An Unrealistic Budget Starting Point
This week the Senate Finance Committee begins hearings on its proposed budget, Senate Bill 1. The hearings follow the release last week of both the Senate and House draft budgets for the 2018-2019 budget cycle.
The Senate budget proposal (Senate Bill 1) is not grounded in reality and is full of drastic cuts to essential services for Texans. We’re still combing through the details, but from Medicaid to higher education the Senate budget writers seem to think they can renege on multiple state bills and obligations.
In contrast, the House has proposed a responsible budget. It includes an increase in public education funding that is contingent on much-needed school finance reform, more funding to improve behavioral health and Child Protective Services, and some funding needed for Medicaid caseload growth. It still falls short of keeping up with projected population and inflation.
There has been plenty of talk about tight budgets, but don’t be fooled. Texas has sufficient revenue to avoid cuts to health care and education. There is also enough to pay for important reforms in Child Protective Services, mental health and other areas.
The state’s Rainy Day Fund now contains $10 billion, making ours the largest such reserve fund in the country. The balance will grow to almost $12 billion by the end of the 2018-2019 budget cycle. And the Rainy Day Fund is specifically designed for times like these, when a strategic infusion of funds can help prevent sudden, massive cuts — like the cuts the Senate has proposed to schools, health care, and higher education.
We look forward to working with lawmakers and their staff to help shape a budget that makes Texas a place where everyone is healthy, well-educated and financially secure. And if they try to ram through drastic cuts that unnecessarily harm Texans, we will be there to call them out.