.6 billion dollars in unspent revenue from the current budget. Some believe that surplus will be even larger when current Comptroller Glenn Hegar delivers his revenue estimate this morning. And that money could be a big help, considering the state's economic future might not be as rosy thanks to falling oil prices.

Liang Shi for KUT News

Improving mental health practices for Texas and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness is the goal of a new statewide institute. Its focus will be on children, veterans and criminal justice policies.

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute opened its doors today. Tom Luce, its chief executive officer, says the nonprofit will do research to improve access to mental health care in Texas – and not just after emergencies like the recent Fort Hood shooting.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Donna Spencer and Iliana Gilman work with Austin Travis County Integral Care, the agency that provides mental health services for low-income residents in the area. They recently walked through the site of Integral Care’s soon-to-open $2.4 million facility, inside what used to be a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club.

It’s in the southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs. This low-income, majority Latino neighborhood is getting its first mental health care facility. It’s in large part because of a federal initiative, the Medicaid 1115 waiver program, that funds experimental clinics like this one. It will offer mental health care and substance abuse treatment, along with routine primary care.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Amid all the other items on the agenda, the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature had as its primary task: passing a budget bill. Last Sunday, lawmakers praised the budget deal they'd pass before midnight. State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is the House’s chief budget writer.

"By doing all the good things that are in this budget…we are still able to increase the state budget by a percentage of less than one percent per year with adjusted dollars," Rep. Pitts said.

83rd Lege's Regular Session: What Happened, What Didn't

May 28, 2013
Bob Daemmrich/Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

It's been a whirlwind of an end to the 83rd Legislature's regular session, and with Monday's announcement of a special session, lawmakers aren't done. Here's a look at the deals reached and the measures that fell short during the 140 days of the regular session. 


Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Members of the Texas House and Senate are at their desks this afternoon as the Legislature continues to work in the final days of the 83rd session. 

State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, says they expect to bring up Senate Bill 1, the budget bill, on Sunday. He was one of the House members who worked with Senators in the conference committee on SB 1.

Photo courtesy the Texas Tribune for KUT News

Hey you remember on Friday when we announced there was a budget agreement?

Yeah, about that....

Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News.

Today was supposed to be the day. In the morning, House and Senate budget negotiators announced there would be a meeting at 2 pm, which many interpreted as the meeting that would unveil the budget agreement.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

At 2:15, the meeting was delayed until 3. At about 3:30, the meeting was delayed until 5.

Muliadi Soenaryo via Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers in the House and Senate will soon begin working out differences between their budgets. 

The longest and probably most heated debate over the budget happened last Thursday. That’s when the House passed its amended version of the state spending plan for the next two years.

Every session, House and Senate members disagree on how much to spend and which line item should get how much funding. Kate Alexander said this session will be no different.

KUT News

Update: The debate over the budget in the Texas House lasted well into the night. But it was short and relatively drama-free when compared to sessions past. The budget bill passed 135 to 12.

The two-year budget boosts state spending. It includes small raises for state employees and spares state parks from being closed.

By the end, lawmakers had agreed on what would go into the $93.5 billion state spending plan – $2.5 billion will go back into the public school funding formula after nearly $5 billion was cut in 2011.

Tamir Kalifa via Texas Tribune

While the Texas House began working through 267 amendments on the proposed budget Thursday morning, Democratic and Republican House members confirmed that potentially divisive amendments related to funding for women’s health are being withdrawn as part of a bipartisan truce.

“Both sides are standing down,” state Rep.Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said.

KUT News

The number of women served by a state family planning program in Travis County dropped 90 percent over two years, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.

That happened as funding dropped by about the same amount, which contributed to the closure of seven family planning clinics.

UT’s Texas Policy Evaluation Project released a web app today that measures the impact of cuts to the Department of State Health Services' family planning programs.

KUT News

A day after the Texas Senate passed a state budget, the House Appropriations Committee passed its version.

The bill would spend a little less overall than the Senate plan but would spend more on Texas public schools, an increase of $3 billion, after the cuts of close to $5.5 billion in the budget passed in 2011.

KUT News

  The Texas House Appropriations Committee voted out an emergency supplemental spending bill this morning. The bill would fund the state’s Medicaid services for the rest of the current budget.

Almost all of the $4.8 billion bill goes to pay for the state’s Medicaid services. Lawmakers purposely underfunded the program by 6 months in 2011 as part of $27 billion cut from the state budget due to a dramatic drop in state revenue.

Lizzie Chen, KUT News

When the House and Senate filed base budgets last week, advocates for programs that were cut in 2011, including public education, were upset the budgets didn’t restore funding. Lawmakers countered that the budget was expected to grow.

Lizzie Chen for KUT News

When Texas lawmakers found out they’d have more than $101 billion to spend this legislative session, some immediately began calling for tax cuts. Now one prominent business lobbying group has laid out its idea for what those cuts could look like.

For Bill Hammond, it’s a simple formula: Keep taxes low and the Texas economic engine keeps on chugging. Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, says making permanent the business tax exemption for companies that bring in less than $1 million in gross receipts would really fuel the economy, as would allowing those making more than that to exempt their first $1 million.

KUT News

When the Texas House filed its base budget Tuesday, plenty of attention was paid to how much money the bill spent on things like health care programs and public schools. But there where a handful of programs that - so far - are getting no money at all.

It’s called being zeroed out. The line item is still there in the budget, but just followed with zeros. It’s a political move. Items that are zeroed out typically get some or even all funding back. But only after changes have been made to how the program functions.

Erik Reyna/KUT News

The first draft of the Texas House budget comes in at $89.1 billion, and leaves $5.5 billion in unspent revenue.

"The filing of this budget will allow the House to formally begin a discussion about Texas’ priorities," said House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), in a statement. "This bill recognizes the demands of population growth on public schools and Medicaid, and steadfastly maintains the House's commitment to fiscal discipline."