In a unanimous vote, the upper chamber passed the committee substitute for the general appropriations act after some floor discussion. As usual for the Senate, no amendments were added — a far cry from the chaos that will befall the House when it takes up its budget later this session.
“When we began work on the budget last summer, we were facing the economic challenges brought about by the pandemic as well as the market problems that plagued our oil and gas industry,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said of the passage in a press release.
“At that time, I committed to making sure that we kept our commitment to education and property tax cuts laid out in 2019 in House Bill 3. SB 1 does that.”
Some important points of budgetary reference include a $250.7 billion total price tag; $117.9 billion in general revenue spending; $3.1 billion to fund growth in student enrollment; and $1 billion in continued property tax compression that was first issued last session.
The general revenue total is a 2.6 percent increase which is well below the population plus inflation growth of 7.06 percent — the point set as the hard spending cap by the Legislative Budget Board during the interim.
That portion of the budget is essentially the discretionary segment, while the other 53 percent of spending is non-discretionary and consists of entitlement costs which the state must finance.
Something to watch further is how federal funding continues to affect various parts of the budget laid out by the legislature. Due to the pandemic, there is significantly more money floating around out in the American ether but it may come with strings attached.
That federal funding may be directed toward initiatives commissioned by the legislature this session. For example, the latest coronavirus relief package includes Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) funding for broadband expansion — about $195.3 billion for the states, of which Texas would receive a portion.
That proposal has not yet passed Congress, but the ARPA lump sum could be used to put a dent in what will likely be a very costly endeavor of broadband expansion across the state.
While the Senate’s budget is finalized, there is still a long way to go. The House’s version is still working its way through the Appropriations Committee and faces a longer path to passage. Once the two chambers pass their own versions, the chambers will convene a conference committee in which the differences between the versions will be reconciled.
The road to the biennial Texas budget is a long slog, but progress is beginning to be made. The next stop is the 150-member House of Representatives for its most chaotic stage.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.