Saturday, June 6, 2015

84th Texas Ledgislature 2016-17 Biennium Budget

The Texas House and Senate approved a $209.4 billion compromise 2016-17 biennium state budget on the last Friday of the 84th Texas Legislature, before adjourning on Monday, June 1, 2015, the 140th day of the session.

The House approved the House Bill 1 joint conference committee compromise budget on a 115-33 vote, after the Senate earlier on Friday had approved HB1 on a 30-1 vote. The budget doubles spending to $800 million for border security and gives businesses and homeowners a $3.8 billion in tax cut.

HB1 is currently on Gov. Greg Abbott's desk awaiting his action. Under Texas law, the governor can sign HB1 as is, veto it entirely, single out any line-item expenditures he doesn't like and veto them, or let it become law after 20 days without his signature. The governor has 20 days from June 1 to act on any bills that pass in the last 10 days of the session.

Most Republican lawmakers are congratulating themselves for passing a "conservative 2016-17 budget" that leaves billions of dollars on the table, spending only $106.6 billion of $113 billion in available state revenue and leaves untouched about $11.1 billion in the state’s rainy day fund.

Context On The Texas Budget

In 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed the current 2014-15 biennium budget for the September 2014 to August 2015 fiscal period. That “all funds” budget is estimated to end up spending a little more than $202 billion for the period, according to the Legislative Budget Board. The "all funds" budget includes federal special-purpose funding, discretionary allocation spending, and other funding mandated to specific state agencies and programs in provisions of Texas' constitution.

"Discretionary spending" money flows largely from “General Revenue Funds” (GRF) collected from sales taxes and other non-dedicated taxes and fees. Texas lawmakers have the greatest flexibility and control over allocating General Revenue Fund money in the biennium budgets they enact in their 140 day odd year legislative sessions. Lawmakers can propose new, or changes to existing, "dedicated" revenue collection and spending mandated in provisions of Texas' constitution by authorizing constitutional amendment ballot measures for voters to approve in odd year November general elections.

For the 2014-15 biennium budget enacted by the 83rd Texas Legislature in 2013, discretionary spending accounts for about $95.2 billion of the total $202 billion all funds budget.

The Texas economy has performed much better than the 83rd Texas Legislature lawmakers anticipated when they enacted the 2014-15 budget. This has caused the GRF to balloon as taxes and fees flowed into state coffers faster than anticipated over the past two years. The "leftover" unallocated money builds the state's Economic Stabilization (rainy day) fund. (The Rainy Day Fund is a state savings account set aside to collect excess revenue for use in times of unexpected revenue shortfall.)

At the beginning of the 84th Legislature in January, Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar told lawmakers his office projects Texas will collect at least $113 billion in tax and fee revenues over the 2016-17 biennium budget period. That was the amount of discretionary spending available to lawmakers of the 2015 84th Legislature.

$95.2 billion to $113 billion in available discretionary spending is a huge jump, and the Texas Constitution caps the growth in discretionary spending from the GRF from one biennium budget to the next. That growth cap is mandated by an amendment made to the Texas Constitution in 1979. That constitutional spending cap limited 2016-17 biennium budget spending to about $109.5 billion, $3.5 billion under the total amount of taxes and fees collected by the state.
The Legislature, by majority votes of members of the House and Senate, can pass resolutions allowing themselves to allocate spending to the full $113 billion available in the General Revenue Fund. The Legislature can also approve a constitutional amendment ballot measure for the November "constitutional amendment" general election to raise that 1979 cap. The 84th Legislature did neither.
With Republican lawmakers, who controlled both the Senate and House of the 84th Legislature, determined to show each is more conservative than the next, they opted to set a 2016-17 biennium discretionary spending goal well under either of the possible $113 billion or even $109.5 billion spending levels. The HB1 $209.4 billion budget 84th Legislature lawmakers sent to Gov. Abbott allocates only $106.6 in discretionary spending.

