The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Budget Transparency and Reform heard HB 7 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) this past week. As introduced, HB 7 reduces the number of general revenue-dedicated accounts that are used for budget certification and to balance the state budget. The notion of reducing the number of dedicated accounts was brought about by a recent interim study by the House Appropriations Committee.
During testimony, Rep. Darby repeatedly stated that it is a work in progress, a sign that HB 7 will likely be amended.
HB 7 requires the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) to develop and implement a process to review new and existing dedicated accounts. In addition, LBB would be required to develop specific recommendations for the Legislature to reasonably reduce its dependence on available dedicated revenues.
HB 7 allows for all interest earned from the various dedicated accounts to be deposited in the general revenue fund. The bill also reduces certain charges and fees collected by the state, such as solid waste fees, which would be reduced to 94 cents from $1.25 per ton for disposal at municipal solid waste landfills. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) would see its portion of the collected fees increase from 50 percent to 66.7 percent. Those monies would fund the TCEQ Municipal Solid Waste Management Program. The remaining 33.3 percent would be allocated to local and regional solid waste projects.
HB 7 also permits funds collected for 9-1-1 to be used for their intended purpose and to assist rural areas that do not participate in the statewide 9-1-1 system. Those funds would also be made available to the Texas A&M Forest Service, which provides assistance to volunteer fire departments.
In addition, any monies collected in the Trauma Facility and Emergency Medical Services account would be used for graduate-level studies in the medical and nursing fields, as presently laid out in HB 7.
Rep. Darby emphasized that HB 7 would not only lower various charges and fees imposed by the state, but would also reduce the balances in particular dedicated accounts. It was noted that HB 7 is a critical part of the appropriation process and a must-pass bill if the Legislature is going to more closely monitor dedicated accounts.
HB 7 was left pending in committee.
For more information, contact Paul Emerson, TAC state financial analyst, at (800) 456-5974.