AUSTIN – Cutting school property taxes, securing the borders and raising the salaries of public employees are just some of the ways House leaders will spend part of the state’s nearly $33 billion revenue surplus, according to a two-year budget they unveiled on Wednesday. .
The Senate’s “basic” or initial budget was expected to be presented later Wednesday.
In the upcoming cycle, the House of Representatives will send an additional $3.1 billion to buy up school districts’ main property tax, namely “maintenance and operations.”
Governor Greg Abbott’s Border Security Operation Lone Star will receive $4.6 billion to maintain National Guard and State Police troops on the Texas-Mexico border in 2024-2025.
House Bill 1 also provides for a 5% pay increase for civil servants, with a minimum increase of $3,000 per worker.
The incremental spending bill, designed to close holes in the budget passed by lawmakers in 2021, will see wage increases this June by 5% or $250 a month, whichever is greater.
Under the additional bill, $2.3 billion would go to build or expand public mental hospitals, $1 billion for a one-time “legacy payment” for retired public employees, and $600 million to the Texas Education Agency to further improve school safety following the shooting in May last year. Robb Primary School in Uvalde.
An additional bill that would ease pressure on lawmakers could reach the constitutional spending cap by spending a $6.4 billion surplus in the current cycle, would also invest $400 million in flood mitigation, $100 million in state park land acquisition, and about $1 billion to the maintenance of existing government buildings and historical sites.
Texas expects a record $32.7 billion ending state discretionary money balance in the current cycle, as well as strong revenue growth over the next two years, Comptroller Glenn Hegar said last week. Budget watchers say that with $27.1 billion in energy taxes Hegar expects to accumulate in the state fund for a rainy day and $4 billion in unspent federal COVID-19 aid, lawmakers actually have a whopping $72 billion. for Game.
According to the Texas Constitution, the only bill they have to pass in the 140-day session that has just begun is a two-year budget.
But spending constraints and the GOP majority’s penchant for tight budgeting make it unlikely Republican leaders will spend nearly as much as they could.
Key Democratic budgeter, Rep. Armando Valle of Houston, said in a written statement Wednesday that the surplus and projected source of available dollars came from Texans’ wallets.
“This money has come from the people of Texas and should be invested back into our communities in meaningful ways that will lead to lasting change,” he said. “In this session, I will fight to ensure that those dollars go towards creating good jobs, improving our education system – not least by raising teacher salaries – and expanding access to life-saving health care.
While Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick talked about the historic chance that lawmakers should make smart “investments,” their focus was on lowering property taxes – with Abbott being more enthusiastic in his pledges, while Patrick—whose integrity as a property tax critic is unassailable—was more restrained.
On Tuesday, Patrick said in his inaugural address that the Senate’s base budget will include money to increase the school property tax exemption for home gardens to $70,000, up from the current $40,000.
It appears that the House baseline budget is silent on expanding homestead benefits and that it does not propose spending dollars on a rainy day.
HB 1 proposes a two-year budget of $288.7 billion, including federal and other funds. It will spend $136.4 billion of general purpose revenue, or just a few billion dollars more than Gerry McGuinty, the Legislative Council’s budget director, recently said it would take to continue the budget. The biennial budget of the last session spent $116.3 billion in total revenue.
In education, the House budget left the current “base appropriation”—the amount of state and local funds per student guaranteed to the school district—at $6,160 a year. But the chamber’s base budget included a provision that raised the possibility of increasing appropriations and other school funding formulas. While this would allow for higher salaries for teachers, the House budget does not include a dollar amount to increase spending on public schools.