The House and Senate have passed their budgets but there are important differences between them. Now they must decide upon and reconcile their budgetary funding priorities and agree on a final draft to be submitted to the governor.
The two budgets are quite similar, but there are significant differences in public education and health care.
The House suggests taking $2.5 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, which currently has a balance of $10 billion. In addition the House’s budget delays payments for public schools to free up $1.9 billion in the next budget. The Senate favors delaying a highway fund payment of $2.5 billion, a payment approved in 2015 to address traffic congestion. House budget leaders feel this move is not constitutional.
One of Texas’ largest funding requirements is Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor and disabled. The House Medicaid budget is $63.2 billion. The Senate’s budget for Medicaid is $63.9 billion. With the population of our state growing, the program is expected to grow as well. The House assumes it will save $2.6 billion due to promises and proposed changes made by the Trump administration.
Another large expense for our state is education. The house proposes $42.1 billion, which is a cut from the current budget, but there are considerations for adding another $1.5 billion via a school finance reform package proposes by Speaker Straus. The House budget also defers funds by delaying payment to schools. The Senate budget is less, made up for with revenue collected on rising property taxes.
Both budgets would increase spending on child welfare via Child Protective Services and foster care. However, the boost is only half of what CPS says it needs to address some serious problems.
Both the House and Senate remain committed to the boost in federal border security funding approved in 2015. But they disagree on whether or not to increase that spending. The House proposes $653.1 million while the Senate would raise this to $800 million.
A big area of contention is the use of the Rainy Day Fund to help the budget this year. The House proposes taking $2.8 billion from the fund, but the Senate wants to get money from a transportation fund via an accounting move. Governor Abbott has not taken a position on the use of the Rainy Day Fund.