PRESS RELEASE
From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser

For Immediate Release
March 28, 2001
Contact: William A. Scott - (512) 463-0124

Texas Senate Approves $111.7 Billion State Budget

AUSTIN -- The Texas Senate today approved a $111.7 billion state budget that maintains current funding levels in most areas while addressing priorities such as increased funding for community colleges, technical schools, children's health care and public education.

"Unlike two years ago, we're working with a limited amount of money, so I'm very pleased that we are able to meet the state's needs and keep the emphasis on education at all levels," said Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, a member of the Senate Finance Committee. "This committee did a good job in setting priorities, and in addressing the areas where more funding is needed."

After the Texas House of Representatives approves its version of the state budget, a conference committee will be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House to reconcile the differences in the two plans. Fraser served on the conference committee last session.

Fraser noted that Senate District 24 would benefit from additional funding for the Texas Department of Transportation, community colleges and private universities, the Texas State Technical College System, the Abilene State School, the school finance system to benefit independent school districts, historic courthouse restoration, and pay raises for prison guards.

Nearly 43 percent, or almost $48 billion, of the total budget is earmarked for education, Fraser said.

"Education fared well, even though the driving factor in the bill is health care costs," Fraser said.

Overall, the 2002-2003 appropriations bill includes $4.83 billion more for health and human services programs, including funds to fully implement the Children's Health Insurance Program, $380 million more for the TEXAS Grant Program, and $787 million for state employee pay raises.

For public education, Senate Bill 1 earmarks $200 million as a starting point for teachers' health insurance, with the goal of adding an additional $1.9 billion from all funding sources.

Both the Senate Education Committee and the House Select Committee on Teacher's Health Insurance are studying several proposals that would provide health insurance to Texas school teachers.

The Senate's budget also provides $1.205 billion in equity funding to help local school districts fund public education. The plan increases Equalized Wealth limits from the current $295,000 to $300,000 in FY 02 and $305,000 in FY 03; increases Basic Allotment from the current $2,537 to $2,567 in FY 02 and $2,597 in FY 03; and hikes the Guaranteed Yield from the current $24.99 to $25.90 in FY 02 and $26.75 in FY 03.

The bill also includes $245 million for facilities, to cover existing debt at school districts issued prior to 2000 from 12 to 29 cents.

Other key initiatives include:

Senate Bill 1 does not include specific funding for proposed Medicaid reforms to streamline and simplify the enrollment process. Budgeteers are awaiting the recommendations of a special joint House-Senate task force reviewing proposals to improve the program to cover the estimated 600,000 eligible children eligible but not currently served by Medicaid before taking action.

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