The 84th Legislature decide to leave unspent $6.4 billion that could have been allocated to deeper tax cuts, or to repairing the state’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges, or to reducing the state's debt, or to eliminating the deficit in the state employees pension fund, or even to increase money allocated to public education. Also left untouched is about $11.1 billion in the state’s rainy day fund. That's $17.5 billion 84th Legislature lawmakers left unused over the the next two years, even after cutting taxes by $3.8 billion. Is that conservative?

Tax cuts count as discretionary spending.

84th Legislature lawmakers cut taxes by $3.8 billion. The tax cuts are derived from a $10,000 increase in the school property tax homestead exemption, and a 25 percent franchise tax cut, which accounts for two-thirds of the tax cut total. (One-third of of the franchise tax cut will benefit out-of-state shareholders.) Tax cuts divert money away from public schools, affordable health care, and community colleges that build a more prosperous Texas for all of us.

House Bill 32, which costs $2.56 billion over the next two years, includes an across-the-board 25 percent cut in the franchise tax rate paid by businesses.
In 2005, a Texas Supreme Court decision declared the Texas school finance system unconstitutional, because it raised money from what was, in effect, a statewide property tax. In an effort to increase school funding from a source other than property taxes, lawmakers in a subsequent special legislative session substantially altered the Texas Franchise Tax, which had been levied in some form since the 1800s. The revised Franchise/Margin tax was intended to raise an additional $6 billion in revenue each year.

The Texas Franchise Tax prior to the revision was mainly based on the capital stock of a company. The revised Texas Franchise/Margin tax is a complicated hybrid of a gross receipts tax and a tax on business profits. The Franchise/Margin tax is based on total revenue of the company with certain deductions. The current Margin Tax applies to several business categories: C corporations, S corporations, LLCs, partnerships, business trusts, and professional associations.

After full implementation, Franchise/Margins tax revenue did not materialize as anticipated. Original revenue projections had suggested the Margin Tax would raise $5.9 billion per year, but 2008 collections totaled only $4.45 billion, 2009 collections fell below $4 billion, and revenue collections have continued to badly under perform every year.
Increasing the homestead exemption increases the state’s share of education funding obligation by swapping state General Revenue money for local property taxes, even though it doesn’t increase net revenue to schools. The homestead exemption increase will cut about $1.2 billion in tax collections from homeowners by increasing the homestead exemption $10,000 from $15,000 to $25,000. That yields only about $126 in annual tax savings for the average homeowner.

HJR75 approves a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran who died before the law authorizing a residence homestead exemption for such a veteran took effect.
November 2015 General Election Ballot Proposition - For/Against: "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran who died before the law authorizing a residence homestead exemption for such a veteran took effect."
Education Funding

The 2016-17 budget allocates $41.2 billion to Texas' 1,247 public school districts, currently teaching over 5.2 million K-12 students, a $1.5 billion increase from the 2014-15 budget level. The 2016-17 budget allocation still does not restore $5.4 billion in funding cuts made by the 2011 82nd legislature.
In 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature was the first Texas Legislature in more than 60 years to lower funding for public education. The Republican controlled 82nd Texas Legislature in 2013 did not restore the deep funding level cut made by the previous legislature.
The $1.5 billion funding increase allows for an expected enrollment growth of 85,000 students for the upcoming 2016-17 biennium and bumps basic per student funding allotment from $5,040 to $5,140. However, by 2017 the inflation-adjusted spending per pupil actually decreases. For a third of Texas' school districts, per-pupil investment remains below 2011 levels when the 82nd Legislature cut $5.4 billion from education spending.As recently as the 2012-13 school year, Texas ranked 49th in the nation on per student funding. In 2013-14, Texas crept up to 46th, and in 2014-15 to 38th in the nation, which is just about Texas' traditional placement in recent decades.

