The war over state fiscal matters will reach another milestone in the 85th Legislative Session when the House committee substitute for CSSB1, the state’s budget, hits the floor on Thursday. After months of jockeying by key players in both chambers, House members will debate the bill and over 400 proposed amendments.
A look at both budgets and their attending documents sheds some light on the approach taken by each chamber.
As indicated in Figure 1, the amount available for appropriation in the next fiscal biennium is increasing by $8.7 billion in state funds. However, a constitutional spending limit staked to inflation and population (the Conservative Texas Budget, or “CTB”) would cap appropriations to a 4.5 percent increase over last session, producing room for a growth of $6.4 billion in state funds.
The House budget proposal (HCSSB1) currently exceeds our conservative limit by $300M while the senate managed to come in $2.3 billion below. It should be noted that the House budget’s current iteration only accomplishes this modest failure by relying on an accounting measure that pushes $1.9 billion in payments to school districts from the Foundation School Program (Figure 2) to the next biennium.
Here are some highlights of both proposals:
The most notable difference between them is the House insistence on using funds from the Economic Stabilization Fund. As reported by the Texas Scorecard, this short-sighted approach misses the importance of maintaining the fund at current levels and using the fund for critical one-time expenditures and emergencies. The House fails again on this front by spending from the savings fund on routine items like payroll, furniture, and Cattle Fever tick mitigation.
Debate over the House document is expected to stretch far into the night on Thursday, with eager-spending Democrats and moderates seeking to boost funding for their pet programs and projects.
In order to bring the most responsible budget possible to conference committee, where the differences in chamber versions will be hammered out, conservative members will have to stay on their toes and hold the line on spending for the sake of Texas taxpayers.