House and Senate Send Budgets to Conference Committee

April 23, 2015
By Paul K. Emerson, TAC State Financial Analyst
Legislative News

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Both state budget plans from the House and Senate are now heading into conference committee, with five weeks remaining in the legislative session.

The House and Senate conferees for HB 1 are the following: Rep. John Otto, (R-Dayton), Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston); Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin); Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock); Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place); Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound); Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen); Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown); Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston); and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). .

Last week, the Senate passed a $211.4 billion state budget to pay for state services over the next two years (2016-17), which is an increase of $6.3 billion from its original budget plan introduced back in January. The Senate's budget version is also $1.6 billion more than the current House budget plan. Both budget plans are well within the constitutional spending cap limit.

The Senate version increases funding for transportation by almost $5 billion over the current biennium (2014-15). This includes $2.4 billion from oil and gas tax revenue which was approved by voters last November and $1.3 billion from ending diversions of transportation funds to other parts of the budget. Other highlights includes funding for border security – $811 million would flow to the Texas Department of Public Safety and other associated agencies to pay for manpower, technology and training along the border.

It's also worth noting that the Senate budget plan includes $373 million to cover caseload growth in Medicaid, $259 million more for mental health services and $50 million more for women's health services. But a point of contention in both bills is the way to deliver tax relief. The Senate passed a plan to grant $4.4 billion in property and franchise tax cuts. While the House-approved plan also cuts the franchise tax, it would cut sales taxes rather than property taxes.  

Both budget plans include an article XI – a sort of wish list of items for consideration, but not actually adopted into the budget – set aside for further debate during the conference committee. Several of these items that are important to county government are reflected in TAC's state budget summary document. This document is organized by state agency and program and includes a short description of each program. Below the description is a comparison table showing the difference between the House and Senate versions during each stage of the budget process. The highlighted sections show the changes that occurred from the original versions.

The state budget summary document will be updated again to reflect the final decisions made in the conference committee. 

The regular session ends on June 1.