State Senator Rodríguez's Statement on Senate Bill 1
Budget remains a work in progress
(Austin, Texas)—State Senator José Rodríguez today released the following statement regarding Senate Bill 1:
Senate Bill 1 is an improvement from the last budget cycle. It contains items that are important for Senate District 29, such as tuition revenue bonds for UTEP and Texas Tech, as well as items that positively impact the state as a whole. This budget increases Medicaid reimbursement rates to pre-2011 levels, and overall spending on mental health services and graduate medical education. These funding increases will help increase access to care in a state with highest uninsured rate in the nation.
Nonetheless, this budget neither fully restores the cuts from 2011 nor adequately funds for population growth and inflation. For example, El Paso schools will only gain about a quarter back from what they lost in 2011. It also doesn't expand Medicaid, which is fiscally irresponsible.
The good news is that we are still in the beginning stages of the budget process, and there will be several opportunities to fund these priorities as the session continues. I will continue to work to advance the ball on education and to find a solution to the Medicaid expansion stalemate.
Along with the important UTEP and TTUHSC items, Senate Bill 1 also includes millions to enable Texas to secure its rights to Rio Grande water a new Child Support Court in El Paso, among other items. Statewide, it increases funding for mental health services by $230 million. While it does not go far enough on education, it does add public education spending based on enrollment growth from 2011, plus $1.5 billion more. It also provides $34.3 million for legal services and indigent defense.
The House still must pass its budget. After it does, a Conference Committee made up of five members of each chamber will work to reconcile differences in the two bills. In addition, there will be a supplemental budget bill, which will present another opportunity to work for education funding. Other avenues include Senate Bills 1377 and 1378, which Senator Rodríguez joint-authored, to use $4.5 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for public education and $50.4 million to expand Medicaid and draw down a $4 billion match in federal funds.