Article updated with Senate office budget decrease.
On the second day of the legislative session, the Texas House of Representatives voted against a proposal paving the way for an increase in office budgets for legislators. They instead voted to maintain their office allocation at the current levels.
The proposal came as an amendment to House Resolution 3—the “housekeeping” resolution—which stipulates how the chamber operates in regards to items like office budgets.
As drafted, the resolution sought to keep those office budgets at the current levels approved two years ago—$15,250 while the Legislature is in session and $13,500 when they are not.
State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler)—a vocal proponent of increasing office budgets to pay Capitol staffers more—presented an amendment that would force the chamber to readdress the issue by April 21. By doing so, Schaefer argued, lawmakers would have time to discuss the state budget and move funds if available.
The amendment was met with strong opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike.
State Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth), the author of the original housekeeping resolution, argued it was unwise to raise office budgets while the state faces an economic downturn, especially in light of a probable special session on the horizon.
Schaefer reiterated that his proposed amendment would not alone raise office budgets, stressing lawmakers could theoretically vote to keep them the same or lower them later. But during the debate, Schaefer also expressed his personal opinion that those budgets should be increased, saying it was “penny-wise and pound-foolish” to deny Capitol staff higher pay that they could theoretically use to find savings in the budget later.
Schaefer also pointed to increases made by the Senate in previous sessions.
Ultimately, his effort was voted down, with 43 voting in favor and 103 members opposing the move.
Meanwhile, the Senate voted to decrease their office budgets from $43,000 a month down to $41,000.
Schaefer also presented an amendment that would prohibit taxpayer funds from paying for subscriptions to newspapers that express political opinions and endorse candidates. That proposal was also opposed by Geren and voted down 35-110.
Democrat State Rep. Joe Moody (El Paso) offered an additional amendment that would create the honorary position of male and female Deans of the House, given to the longest-serving members. In the past, only the longest-serving member—regardless of gender—was recognized as the House Dean. The change was approved unanimously.
The final and amended housekeeping resolution was approved on a vote of 145-1, with only Schaefer voting against.