Senate Approves Appropriations Bill for Next Biennium
Earlier this week, the Texas Senate passed a 117.7 billion dollar budget for the next two fiscal years, and did so without raising taxes. I am proud that in tough financial times for our state, the Texas Senate has provided a budget that protects core services without expanding the tax burden on our citizens.
The people of Texas elected us to come to Austin and pass a balanced budget, and we have done so. Now, the budget will move forward to a conference committee made up of members of the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives. The two chambers will then approve a revised budget and send it to Governor Perry's desk before the end of the legislative session.
There is still much work to be done in areas such as education and health care, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that essential government services are protected. The following is an excerpt from a story on the budget taken from the "Texas Senate News." The full article can be viewed at www.senate.state.tx.us.
Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Amarillo Senator Teel Bivins, introduced the Senate Committee substitute to House Bill (HB) 1, calling it the product of an excruciating process. The grand total of all funds is $117.7 million, with $58.7 from general revenue funds. "The bottom line of this bill is...it reduces non-core spending and focuses available revenues on core functions of government," said Bivins. Bivins explained that the bill relies on a whole package of legislation waiting approval. HB 1 is dependent on legislation that would change the point of collection for motor fuels tax, move the Permanent School Fund to a total return investment strategy, delay certain payments, and close loopholes in the Franchise Tax and the property tax system to bring in an estimated $5.8 billion in revenue. These additional state resources will be used for the Finance Committee's three priorities of Education, Health and Human Services programs, and Criminal Justice and Public Safety programs. Bivins explained that the Senate Finance Committee was divided into workgroups and each was assigned an article to consider. The committee generally adopted the recommendations brought forth by the workgroups. The Senators who headed workgroups of major articles presented their recommendations to the Chamber.
Flower Mound Senator Jane Nelson, head of the workgroup on Article II, explained that the committee voted on a 5.9 percent increase in funding for Health and Human Services programs, from $37.8 million last biennium to $40 million this fiscal year 2004-05. This article consists of twelve state agencies and makes up one-third of state spending. No changes were made to Medicaid income eligibility for children, who make up approximately seventy percent of the Medicaid population, and long term care clients in an institution. Nelson's workgroup recommended reducing the provider reimbursement rate to 96.5%
To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0102 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: firstname.lastname@example.org.