The Senate Finance Committee finished marking up SB 1 by Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to establish the state's FY 18-19 budget. The committee will formally vote on the Committee Substitute to SB 1 next week. Then it will move to the full Senate for consideration.
“We are committed to passing a budget that stays within our means and meets the needs of our growing state,” Senator Nelson said. “Our workgroups have been working around the clock, searching for opportunities to achieve savings with the goal of freeing up additional resources to fund our priorities.”
Senator Nelson filed SB 1, the Senate’s base budget, on January 17, 2017, stressing it was a starting point. The committee conducted hearings on the budgets of 167 agencies and took testimony from more than 600 witnesses. Senator Nelson formed workgroups to delve deeper into school finance, higher education special items, health care costs and juvenile justice. In addition, budget article workgroups have been meeting night and day to develop final recommendations.
In mark-up, the committee approved a mixture of funding increases, reductions and efficiency measures that differ from the filed version of SB 1. Decision documents are available at http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Decision_Documents.aspx?Session=85&Type=AdoptedDecisionSenate. Following are a few highlights:
Article III (Education)
- Adds $316M to fund SB 788 by Senator Huffman, addressing the Teacher Retirement System shortfall;
- Provides $25M to fund E-Rate, a new program designed to bring broadband infrastructure to Texas schools lacking those services;
- Funds the Student Success Initiative at $10M;
- Restores $3M to Texas AIM, an after-school program of the Boys & Girls Club;
- Adds $400M – providing a total of $700M -- to higher education formulas to cover a portion of special item requests;
- Increases community college funding by $50M;
- Provides an additional $14.8M to the Texas Research Incentive Program; and
- Enhances funding for TEXAS Grant financial aid program by $45M
Article II (Health & Human Services)
- Increases funding for the Department of Family and Protective Services by $171M, including:
- $94M to strengthen the foster care system by increasing rates for both legacy and community-based foster care and expanding community-based foster care to 4 additional regions;
- $49M to hire new conservatorship caseworkers; and
- $15M in additional prevention funding to maintain services.
- Invests an additional $85M for behavioral health;
- Adds $7.8M for additional Home and Community-based Services waiver slots for foster children aging out of the foster care system; and
- Increases funding for Medicaid to provide for caseload growth at FY 18 levels and assumes over $400M in health care cost containment measures.
Articles VI, VII, VIII (Natural Resources, Business & Eco Devo, and Regulatory)
- Adds $44.9M to the Railroad Commission to maintain current operational stability and increase pipeline safety;
- Increases $37.2M for a total of $46.2M to fund preservation and updates at the Alamo;
- Adds $40M to support infrastructure projects at Texas ports;
- Fully funds behavioral health Peer Assistance Programs for the Dental, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Veterinary Boards; and
- Fully funds the Prescription Monitoring Program at the Board of Pharmacy.
Article I, IV, V (General Government, Judiciary, and Criminal Justice)
- Adds $678k to Commission on Jail Standards to improve the safety of local jails;
- Provides an additional $755k to the Department of Public Safety to prevent crimes against children;
- Increases Crimestoppers funding by $4M;
- Adds $6.3M to strengthen oversight of guardianship across the state; and
- Replaces with GR a loss of $2M in federal funds to ensure that funds to ensure continuation of the Children’s Commission at the Supreme Court of Texas.