Senate Approves Legislation Necessary to Balance Budget
Austin - With less than one week remaining in the 78th Legislative Session, the Senate picked up the pace today and met for more than twelve hours to consider nearly fifty bills. The Senate agreed to suspend the rule requiring that bills be placed on the intent calendar for two days before consideration so that more bills could be heard before the deadline of Wednesday at midnight.
The Senate passed several bills today which promise a number of cost-saving and revenue-generating measures to assist the state in balancing the budget.
The supplemental appropriations bill, the Committee Substitute to House Bill (CSHB) 7, makes the necessary reductions and re-appropriations to meet the revised revenue estimate made by the comptroller. The bill contains the cuts requested of state agencies in January by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house to cover the shortfall in the remaining part of this fiscal year.
CSHB 3459 was also passed by the Senate today, which makes a number of substantive changes to statutes governing public education to net $2.6 billion for next biennium's budget.
Some of the provisions included in CSHB 3459 would change the accounting method of the Permanent School Fund for a one-time increase of $100 million, defer contributions from the General Revenue fund to the Teacher Retirement System and Employees Retirement System trust funds, and increase the active public education employees' contribution rate to its retiree insurance program, TRS-Care.
The budget is also contingent on the passage of House Bill (HB) 2292, which reorganizes the state's fourteen health and human service agencies into four for savings and new revenue totaling $1 billion. Flower Mound Senator Jane Nelson said that this bill eliminates unnecessary duplication and allows the agencies to focus on core responsibilities.
Additionally, HB 2292 establishes eligibility for the Children's Health Insurance Program at 200 percent with a 90-day waiting period and provides for six months of continuous eligibility. The bill is due for final consideration on Wednesday
Several tax measures were also approved by the Senate today, including CSHB 2458, which moves the point of collection for motor fuel taxes to add $8.3 million to general revenue.
The Senate also passed HB 3015, presented by Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, that she says will make college more accessible. Shapiro said that no student should be denied an education because of lack of financial resources.
Her education legislation would allow universities to increase tuition up to $69 per semester credit hour for fiscal year 2004, and up to $94 per semester credit hour for fiscal year 2005.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, May 28, 2003, at 11:00 a.m.