This session, lawmakers will have record revenues at their disposal to either grow spending, provide tax relief, or both. New legislation with a big price tag aims to address a problem that lawmakers have done a subpar job of detailing for taxpayers.
Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s State of the State, State Sen. Jane Nelson filed Senate Bill 10 in the upper chamber, legislation aimed at “improving early identification and access to mental health services, addressing psychiatry workforce issues, promoting and coordinating mental health research, and strengthening judicial training on juvenile mental health.” The topic was named an “Emergency Item” by the governor.
“To better address these needs, Senator Nelson provides a broad-based plan,” Abbott said. “A plan that creates the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium to collaborate on statewide mental health needs. In typical Texas fashion, her idea is big and bold. To ensure it has enough time to become law this session, I’m declaring it an emergency item.”
Nelson’s official press release further states:
“Specifically, SB 10 will:
Create a consortium to help coordinate state mental health initiatives across Texas’ health-related institutions of higher education;
Establish the Child Psychiatry Access Program (CPAP), which will allow pediatricians to consult with psychiatry hubs at Texas medical schools;
Establishes a program allowing youth to be screened for mental health issues through telemedicine.
SB 1, the appropriations act, allocates $7.5 billion across 21 state agencies to address mental health with $100 million in new funding dedicated to SB 10.”
The legislation aims to fix a problem that lawmakers have done a subpar job of detailing for Texas taxpayers. Relatively speaking, though, this will amount to a massive undertaking in terms of its percentage of the proposals being considered with the support of “Big 3” leadership.
Texas Scorecard’s Capitol Bureau Chief Brandon Waltens previously reported that the Senate’s current budget proposal allocates $2.4 billion for public education enrollment increases, $3.7 billion for teacher pay raises, and a relatively meager $2.3 billion for property tax relief.
Lawmakers frequently hear the pitch, “Our budget should reflect our values,” during the legislative session. If there’s any truth to the adage, Abbott’s mental health emergency item proposal should raise questions for Texans who were told property tax relief and school finance reform would take the cake.