An Unrealistic Budget Starting Point

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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.

A renowned social justice lawyer, former philanthropy executive, and frequent public speaker and writer, Ann Beeson joined the Center in 2013. She was previously the Executive Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, where she promoted human rights, justice, and accountability nationwide. Beeson was the national Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked from 1995-2007. She argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, litigated numerous cases around the country, and launched groundbreaking programs to stop the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security and to protect free speech and privacy on the Internet. Beeson has been recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers by American Lawyer Magazine and the National Law Journal. A proud Texan, Beeson has embraced a wide range of innovative strategies to advance social change. Before joining the Center, she launched a new non-profit to involve the creative sector in social change. In 2012-13, she was a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas, where she co-produced a public media series to inspire more people to get engaged in their communities. She grew up in Dallas, Texas, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Texas. Beeson obtained her law degree from Emory University School of Law, and served as law clerk to the Honorable Barefoot Sanders, then chief judge of the Northern District of Texas.

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