Published Jan 18, 2019 by Taylor Landin
During the 86th Legislative Session, the Partnership will provide a weekly update on our top executive priorities and other newsworthy items from Austin.
This week in Austin, Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick were sworn in for their second terms. The House and Senate also released their budgets, and the Senate announced committee assignments. Below you will find a break down of the budget and committee assignments related to our top executive priorities.
PARTNERSHIP EXECUTIVE PRIORITIES
While both the House and Senate have released budgets to increase public education funding beyond the minimum of enrollment growth and inflation, the House budget exceeds the Senate budget for public education spending by $1.9 billion. The Senate budget concentrates funding for an across-the-board teacher pay increase, while the House’s budget works to achieve equity broadly. The Partnership’s focus for meaningful school finance reform will remain on outcomes-based funding for high-quality programs targeted at high-needs students.
House Budget: Education
The House budget includes the $2.4 billion necessary to fully fund enrollment growth and $2.2 billion to fund an increase in the state’s guaranteed yield of a local school districts’ tax levy.
In addition, the House included a budget rider, which would allocate $9 billion in new state funds to public schools. This funding is contingent on the passage of legislation that increases the state’s share of public education funding, reducing local recapture, or Robin Hood, payments, providing relief from taxes levied by school districts, and maintaining an equitable funding system. It is important to note that after accounting for property tax growth, this $9 billion will increase state funding for public education by about $7.1 billion compared to the 2018-19 biennium.
Senate Budget: Education
The Texas Senate introduced its budget, which includes $2.4 billion to fully fund enrollment growth and $2.2 billion to fund an increase in the state’s guaranteed yield of a local school districts’ tax levy.
The Senate’s draft includes two riders that would appropriate a combined $6 billion in new funding to public schools. Those funds are contingent on the enactment of two separate pieces of legislation. The first would provide property tax relief and reduce the state’s reliance on recapture. The second would increase classroom teachers’ salaries. After accounting for property tax growth, the $6 billion package would increase state funding for public education by about $4.3 billion compared to the 2018-19 biennium.
Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) filed Senate Bill 3 this week, which would provide $3.7 billion to school districts to fund a salary increase of $5,000 for each full-time classroom teacher.
As the Senate released its supplemental appropriations budget this week, the Partnership remained focused on developing our position in Austin as a leader on flood resilience. The Partnership presented data detailing the outstanding Hurricane Harvey recovery needs of each county and continued meetings with key offices on this issue.
Senate Budget: Resilience
The Senate’s supplemental appropriations bill proposes appropriating approximately $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to school districts and other governmental entities to cover losses incurred from Hurricane Harvey. The House is expected to release its supplemental budget, including Harvey recovery, in the coming weeks.
Senate Committees: Houston Leadership on Senate Water & Rural Affairs Committee
The Senate divided the Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee into the Agriculture Committee and the Water & Rural Affairs Committee. The new Water & Rural Affairs Committee will be vice-chaired by Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), and there will also be three other committee members from the Houston delegation. This committee is likely to hear key bills concerning flood resilience, one of the Partnership’s top priorities.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Senate Committees Assignments: Houston Delegation Leadership
On Friday, Lieutenant Governor Patrick announced Senate committee assignments. In total, a member of the Houston delegation chairs or vice-chairs ten of the sixteen Senate committees.
Senate Education Committee
As anticipated, Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) retained his chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee. As a member of the Houston delegation, Senator Taylor’s position on the committee will be critical as the Partnership works with Senate leaders to pass meaningful school finance reform.
Senate Higher Education Committee
Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) was appointed Chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. This will be the first full committee chair assignment for Senator Creighton since being elected in 2014.
Senate Health & Human Services Committee
Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) will chair the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Her leadership is critical to any legislation related to the extension of the Federal 1115 Waiver, which will move through the committee.
Senate State Affairs Committee
Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) was re-appointed as Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee. This committee will hear a variety of issues, including policies related to local control.
Senate Property Tax Committee
Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) is the Chairman of the Senate Property Tax Committee. This newly established Senate committee demonstrates the importance of this issue for the Legislature.
Senate Transportation Committee
Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) retained his chairmanship of the Senate Transportation Committee. His leadership will be important as the committee addresses issues related to freight and passenger mobility and local funding options.