Lawmakers largely skirted the issue of public K-12 school underfunding in favor of waiting for a Texas Supreme Court decision on a pending school finance lawsuit. More than two-thirds of Texas school districts filed litigation challenging the state's school finance system after lawmakers slashed more than $5 billion from the public education budget in 2011. A Travis County district judge ruled in the districts' favor in August — saying the way the state distributes money to districts is unconstitutional because of both inadequate and unequal funding. The state appealed the lawsuit to the high court, which is expected to hear the case this year. 

Pre-kindergarten: Pre-K funding at approximately $148 million is still below the $200 million pre-K grant program lawmakers gutted in 2011. HB4 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble) expands pre-K funding, but falls well short of Texas AFT’s hopes for a major step toward high-quality, full-day pre-K opportunities across Texas. The bill does put an additional $100 million toward funding pre-K programs — a small step forward.

College funding: The budget pegs higher education funding $19.9 billion, up $1.1 billion (7.5%) from the 2014-15 funding lever. The bump in funding partially covers enrollment growth and increasing financial aid needs to access Texas colleges and universities with a higher per-student allocation. Lawmakers also put $40 million into the Governor’s University Research Initiative, a new fund created at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott to attract top researchers to public universities.


84th Legislature lawmakers increased the state's All Funds Medicaid program funding from $59 billion to $61.2 billion for the 2016-17 biennium budget.

Medicaid is a joint state-federal insurance program. States administer Medicaid under broad federal guidelines, which are related to financial eligibility standards for Medicaid, mandatory health and long term care services, as well optional services. Mandatory services include physician, hospital, home health, and nursing home services.
Texas's share of Medicaid funding from the GRF increases from $23.1 billion in the 2014-15 biennium budget to $25.1 billion in the 2016-17 biennium budget.

The total Medicaid funding level originally proposed to cover projected All Funds program costs was $64.9 billion, including $26.4 billion allocated from Texas' GRF.

Budget negotiations over Medicaid funding disappointed many, including primary care doctors, private companies that offer Medicaid insurance plans, and therapy providers for children and the elderly who all stand to be paid less for treating Medicaid or needy patients. The percentage of doctors who now accept Medicaid patients is half what it was in 2000.

Experts of all political leanings agree the 2016-17 biennium funding allocation almost certainly won't be enough. The Legislative Budget Board's estimate for Texas' share of cost growth underfunded by HB1 is $752 million for medical inflation, and higher utilization or increased acuity. The All Funds underfunding shortfall, according to the LBB, totals to $1.76 billion.

The state will likely have to make an emergency allocation of addition money to keep Medicaid funded through the 2016-17 biennial budget cycle.

Medicaid is the only major source of financial assistance for long term care for people with Alzheimer's disease and other long term debilitating illnesses that require around the clock skilled care. Senior citizens may need Medicaid coverage for services like nursing home care or personal care in the home since the disease causes more severe disabilities over time and families often cannot provide the level or quality of care needed.

Even though Medicaid is a key priority for senior citizens, Texas’ Medicaid program spends less than the national average per enrollee, and reimburses doctors, hospitals and other providers less than the national average. In many areas, the Texas program pays for only the minimum standards required by the federal government.

The 2016-17 biennium budget does not continue the primary care rate enhancement to keep selected Medicaid primary care rates at Medicare levels and includes no funds for Medicaid cost growth - other than for caseloads growing from the current level of about 4.1 million Texans.

Ten rural and small-city hospitals have shut down - in part - because the state refuses to accept Medicaid expansion funds available under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. And without a proposal to provide affordable coverage for the uninsured who go to hospital emergency rooms, these closures may be a warning sign of what's to come for bigger hospitals.  The Houston Chronicle reports administrators of larger hospitals are concerned, quoting Dr. Paul Klotman, president and CEO of Baylor College of Medicine, which provides staffing to Ben Taub, the largest charity hospital in Houston, saying, "I would not be surprised if safety net hospitals just folded."

