State Budget

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

As the legislative session heads into its final six weeks, lawmakers have a lot left to do. They face the task of reconciling budgets passed by the House and Senate into a single document. They must act on the governor’s emergency agenda items. And they’ll need to decide the fate of the more than 6,000 bills filed during the session.

Texas Comptroller/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Since the 1980s, Texas has set aside a portion of state funds specifically to be used when things aren’t so rosy. It seems like an economically prudent move, but now some say the operations of the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) – also known as the Rainy Day Fund – make no fiscal sense. Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar says it’s time for a change.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/The Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate unanimously approved a two-year budget on Tuesday that would shift nearly $2 billion in public education costs from the state to local taxpayers.

The Senate's $218 billion document now goes to budget writers in the House for debate.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

School officials whose districts would lose money under a Texas House plan to revamp the public school funding system asked legislators on Tuesday to ensure there are as few "losers" as possible.

Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Saying Texas government needs to live within its means, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday imposed an immediate hiring freeze on state agencies through the end of August.

The freeze bans agencies from posting new jobs or filling ones that are currently vacant, according to a memo from the Republican governor’s office.  

“Just as families have to balance needs versus wants, so must we,” Abbott said during his State of the State speech in the Capitol.

Bob Daemmrich for Texas Tribune

From The Texas Tribune: Facing sluggish economic forecasts amid low oil prices along with billions in tax revenue already dedicated to the state highway fund, Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced Monday that lawmakers will have $104.87 billion in state funds at their disposal in crafting the next two-year budget, a 2.7 percent decrease from his estimate ahead of the legislative session two years ago.

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. 

BUDGET

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.

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