Lt. Gov. Dewhurst Appoints Senator Zaffirini to Appropriations Conference Committee
(AUSTIN) -- Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Monday (April 11) named Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, to the appropriations conference committee that will write the final draft of the $139.3 billion state budget. The committee comprises five senators and five representatives who reconcile the Senate and House versions of the appropriations bill.
This is the sixth time Senator Zaffirini serves on the appropriations conference committee. She is the vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, to which she was first appointed in 1991.
"I am committed to working closely with the conferees to finalize a budget that prioritizes the needs of Texans," Senator Zaffirini said. "This is another opportunity to make a difference for the families of our great state."
CSSB 1 by Senator Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, balances the state's budget for 2006-07 without a tax increase. The Senate's version, however, appropriates approximately $1.8 billion more than the House's.
"Education and health and human services remain our highest priorities," said Senator Zaffirini, a member of the Senate Education and Senate Health and Human Services Committees. "They must continue to be our focus during budget negotiations if we want to ensure a healthy and educated workforce and prosperous economy for our state."
Senate funding highlights include a $2.8 billion dollar increase in general revenue to health and human services, representing a 17.7 percent increase above 2004-05 fiscal years. The Senate also added $55.6 million to restore podiatry, hearing aids, vision and mental health benefits to Medicaid Adult services. Restorations to the Children's Health Insurance Program included $3.3 million for mental health, vision and dental services.
Funding for HIV medications was increased by $15 million to maintain service levels and projected increases. This would allow the state to serve an additional 1,191 persons in FY 06 and 1,473 persons in FY 07. An additional $79.7 million were included to serve an additional 11,920 people on various waiting lists and as well as $177 million in article XI.
"If we were able to add this $177 million in article XI to the base bill we would be able to address everyone who has been on the waiting list four years or longer," said Senator Zaffirini, chair of the Finance Committee's Article II workgroup. "Some have been on the lists longer than 10 years."
Senate Finance Committee members named by Dewhurst to the appropriations conference committee are Senators Ogden, chair; Kip Averitt, R-Waco; Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock; John Whitmire, D-Houston; and Zaffirini. The conference committee will begin meeting after House conferees are appointed. Conferees will develop a final proposal that will be voted on in both chambers before the session ends on May 30.