Friday, January 16, 2015

Scott Turner Effect: Team Straus' surprisingly reasonable budget proposal

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatians 6:9

Well knock us over with a feather:
House Speaker Joe Straus released a two-year, $202.4 billion base 2016-17 budget Thursday that increases spending by 0.2 percent from the current budget and leaves $13 billion in state coffers.

“This plan proves that the Texas House remains serious about fiscal discipline,” Straus said in a statement. “We are able to hold spending in check while addressing some very important challenges related to our rapid growth.”


Straus’ budget increases general revenue, the portion of the budget that lawmakers have the most control over, by 3.9 percent from $95.2 billion to $98.8 billion. General revenue typically makes up around half of the total budget, with much of the remainder coming from federal funding.

House officials said the budget avoids cost increases in part through cuts, but also through some unexpected savings. For instance, the budget spends an additional $1.8 billion in Medicaid, largely to address caseload growth. Officials last session had assumed higher cost increases were coming related to the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, according to a House official.

“Some of the effects we thought we’d see from the ACA, if they’re going to materialize, they haven’t materialized as fast as we expected,” the House official said.

Under Straus’ proposal, the state maintains public education at current per-student levels, accounting for expected growth of about 84,000 students annually. House officials said the funding will actually amount to a $2.2 billion increase in school funding because widespread growth in property values is leading to increases in local funding of schools.

The House budget would put $396.8 million for border security, enough to continue funding of the state's high-profile border surge launched in June. In December, state leaders continued funding the stationing of hundreds of Department of Public Safety officers at the border through August, but wound down funding for the deployment of National Guard troops. Straus’ budget would continue keeping the current level of the DPS officers at the border, House officials said.
Read the whole thing here.

 A few thoughts:

  • Obviously, this proposal is lip service and doesn't reflect any sort of change of heart among House leadership; still, the fact that they feel they have to give us lip service is revealing.
  • It's also interesting that they put water spending back "on budget."
  • With the Senate on track to release it's own budget proposal next week, it's surprising how little negotiating room Team Straus has staked out for itself.
Bottom Line: If the 84th #TXLEGE's final budget is similar to the proposal the House released this week, a lot of the contentiousness we've seen in recent years will become obsolete.


Update: Straus' website has more information here.

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