P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0104
By: State Sen. Tommy Williams
The 79th Legislative Session looms large as legislators begin to work on a state budget that must deliver more to the citizens of Texas while ensuring state government continues to "live within its means." Senate Bill 1, filed on January 14, provides for a $134.4-billion total state budget for the 2006-07 biennium with $63.5 billion in state general revenue spending.
This $4.6-billion increase in general revenue spending from last biennium is possible because of increased sales tax collections and severance taxes on oil and gas. Most of this newly available revenue will be consumed by enrollment growth in our public schools and an increase in Medicaid caseloads.
As we work to balance the many needs of our state, we face the necessity of increased funding for public education and the economic reality that rising property taxes have a stranglehold on Texas homeowners and businesses. Local property taxes have become a significant impediment to growth and job creation in our state. I am confident the Legislature will be able to balance the budget without raising taxes while continuing to protect needy Texans.
Gov. Rick Perry designated several issues "emergency items," allowing the legislature to address them during the first sixty days of session. Bills addressing school finance, Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services will take the front burner under the Governor's directive. I am eager to work with Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and my colleagues in the Legislature to find solutions without delay to these pressing issues.
I am hopeful the remainder of the 79th Legislative Session will be as productive as its first week. During the week of Jan. 11, we took a significant step forward with all 31 state senators indicating their support for the Texas Children First Public School Excellence and School Finance Reform plan. Any successful plan must include substantial property tax relief while adequately funding public education and raising teachers' salaries to the national average. Not only does the Texas Children First plan restore and protect local control of schools, it also will require public approval through a statewide vote.
The same week members also made a significant change to the senate rules to make member votes more open and accessible to the public. Votes on all substantive issues will now be more clearly reflected in the senate journal. Constituents can find the vote record online at www.capitol.state.tx.us.
I look forward to serving you in Austin this session. I am both excited and proud to have the opportunity to represent the nearly 700,000 citizens of Senate District 4 for a second term.
First elected in 1996 to the Texas House of Representatives, Tommy Williams was later elected to the Senate in 2002 and re-elected in 2004. He represents all or portions of Montgomery, Harris, Liberty, Chambers, Jefferson and Orange counties.