Battles Expected Over House Budget Bill, Proposed Amendments

More than 400 proposed amendments to the House budget bill for 2018-2019 have been pre-filed. The bill is the House Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 1, or CSSB 1. Rules require that any proposed increase in spending must be offset by a cut elsewhere in the budget. Battles over the amendments will be joined on the House floor on Thursday, April 6.

We’ll highlight some of the key amendments, good and bad, but first here’s the big picture.  On education funding, the House bill is distinctly superior to the version of the budget passed by the Senate. The House version of SB 1 would tap the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF, also known as the Rainy Day Fund),  now nearing $12 billion, for more than $2 billion, including half a billion dollars for retired school employees’ health coverage. The House budget also would increase school funding by at least $1.5 billion above the 2017 level, sending school districts an average of $210 more per pupil. In contrast, the Senate version would keep per-pupil funding stagnant. The Senate also would substitute increased local property-tax revenue to offset a cut of $1.4 billion in state general revenue for the public schools. The House bill also does not follow the Senate’s lead regarding funding for higher education, which the Senate bill would cut significantly.

Among the 400 pre-filed House amendments to CSSB1, here are some of the most noteworthy:

Vouchers:  There are four good amendments to block any form of public funding for vouchers–three by Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Corpus Christi) and one by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston). Two bad amendments by Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Houston) and Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) would funnel public dollars to unaccountable private schools via so-called “education savings accounts.”

Use of the Rainy Day Fund:  A bad amendment by Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury) would kill the portion of the House bill that taps the Rainy Day Fund, a step that would kill $2.5 billion in funding for key state needs such as TRS-Care health coverage for school retirees.

Helping retirees:  Rep. Mando Martinez (D-Weslaco) would take $200 million out of the swollen state budget for border security and use it instead to support affordable health coverage for retired school employees.

Pre-kindergarten funding:  Rep. Phil Cortez (D-San Antonio) would redirect $300 million from border security to full-day pre-K. Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) would increase that transfer to $500 million.

Health care:  Rep. Chris Turner (D-Arlington) has an amendment directing the state to seek available health-care funding from the federal government for Texans in need.

Be on the lookout for an upcoming action alert that will let you send an e-letter to House members on key amendments!