Earlier today, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released the state’s biennial revenue estimate. Based on projections for the state’s economy, Comptroller Hegar certified $119 billion in state funds available for the coming biennium and budget cycle. He noted that the number could shift some before the end of session.
Today’s revenue estimate shows that the Legislature should fund a significant, added investment in public education, which in turn would reduce pressure on property taxpayers.
While the Legislature must first deal with unpaid bills stemming from the current budget, today’s estimate, combined with the $15.4 billion projected balance in the Economic Stabilization Fund, demonstrates there are resources available to craft real solutions for Texans on a number of major issues.
Texas teachers deserve better pay and we need to address health care costs for current and retired educators. We need to make college more affordable and accessible if we are to have the skilled workforce our state’s economy demands. Our state’s Medicaid managed care system must be improved to better serve medically fragile Texans. The recovery from Hurricane Harvey requires our attention, as well. These are just a few examples of important issues that must be addressed this session.
The revenue estimate provides a blueprint of what is possible. It’s up to the Legislature to build a budget that reflects our values and commits the resources and ingenuity of our great state to achieving real solutions for each and every Texan. That’s what Texas House Democrats will be fighting for.
I am a parent, a small-business owner and a school board member at Lytle ISD. I am close to the operational challenges in my district. I can only assume that our state leaders don’t know the facts about school districts like mine; otherwise, they couldn’t possibly be pushing the legislation they promoted this session.
We are a small rural district with a population that’s 75 percent economically disadvantaged. Our property values are lower than many parts of the state, and we are on the low end of dollars allotted per student by the state. Even so, we are committed to engaging and sustained learning for our students rather than subjecting them to standardized test drill-and-kill preparation, like many schools. We have been recognized statewide for our academic achievements.
To continue reading this story go to the Austin American-Statesman.
A young Houstonian named Ky’ Zohn has been waiting eight months for physical therapy, which he needs for his balance and mobility. The four-year-old was born with delayed development, and his family is seeking therapy so he can learn to walk without falling.
The family is willing to go to a clinic or have home care but his mother says she can’t find an available therapist in Houston’s Medicaid program, the federal-state insurer for the disadvantaged and disabled.
Her son is not alone. A growing number of vulnerable children have reduced options for therapy, following the Legislature’s 2015 gutting of the rates that Medicaid uses to reimburse therapists.
To continue reading this story go to the Houston Chronicle.
On Wednesday, April 19, the Texas House of Representatives will consider a very serious issue on the House floor, and a very made-up issue in a House committee.
The school finance bill that comes to the House floor on Wednesday marks the first time in a decade that the Texas Legislature has taken a proactive step towards fixing how we pay for our local public schools. Education is a right for every child, and we need to do more to make sure our students and teachers have the resources they need in the classroom. As it comes to the floor, the bill puts an additional $1.6 billion into our local schools, and makes some long-needed improvements into the formulas that put us on the path to reforming our school finance system.
After the debate on the House floor, the State Affairs Committee will meet to discuss thezombie bathroom bill — a piece of legislation that hurts everyone and just doesn’t seem to want to die. Despite outspoken opposition from Democrats, voters, and Texas businesses, there are some Republicans in the Legislature that think the best way for us to spend the last six weeks of session is to pass discriminatory laws that hurt our economy. The bathroom bill is a waste of time, and I hope the committee hearing is the last time we discuss it during session.
Throughout the debate on the budget, House Democrats were able to add a number of successful amendments addressing our top priorities and helped make the budget better.
The House will debate the state budget this week. Before we begin discussing amendments and our core priorities, it’s important to remember that some of the most important decisions about our budget were made years and years ago.
We must invest more money in our local schools, so our students and teachers have a fair shot at success. Yet the way previous Legislatures have decided to fund schools has left us in a hole we’ve never really dug ourselves out from. The last major change to our school finance system was in 2006, when the Legislature decided to cut property taxes and create a “franchise tax” that underperformed from the beginning, and has now been cut so much it doesn’t generate the money our schools and students need.
Our priority is to protect Texas children. Yet serious policy reforms and critical funding needs for our foster care system we needed 10 years ago were kicked down the road, until we reached the crisis we are at today. Rather than invest in fixes we knew had to be made, the Legislature cut taxes, eliminated services, and horded away billions in the Economic Stabilization Fund. The budget that will come to the floor this week has a number of positive items in it – but it also underfunds CPS reform, Medicaid rates for acute therapy services, and countless other programs for Texas kids in need — all while leaving billions of dollars untouched in our state savings account.
When oil and gas revenues came in low last year, it created a revenue shortfall because the Legislature has not sufficiently diversified its revenue sources. The investment in transportation improvements we made in 2013 — the one Texas voters approved in a constitutional amendment election — will be great for our highways. But Texans have yet to see the same commitment from our Legislature.
As the week unfolds, Texas House Democrats will offer amendments to improve our budget to better protect Texas children and make sure every Texan has a fair shot at success. But if we really want to change how we invest in the future of our great state, we’ll need to look beyond the budget and start fixing the way we do business across the board.
While the House has focused on fixing the CPS crisis and putting forward a responsible budget that invests in Texas families, the Texas Senate’s focus on needless social issues has cast a dark cloud over the first half of the legislative session.
Last week, the Texas Senate passed the discriminatory “bathroom bill” and voted outtwo anti-women’s health bills. The Senate’s so-called “sanctuary city” legislation had a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee, where tremendous leadership from the Mexican American Legislative Caucus has at least helped slow down the bill.
And the Senate’s Education Committee has a hearing scheduled on Tuesday on a voucher bill that a Texas pastor decried because it wants “to make commodities out of our children and to make markets out of our classrooms.”
These are the wrong priorities for Texas families. As House Democrats continue our work on the issues that matter, we must also keep an eye on these and other dangerous bills as they make their way through the legislative process.
The House Appropriations Committee is continuing its work on the budget for the 2018-19 biennium. Additionally, the supplemental appropriations bill, House Bill 2, has been filed — that is the bill that fills the gap for underfunded programs in our current two-year budget cycle.