Texas is one of 22 states that continue to resist accepting additional federal Medicaid funding. Gov. Greg Abbot and all Texas Republicans who are ideologically opposed to Medicaid continue to reject an estimated $100 billion of additional federal Medicaid funding over a ten year period.

NPR: Texas Loses Billions By Not Expanding Medicaid - MP3
"We can't accept additional federal Medicaid funding, because Medicaid is broken," is the frequent reason Republicans give for not adequately funding Medicaid. But the main reason it is broken is because the program is so underfunded it doesn't reimburse doctors who treat Medicaid patients at a sustainable rate.

That extra $100 billion of federal Medicare funding over ten years would pay 90 percent of the cost of providing health care to 1.4 million working adult Texans who earn 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less - about $14,856 a year for an individual. These are people who are too old and too poor to receive subsidies on the federal health care exchange.

To get that sizable $100 billion of federal reimbursement, Texas would have to allocate about $16 billion spread over ten years to cover it's share of expanded Medicare coverage.

By not accepting additional Medicare funding, the medical costs of those without insurance who walk into a hospital emergency room or clinic with a critical health problem is paid for with higher property taxes and with higher insurance premiums. Texas taxpayers pay twice to provide health care to the poor, once in federal income taxes that never return to the state because Texas lawmakers reject additional Medicaid funding, and yet again through local property taxes - and higher health insurance premiums — as much as an $1,800 hike in health premiums.

Additionally, Texas may lose federal funding for hospitals. Texas is currently at the end of a one-time agreement with the U.S. government, in which federal funds are granted to cover hospital expenses incurred by servicing uninsured patients. In 2011, before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states could opt-out of Medicaid expansion, Texas and the federal government created an agreement to help hospitals pay for "uninsured" emergency room care. The one-time agreement is now set to expire in September of 2016. The waiver, allowing Texas to continue to receive federal funding for hospitals outside of ACA (Obamacare) funding provisions, is valued at $29 billion.

Federal officials have informed Texas officials that Texas' reluctance to fund hospitals through an expanded Medicaid program will play into whether they will extend the waiver. The federal officials ask why should federal taxpayers continue to cover Texas' unpaid hospital bills when elected Texas officials refuse to use federal ACA funds to cover more Texans with insurance, at a vastly better federal match rate, and avoid a lot of those unpaid bills in the first place? Why should federal taxpayers keep putting band-aids on the broken system, instead of insuring more Texans to fix the system?

Mental Health $3.6 billion

The new budget allocates $3.6 billion for mental health services over the next two years, an increase of $150.7 million from 2014-15 biennium. The money will go toward increasing the number of residential treatment slots for kids at risk of being turned over to the state by their parents, and decreasing wait-lists for adult mental health services. The budget also calls for the discontinuation of NorthSTAR — a Medicaid service unit for mental health and chemical dependency services — in January 2017.

Border Security

Tea Party Republicans strongly applaud almost doubling the state's expenditure on border security to $840 million. The Department of Public Safety gets $750 million of that allocation, much of it paying for a 50-hour work week for all DPS troopers, and stationing an additional 250 DPS troopers along the border. The funding also pays to keep the Texas National Guard on station at the border while the 250 new DPS troopers are trained.

Many House Democrats — including several from the Texas-Mexico border area — questioned the priority to double budget spending on "a nebulous border security plan, even though border apprehensions, a leading indicator of border security, are at the lowest level since the 1970s." House Democrats also observed there are zero accountability measures to insure the extra money is properly and efficient used.

Transportation Funding

84th Legislature lawmakers pegged transportation related funding for the next two years at $23.1 billion. Transportation improvements are needed to address deficient, crowded or congested roads, highways and bridges in Texas that threaten to stifle the state’s economic growth and development, according to a report released by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research organization.
The TRIP report, “Texas’ Most Critical Highway Projects to Support Economic Growth and Quality of Life,” identifies the 100 highway improvements most needed to support economic growth and quality of life in Texas, ranked in order as determined by TRIP. These improvements include projects to build, expand or modernize highways or bridges throughout the state in order to accommodate projected job growth and population increases.

