Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., District 27

For Immediate Release
Monday, March 26, 2001
Contact: Doris Sanchez
(512) 463-0127

Senate Finance Committee Approves Budget
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Provides substantial increase for financial aid, health and human services, state employee pay

AUSTIN, TX -- The Senate Finance Committee today unanimously approved SB 1, a $111.7 billion budget that meets Texas' basic needs while providing substantial increases for key priorities such as financial aid, health and human services and state employee pay, without raising taxes.

The committee increased funding by $3.5 billion over the initial budget proposal filed in January, which represents a $9.4 billion increase (9.2 percent) over the adjusted budget for FY 2000-01. The majority of the new funding is dedicated to health and human services (49.3 percent) and education (27.8 percent ).

"We were able to balance an unlimited number of requests with a limited budget" said state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., who sits on the Committee. "Because I consider every Texan's needs a priority, it was difficult crafting a state budget that met as many of these needs as possible, and I feel we have done a good job for the state."

Overall, the 2002-03 appropriations bill includes $4.83 billion more for health and human services programs, including funds to fully implement CHIP (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 sources for an eventual benefit. 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.

Senate Bill 1 also provides $1.205 billion in equity funding to help local school districts with rising property values and enrollment growth. The plan raises Equalized Wealth limits from the current $295,000 to $300,000 in FY 02 and $305,000 in FY 03, raises Basic Allotment from the current $2,5377 to $2,567 in FY 02 and $2,597 in FY 03, and raises Guaranteed Yield from the current $24.99 to $25.90 in FY 02 and $26.75 in FY 03. Senate Bill 1 also includes $245 million for Tier 3 Facilities, to cover existing debt at school districts through 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 children eligible but not currently served by Medicaid before taking action.

"The Rio Grande Valley and the rest of our Border region have a higher level of need for services because of the low wages and high unemployment, so as a member of the Finance Committee, I made sure that we addressed these needs to the extent possible with our limited revenues," added Sen. Lucio, D-Brownsville.

The $9.8 billion increased funding is needed to cover state government cost increases due to Texas' rapidly-growing population and rising health care costs, and to fund key priorities established by the committee. The majority of this growth comes from other funds, such as federal funds, rather than state coffers.

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Note: Staff member assigned to Finance is Legislative Director Daniel Esparza.

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