FINANCE COMMITTEE APPROVES FINAL BUDGET BILL
|The Senate Finance Committee passed the budget bill Wednesday. That bill could come before the full Senate for a vote next week.|
(AUSTIN) — The Senate Finance Committee Wednesday approved Senate Bill 1, the state budget for 2014-2015, sending it to the full body for final approval. All fifteen Senators on the committee voted in favor of the budget, which started off at $88.9 billion when it was introduced in January. Committee members took time before the vote to praise first-time Finance Chair Tommy Williams of the Woodlands, noting his fairness and efficiency as a leader.
A strong revenue estimate from the comptroller meant that lawmakers could restore some of the cuts they made last session in the face of the recession. Revenue this year has been much better than expected, so much so that the Senate passed three bills last week to reverse some financial techniques used to balance last session's budget. This year's budget puts more money into public and higher education, mental health services and women's health services.
The bill could come up before the full Senate as early as next week. Once the Senate approves a budget, it will send the plan over to the House for consideration. Usually, each chamber immediately substitutes its version of the budget in place of the other chamber's. Then, five members of the House and five members of the Senate are appointed to a conference committee, where they will work on a compromise budget that reflects the will of each chamber. This final agreement will, if approved by both chambers, become the final state budget sent to the Governor for his signature.
Also Wednesday, the Senate Economic Development Committee considered a bill that would require some Texans seeking unemployment insurance to be drug tested before receiving benefits. The bill, also by Williams, would apply only to people who fail a pre-screening survey or work in certain fields that normally require drug testing, such as health care and transportation industries. People who fail a drug test can appeal the decision to the Texas Work Force Commission, and can retake a test to restore eligibility. Individuals who are in an official drug treatment program or are taking a prescribed drug would be exempt from this requirement. This bill remains before the committee.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, March 18 at 2 p.m.