Making these needed transportation improvements would enhance Texas’ economic development, support a high quality of life, and accommodate projected future growth in population and economic activity. Texas led the nation in job creation in each of the last five years, and the state is expected to add as many as 17 million more residents over the next 25 years to a total of 45 million.

Completion of these projects would increase mobility and freight movement, ease congestion, improve safety, and ensure Texas remains an attractive place to live, visit and do business. A lack of adequate transportation funding is the constraining factor in developing and delivering these needed improvements.

The TRIP report identifies the most needed improvements in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Houston, San Antonio and other locations in Texas. These include such projects as reconstruction and widening of I-14 in north Houston, rebuilding and widening the I-30 east of downtown Dallas, reconstruction sections of I-35E in Dallas County, reconstructing and expanding much of I-35 in Austin and areas north and south of the city, and expanding portions of I-35 in San Antonio.
Lawmakers partially found the $23.1 billion of funding by ending diversions of about $1.3 billion in gasoline tax collections, intended for road construction and maintenance, to fund non-transportation related budget items. Lawmakers also allocated $2.5 billion from funds raised through a constitutional amendment ballot measure (Proposition 1) voters approved during the November 2014 election. That constitutional amendment dedicates some of the tax revenue being collected from the oil boom to road construction and maintenance.

84th Legislature lawmakers also approved another transportation related constitutional amendment ballot measure for the November 2015 election. That ballot measure asks voters to approve diverting billions of dollars in sales tax revenue from the general revenue fund directly into the highway fund.
SJR5 approves a constitutional amendment to dedicate to the state highway fund a portion of state revenues derived from state sales and use taxes in addition to a tax imposed on the sale, use, or rental of motor vehicles. If approved by voters in the November 2015 Constitutional Amendment Election, the measure would divert $2.5 billion in sales taxes revenue to a road and highway fund beginning in 2017. Then, in 2019, an additional 35 percent of all vehicle sales tax revenue above $5 billion annually would begin in 2020 going to road building and transportation maintenance. Texans pay a 6.25 percent state sales tax on automobiles. As it stands, all of the vehicle sales tax collected, about $4 billion annually, goes into the state's all-purpose general revenue fund.
Ballot Proposition For/Against: "The constitutional amendment dedicating certain sales and use tax revenue and motor vehicle sales, use, and rental tax revenue to the state highway fund to provide funding for non-tolled roads and the reduction of certain transportation-related debt."
In 2012, the Texas Tribune did a story on how Texas was the greatest recipient of federal loan money used for toll roads, and its main beneficiary was the Spain-based company, Cintra. Questions linger about TxDOT’s funding, its overall ability to maintain and expand roads in growing areas of Texas, with its increasing reliance on tolling and foreign entities taking control of the state’s transportation system with toll roads.

Emerging Technology Fund

The state’s economic incentive fund has been under a spotlight over the last year following a state audit that described the state’s Enterprise Fund as being run with lax oversight. The governor’s office had called for abolishing this incentive program and splitting its funding between the Texas Enterprise Fund and a second new fund, the University Research Initiative, for the governor to use to draw notable academics to public universities. Lawmakers agreed to abolish the fund and allocated $45 million to the Enterprise Fund and $40 million to the governor’s new fund. Most of the remaining balance will be split among several higher education research funds.
Money still lacking for Texas' big road projects - read more.

