Leading up to the last month of the session, both the House and Senate are now gearing-up to tackle the most important bill of all – the General Appropriations Bill, also known as the state budget.
This past week, House Speaker Joe Straus named his budget committee conferees: Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie); Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston); Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Lake Dallas); Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton); and Rep. John Zerwas (R-Fulshear). Each of the conferees also served as chair of the various subcommittees for House Appropriations. Moreover, they served on the budget conference committee two years ago when major cuts had to be made to the state budget. The cuts affected the 2012-13 biennium, which ends Aug. 31.
In the midst of his first budget session as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) will lead the budget negotiating team for the Senate. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst appointed the following additional members: Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen); Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock); Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound); and Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston). With the exception of Whitmire, the other senators also served on the negotiating budget panel two years ago.
At the forefront of the budget discussion will be the $1.65 billion difference between the House and Senate budgets. In all funds, the House budget is at roughly $193.8 billion, while the Senate’s version is slightly higher at $195.4, as shown in the chart. That includes a $601 million difference in general revenue.
Other points of discussion will likely include the Rainy Day Fund, funding for future water plans, funding for road projects, and how much additional money to set aside for public education.
The constitutional spending cap will also play a deciding factor on how much general revenue may be available.
For more information, contact Paul Emerson, TAC state financial analyst, at (800) 456-5974.