Zaffirini, Guillen Prioritize Health, Human Services, Education and Public Safety as Legislature Passes $153 Billion Budget
Austin, TX -- More Texans currently waiting for community-based care and home services will receive relief; higher education institutions in Senate District 21 and throughout the state will receive increased resources, including $313 million for the debt service for $1.9 billion in tuition revenue bonds for capital improvements; and more than $200 million will be allocated for state criminal justice programs under the committee substitute for House Bill 1, which was passed by the legislature Sunday (May 27).
Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, served on the Appropriations Conference Committee that wrote the final version of the $153 billion state budget. CSHB 1 includes approximately a seven percent increase in spending, compared with the previous (2005) legislative session's budget. Senator Zaffirini also served as Senate chair of the Article II work group that was responsible for writing the state's health and human services budget and as Senate co-chair of the higher education budget.
"I am proud of the conference committee's hard work and am grateful for the leadership of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst in finalizing the state's $153 billion budget," Senator Zaffirini said. "CSHB 1 addresses several immediate and critical health policy concerns in Texas and provides essential funding for education and higher education institutions in South Texas. I especially am pleased that more funding will be allocated for reducing health and human services waiting lists and that significant funding will be provided for public safety and state criminal justice programs."
"The state budget we worked on together," said Rep. Guillen, "provides the funds I requested:
- in Border Security for new local law enforcement officers and overtime;
- in Education for teacher pay raises, for more money for retired teachers, and for building new schools;
- in Health Care for 127,000 more children covered by Children's Health Insurance and a higher reimbursement rate for doctors who receive Medicaid payments, and
- in funds to help low income families with their electric bills,
- to improve our state parks, and
- to fund programs to keep people from being sent to state prisons when probation or other measures will suffice."
Senator Zaffirini secured additional funding to reduce waiting lists for community-based, home services and care for low-income children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. The final version of the state budget includes $193.2 million for waiting list reduction and rate increases. This funding will remove more than 14,000 persons from interest and waiting lists and will serve more than 8,300 persons during the 2008-09 biennium.
The $314 million appropriated for the debt service for $1.9 billion in tuition revenue bonds authorized by Senator Zaffirini's HB 153 (2006), includes $37.6 million for Texas A&M International University and $6 million for UT-Pan American's Starr County Upper Level Center. The bill authorized 63 projects at 48 higher education institutions, the largest investment in higher education ever made in Texas.
What's more, the budget includes a $21.3 million increase for the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio (UTHSCSA) and a $13.8 million increase for A&M International, including $5 million for the Student Success Program and a PhD in business and $2 million for faculty enhancement. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will receive $5 million for the operations of the Regional Academic Health Science Center and $3 million for their Laredo Campus Extension.
Another $6.7 million will be allocated to the Texas A&M System for a South San Antonio Campus System Center and $5 million to the University of Houston wind energy project, a large part of which is located in SD 21.
Senator Zaffirini and Rep. Guillen also helped secure $88 million in new grants for the Instructional Facility Allotment (IFA), which helps poor school districts with facility construction; $170 million to restore the System Benefit Fund to provide utilities services discounts for low-income customers; $1 million for a new independent living center that could be established in Laredo; $5 million for the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant (DEAAG); $53 million to support access roadway projects for colonias; $1.6 million to combat zebra chip disease threatening Texas potato crops; $1.2 million to increase Food Bank distribution; and $10 million for the debt service for $50 million in new bonds to provide financial assistance to rural communities with populations of less than 5,000 for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.
Funding allocated for education and health and human services includes a $4.6 million increase for prevention services at the Department of Family and Protective Services; $32.1 million in bond proceeds to complete the Texas Center for Infectious Disease in San Antonio; a $19.7 million increase for breast and cervical cancer programs; and a $17 million increase for tuberculosis and HIV programs.
Funding allocated for public safety and state criminal justice programs includes a $6 million increase for the Crime Victims Compensation Fund for victim services; $247.4 million for border security; $6.1 million for the Bexar County Detox/Mental Health Project; $48.8 million to address the Department of Justice issues raised regarding Texas state schools; and a $2 million increase for family violence programs.