Film Incentives

The new budget pegs the Film Incentive budget at $32 million, down from the $95 million in the 2014-15 budget. The state’s six-year-old film incentive program offers financial grants to films, television programs, commercials, video games and projects that spend most of their production time in Texas and hire mostly Texas residents. Since 2009, when the state began granting film incentives, the Film Commission has doled out $126 million in 687 awards, nearly half of that spent on television productions, according to the Legislative Budget Board. The Legislature approved funding for film incentives at less than half the amount requested by Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, and about a third of the program’s funding for the current biennium. Abbott’s office had called for designating at least $70 million — and ideally $95 million — for film incentives.

Texas State Parks and Wildlife

While the Texas League of Conservation Voters called the 84th Legislature a "disaster for the environment, public health, and local control," lawmakers did boost funding to $720.3 million for the chronically underfunded Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, an increase of about $123 million above the 2014-15 budget level. TDW manages manages and conserves the natural and cultural resources of Texas, including the state's parks, wildlife and fisheries, for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations of Texans. TDW is also the primary enforcement agency for state hunting, fishing and boating laws.

Texas' state parks infrastructure has been left to age and decay for more than 20 years from chronic budget underfunding and inattention by state lawmakers.

Over that time the parks infrastructure has amassed a lengthy list of infrastructure maintenance and repair priorities, exceeding, by some estimates, $600 million.

That cost estimate was made before flooding across Texas in May damaged more than half of the state's 95 state parks, closing a dozen until flood damage can be repaired.

From the 1990s, the agency was funded largely through appropriation of a portion of state sales tax generated through sporting goods sales. The appropriation amount was initially capped, which was not regularly increased by lawmakers as sales tax revenue grew, leaving the parks system chronically underfunded. The Legislature intended to resolve the parks system funding problem in 2007 by passing a bill that appropriated up to 94 percent of sporting goods sales tax revenue to fund the parks system. A loophole left in that 2007 appropriations bill allowed lawmakers in later legislative sessions to set the actual amount allocated to the parks system from that appropriation of collected taxes. Lawmakers allocated far less than half of the sporting goods sale tax appropriation to the parks system in every budget passed since 2007.

The 84th Legislature did not divert sales tax revenue sporting goods sales tax revenues away from the TPW. HB158 dedicates all sporting good sales tax to TDW.

More than $100 million is earmarked for major repairs and construction in state parks. The Legislature also allocated about $20 million for repairs and construction projects on field facilities used by the agency's wildlife management areas, inland and coastal fisheries and law enforcement field stations, and regional law enforcement offices.

The budget also includes an earmark for TDW's coastal fisheries division to begin integrating a habitat monitoring program into its long-standing fisheries monitoring program. Monitoring changes in coastal fisheries habitat has been a missing component in the agency's world-class coastal fisheries programs.

Legislators also included earmarks almost $15 million to specific non-agency programs. Those earmarks include a $9 million grant to the Texas State Aquarium, $3 million in grants to four City of San Antonio parks, $2.5 million to four City of Houston parks, and $150,000 as matching funds for park projects in Angleton. The budget includes about $3.5 million annually for the state program combating invasive aquatic species threatening Texas' waterways, destroying native fisheries, restricting angler access, and causing hundreds of millions in economic losses.

All Texas voters will have the opportunity later this year to decide if hunting and fishing, subject to laws or regulations to conserve and manage wildlife, should be enshrined as a right under Texas' Constitution. The Legislature approved a resolution that will place such a constitutional amendment on the ballot of the Nov. 3 statewide election.
SJR22 approves a constitutional amendment relating to the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods, subject to laws or regulations to conserve and manage wildlife and preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Hunting and fishing are preferred methods of managing and controlling wildlife. Ballot
Proposition For/Against: "The constitutional amendment recognizing the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife subject to laws that promote wildlife conservation."
Even considering the pending vote on a constitutional amendment concerning the right to hunt and fish, the 84th Legislature, when compared with previous sessions, made only relatively minor changes in laws governing outdoor recreation.
Pro-Life / Anti-Choice Budget Amendments
Three pro-life budget amendments were added in the Texas House of Representatives and were left in the final version of the budget bill. Included was Amendment 53 by Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano), Amendment 54 by Representative Molly White (R-Belton), and a change to the Breast & Cervical Cancer Screening Program that prohibits abortion providers and their affiliates from eligibility and participation in the program.
Pro-Life Website:

