The Back MicThe Back Mic: Senate Finance Chair Talks Budget, Two Electricity Priority Bills Face Opposition, Agency Budget Cuts Up in the Air

This week — a look at the state budget, votes on utility reform bills, and agency budget requests.
April 2, 2021
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Senate Finance Chair on Budget

The Texas Senate Finance Committee approved the budget it will send to the floor for debate and a vote this week. The Texan asked Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), chair of the Finance Committee, about the process so far.

“This budget cycle is unlike any other I have experienced,” said Nelson. “This time last year the revenue outlook was bleak. That has changed dramatically, and — combined with the 5 [percent] reductions and other measures — we are bringing to the floor a budget that meets our essential needs and stays within all constitutional limits.”

The Senate’s version is under the population plus inflation growth line, a metric many use to judge its fiscal responsibility. 

“I strongly believe the state budget should not grow by more than population plus inflation from one cycle to the next,” the senator continued. “Our last three budgets were within that target, and I am confident we will finish the same way this session. Unlike other states that live beyond their means, our commitment to fiscal restraint is one of the main reasons our economy continues to outperform other states.”

The Texan Tumbler

While Texas’s 2022-2023 budget is far from finalized, it isn’t an abstract discussion either.

Votes Against Electricity Priority Bills

On Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly passed most of its electricity priority bill slate. While four bills received unanimous votes, two were not so lucky. House Bill (HB) 16, a ban on wholesale price indexed utility plans like Griddy, and HB 17, a prohibition on local orders barring the use of certain energy sources for power generation or retail consumption, each faced opposition on the floor.

HB 16 was opposed by 33 Republicans and HB 17 by 34 Democrats. Below is a list of those voting no on second reading:

House Bill 16

  • Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin)
  • Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia)
  • Keith Bell (R-Forney)
  • Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg)
  • Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park)
  • Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake)
  • Jeff Cason (R-Bedford)
  • Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches)
  • David Cook (R-Mansfield)
  • Tom Craddick (R-Midland)
  • Jay Dean (R-Longview)
  • James Frank (R-Wichita Falls)
  • John Frullo (R-Lubbock)
  • Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant)
  • Justin Holland (R-Rockwall)
  • Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth)
  • Stan Lambert (R-Abilene)
  • Jeff Leach (R-Plano)
  • Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville)
  • Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound)
  • Jared Patterson (R-Frisco)
  • Four Price (R-Amarillo)
  • Scott Sanford (R-McKinney)
  • Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler)
  • Matt Shaheen (R-Plano)
  • Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City)
  • Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville)
  • Lynn Stucky (R-Denton)
  • Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington)
  • Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands)
  • Cody Vasut (R-Angleton)
  • James White (R-Hillister)
  • Terry Wilson (R-Marble Falls)

House Bill 17

  • Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas)
  • Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)
  • John Bucy, III (D-Austin)
  • Sheryl Cole (D-Austin)
  • Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth)
  • Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas)
  • Art Fierro (D-El Paso)
  • Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio)
  • Jessica González (D-Dallas)
  • Mary González (D-Clint)
  • Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin)
  • Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin)
  • Donna Howard (D-Austin)
  • Celia Israel (D-Austin)
  • Ann Johnson (D-Houston)
  • Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton)
  • Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio)
  • Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco)
  • Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio)
  • Terry Meza (D-Irving)
  • Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio)
  • Joe Moody (D-El Paso)
  • Claudia Ordaz Perez (D-El Paso)
  • Lina Ortega (D-El Paso)
  • Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson)
  • Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin)
  • Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston)
  • Carl Sherman (D-DeSoto)
  • James Talarico (D-Round Rock)
  • Chris Turner (D-Fort Worth)
  • Hubert Vo (D-Houston)
  • Armando Walle (D-Houston)
  • Gene Wu (D-Houston)
  • Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood)
Restoration of 5 Percent Budget Cuts Requested by Agencies

The House Appropriations Committee convened this week to run down its subcommittee’s spending recommendations. Earlier in the process, state agencies gave funding pitches for their respective bureaus which included restoration of the five percent budget cut ordered by state leaders during the interim for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

A response to the pandemic’s financial pressure on the state’s coffers, the cuts were an attempt to shave off some of the state’s financial burden. But due to exemptions of certain agencies, it only applied to agencies that make up about 40 percent of the state’s overall budget.

In total, the budget cut aim was to reach $1 billion in total which would be enough to cover the $950 million projected shortfall for the current biennium.

During the appropriations process, the restoration requests have been siphoned to the Article XI process — essentially a to-be-determined catch-all category within which budget items are thrown to be taken up at a later date.

The state’s fiscal projections have improved since last summer, but the fate of these budget restorations depends largely on whether the money for the 2022-2023 biennium is there for them.

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Brad Johnson

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.