Moving at a record pace, the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) completed its final markup of Senate Bill 1, taking up and adopting SFC workgroup recommendations on Wednesday, March 24. A table listing funding changes to selected items of importance to county officials during markup can be found here. Like the House’s version of the budget, the Senate committee substitute for SB 1 will include an Article XI for “wish list” items. These items consist of unfunded budget requests that may be considered for funding should additional revenue become available.
The committee began its meeting by acknowledging that there are still more questions than answers regarding state and local fiscal relief available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). According to Sarah Hicks, Gov. Abbott’s Director of Budget and Policy, the state is scheduled to receive $16.7 billion in ARP funds. To date, the only known restrictions on the funds are that they cannot be spent to lower tax rates or shore up pension funds. Relief funds can only go to pay for ”COVID-related“ expenses, but according to Hicks, what is and is not COVID-related is not straightforward. It is unlikely these new federal funds will arrive until after Sine Die on May 31. Meanwhile, state and local governments across the country await the distribution of funds as well as guidance from the U.S. Treasury on how they may be used.
Consistent with Chair Jane Nelson’s previous statements, observers expect the committee substitute for SB 1 to reach the Senate floor and be considered by the full Senate before the Easter Holiday.
For more details on the Senate Finance Committee’s markup decisions, go to the Adopted Decision Documents on the Legislative Budget Board’s website.
The House Appropriations Committee is also moving towards markup. The House Appropriations Subcommittees continued their formal meetings, including discussions of riders submitted by House members and funding requests above the amounts included in House Bill 1. The subcommittees are expected to complete their recommendations by Friday, March 26, and the House Appropriations Committee is expected to begin the markup of HB 1 sometime next week. For now, only the Initial Decision Documents on HB 1 are available to review.
The Legislative Services department is in the process of updating the State Budget Worksheet containing items of interest to counties to reflect the Senate Finance Committee’s markup decisions.
For more information on this article, contact Zelma Smith.