Amendment 53 by Representative Leach, a Texas Right to Life endorsee, protects school children from propaganda and sexual exploration initiatives (1) by prohibiting abortion providers and affiliates from teaching sex education programs in public schools and (2) by prohibiting abortion providers and affiliates from writing or contributing to the curricula for such programs. These programs are funded by tax dollars, and sex education contracts are another revenue stream for Planned Parenthood and their ilk while simultaneously eroding the minds of our children.

Amendment 54 by Representative Molly White, also endorsed by Texas Right to Life, clarifies that the Texas Abstinence Program must follow all federal curriculum guidelines for sex ed. These guidelines mandate that curricula and teaching be abstinence-based, underscoring the efficacy of abstinence in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, rather than encouraging premature sexual exploration.

Texas Right to Life led efforts to remove abortion providers from the Breast & Cervical Cancer Screening Program (BCCS). Due to the increased risk of developing breast cancer after abortion and the correlation between abortion and cervical cancer, disqualifying abortion providers from BCCS marked a logical and necessary step in protecting women’s health. After the landmark budget achievements in 2011 through which Texas Right to Life orchestrated the removal of abortion providers from so-called family planning programs, the next step to defund the abortion industry was to ensure that contractors and funds for other women’s health programs were not awarded to abortion providers and affiliates. Texas Right to Life uncovered that Planned Parenthood was participating in BCCS, and thus, worked with legislators to change eligibility requirements. Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) oversaw the budget language on the BCCS program and we are grateful for her diligence. (More at Republican Lawmakers Continue Efforts To Kill Planned Parenthood )
Republicans doubled state funding for the Alternatives to Abortion program, which primarily funds Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Many charge the unregulated and unlicensed Crisis Pregnancy Centers are dangerously manipulative and disseminate bad information to women at an emotionally vulnerable time. To offset Alternatives to Abortion program increased funding, Republicans cut funding to other health care programs, leaving Texas women without access to cancer screenings, birth control, HIV tests, and other preventive care. (More at Republicans Double State Funding For Crisis Pregnancy Centers)


The 84th Texas Legislature met for 140 days and generated plenty of headlines, but little in substantive results. Texas’ 84th regular legislative session ended on June 1 with a total of 11,335 bills filed: 8,094 in the Texas House of Representatives and 3,241 in the Texas Senate. Of these, 5,685 were passed by the House and Senate. That represents 705 more bills introduced compared to the 83rd legislative session, but 224 less were passed.

The "old-guard" of the GOP quietly derailed much of the Tea Party's agenda, like repeal of the Texas Dream Act and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants who graduate Texas high schools, live in the state for three years, and who apply for citizenship, and sanctuary cities legislation requiring local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws and check people’s immigration status when they’re arrested. But "old-guard" GOP still focused on tax giveaways, abortion restrictions, and, of course, guns.

Legislators voted for a conservative budget that grows appropriations far less than the spending cap on some appropriations would have allowed. State funds appropriations would grow 5.8 percent, and all funds appropriations would grow 3.6 percent, hence well below the estimated rate of growth of the Texas economy at 11.68 percent from the 2014-15 biennium to the 2016-17 biennium, as reported by the Legislative Budget Board.

"Sine Die" Republicans who control the Texas Legislature passed a conservative 2016-17 budget that leaves billions of dollars on the table that might have been used to strengthen Texas' public K-12 schools, reduce tuition at Texas state universities, added more funding to Texas' highway construction and maintenance, and convert Texas' toll road construction projects to public road construction.

More analysis detail on the budget at Better Texas Org.

No comments:

Post a Comment